Tennessee Football: Takeaways from Jeremy Pruitt's Monday Press Conference

Cory Sanning

Jeremy Pruitt has found a way to win big games on the road.

Overcoming one of Tennessee's largest hindrances in recent years, the Vols have now strung together consecutive wins away from home, both games carrying serious postseason implications.

UT is now eligible for a bowl game for the first time in nearly three years, the first time under Pruitt as well.

Addressing the media on Monday as the Vols begin their preparation for Vanderbilt on Saturday, Pruitt could not help but 

Here are three takeaways from what Tennessee's head coach had to say:

Guarantano continues to display determination despite adversity

It was not an easy start to the season for Jarrett Guarantano. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

Since Oct. 12, however, the redshirt junior quarterback continues to make amends.

His biggest, however, came on Saturday in Columbia when Guarantano threw for a career-high 415 yards and two touchdowns as the Vols notched perhaps their most crucial win of the season. 

"You have to give Jarrett a ton of credit...he's a competitor," Pruitt said. "He went back to work and tried to fix what he wasn't doing as well and he'll continue to do that this week."

Guarantano wasn't throwing against slouches in the secondary, either.

Missouri came into that game with the nation's 10th-ranked defense, including sixth against the pass. It was the fourth-most prolific passing performance in Tennessee history and first 400-yard or more effort since Tyler Bray passed for 530 yards against Troy in 2012. 

For Pruitt though, it's not about the numbers. It's about the work that Guarantano put in behind the scenes to make a performance like that possible. 

"I can't say enough about what kind of grit, determination and character that he has."

Pruitt is excited for senior day festivities on Saturday

It's hard not to get excited about senior day, particularly if you're a student-athlete. You can throw coaches in there, too.

13 seniors will make their final appearances in Neyland Stadium on Saturday as the Vols take on Vanderbilt.

That group includes Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway, Darrell Taylor and Nigel Warrior, among others. UT will also be be bringing back former linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr., who did not get to participate in festivities last year before being forced to medically retire. 

It marks a bittersweet moment for Pruitt, who said he has thoroughly enjoyed his time getting to know them each individually. 

"Just being around them the last two years, getting to know who they really are," Pruitt said. "To see them fight and try to finish something that they started says a whole lot about them."

While many players hunt an easy route to the NFL Draft, it's the passion that these seniors have displayed for the culture that is Tennessee athletics that has stuck out most to their head coach. 

"It's really what college football is all about," Pruitt said. "Just how these guys represent the university."

Tennessee has to 'eliminate mistakes' despite being bowl eligible

The Vols may be heading to the postseason for the first time since 2016, but Pruitt is preparing for Vanderbilt as if UT was still three games below .500.

Despite producing a season-high 526 total yards on offense against one of the nation's most stout defensive units, Tennessee's practice motto has remained the same.

"It's a great opportunity for our guys to continue to improve as a football team," Pruitt said. "We've got to continue to work on the fundamentals and correct some of the mistakes that we made in the game (on Saturday)."

The Vols may have gotten close a couple of times throughout the year, but Pruitt is still in search of what he calls a "perfect game" out of his team. Whether that comes on Saturday or not, it won't stop his relentless hunt for perfection.

And it shouldn't.

"(We're) still searching for a complete game, a perfect game," Pruitt said. "Our guys are working hard to do that."

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