Tennessee coach fires assistant, puts pressure on Vols’ QB
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt isn’t happy with how his Volunteers have lost two straight games after snapping an eight-game winning streak.
Pruitt fired defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh, hired earlier this year, on Sunday and plans to coach the linemen himself the rest of this season.
Pruitt also said Jarrett Guarantano and the offense as a whole needs to play better after seven turnovers in the span of four quarters over two games. He added that the senior quarterback is going to have demonstrate in practice this week he deserves to keep the starting job before Tennessee hosts No. 2 Alabama (4-0) on Saturday.
“Am I wanting to put Jarret Guarantano on the shelf?” Pruitt said Monday. “No, absolutely not. I think the guy has a lot of really good qualities about him. He’s helped us win a lot of football games. Did he make a few mistakes Saturday? Sure, he did OK, but I think everybody on our football team and in our organization all could have done better starting with me.”
Pruitt made a quick change after Tennessee was routed 34-7 by Kentucky, snapping a 17-game home winning streak in that series. He fired Brumbaugh and said the fit just didn’t work from a philosophical standpoint.
The Tennessee coach made clear he wants a better push up front from the defensive line to help improve coverage in the middle. He wants more hands in the air and tighter coverage no matter where receivers are running.
“Every coverage, there is a weakness and you have to be able to hide the weakness and you don’t need to know where it’s at,” Pruitt said. “We have to do a better job disguising also.”
Tennessee’s biggest issues have been on offense with three in the second half of the Vols’ loss at Georgia and four more in the first half against Kentucky. Pruitt said there’s enough blame to go around beyond Guarantano who has three interceptions and three fumbles.
Pruitt noted Guarantano threw few interceptions throughout fall camp and did a nice job taking care of the football. The Vols didn’t have a turnover through the first two games.
“He’s got to eliminate those mistakes,” Pruitt said. “And we’ve got to do a better job upfront, collectively as a group offensively being more efficient on third downs and protecting the quarterback, whoever the quarterback is.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban said they can’t just anticipate someone other than Guarantano playing quarterback on Saturday.
“It’s going to be very challenging for our defense to make the adjustments that they need to make in this game,” Saban said. “We don’t have enough evidence to know how they would change what they do if they played somebody different at quarterback. I don’t think we can prepare any different.”
Pruitt and his coaches have been trying to get the younger Vols practice time missed during fall camp because of testing, tracing and quarantining. They held another Sunday scrimmage, and Pruitt said they will try to add some extra work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays if players stay healthy.
Of the turnovers, three were returned for touchdowns. J.T. Shrout came in for Guarantano after his third turnover only to be intercepted on his first pass by Kentucky. Brian Maurer started against Alabama last season as a freshman. He was the only quarterback who didn’t play against Kentucky.
Freshman Harrison Bailey, the No. 3 pro-style quarterback in the nation by 247Sports’s composite rankings, did get into the game. He’s been busy in those scrimmages the past couple weeks.
Pruitt said taking care of the ball remains the top priority.
“We’ve got to continue to work hard at it, and we will,” Pruitt said.
AP Sports Writer John Zenor contributed to this report.
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