KNOXVILLE — Jeremy Pruitt refused to tip his hand on Tennessee’s quarterback battle after the Volunteers’ most extensive scrimmage of the preseason on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee ran 131 plays during the scrimmage, and those snaps were divided among all four of the Volunteers’ scholarship signal callers, according to Pruitt.
The scrimmage was closed to the public and media, but a video posted to the team’s official Twitter account showed redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano finding sophomore receiver Josh Palmer for a touchdown against a defense that featured at least a couple of likely starters.
“Every day when you watch practice, all four guys do some really good things,” Pruitt said. “Again, it’s about being consistent and making the critical errors. You look at a drive, you march down through there seven to ten plays, but it only takes one play to mess up the drive. So we’ve got to stay out of the negative plays.”
Pruitt said Tennessee has been reducing those negative plays each day. Saturday’s scrimmage counted as the 14th of 25 practices before the Volunteers take on West Virginia to open the season on Sept. 1 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
The team will take Sunday off before returning to the practice field Monday for a final few practices that have the preseason “camp” feel to them before the focus turns to preparing for the Mountaineers.
“The next week is going to be important for our guys,” Pruitt said. “You kind of get an idea now about who some of the guys are going to be. So you get guys slotted in on special teams. Moving forward, guys will get a lot more reps at certain positions, which will help us, and we’ll improve drastically over the next weeks just from taking more reps.”
Jennings participates, Kirkland doesn’t
Redshirt junior receiver Jauan Jennings and redshirt junior linebacker Darrin Kirkland Jr. are both coming off medical redshirt seasons and knee surgeries that have limited them during preseason practices.
Jennings, who caught 40 passes in 2016, participated in Saturday’s scrimmage, according to Pruitt. Kirkland, a former All-SEC freshman, did not.
“He felt great,” Pruitt said of Kirkland. “Just going back to what we decided to do back before camp started, we were going to work him a certain amount of days and then give him a certain amount of days off, just for recovery to build him back. It’s the same way with Jauan. You’ve guys that haven’t performed at a high level in a very long time. If you go out there and just throw them in the fire, their body can’t adapt.
The top-rated player from Tennessee’s 2018 signing class has still not reported to preseason camp. Pruitt said that freshman linebacker J.J. Peterson is “finishing up a class” and “when he gets the class finished up, he’ll be here.”
“Would we have liked it to have been last week? Absolutely,” Pruitt said. “But that’s part of it. You’ve got to do it, and he’s working hard to do that.”
West Virginia dealing with virus
Tennessee’s season-opening opponent, West Virginia, announced Saturday that its fan day event scheduled for Sunday is postponed after five cases of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease were identified within the football program.
“Because it is highly contagious, it is in the best interest of the general public to postpone the event,” said a news release from the WVU athletic department.
Hand, Foot and Mouth disease is a mild viral infection common in children that typically causes sores in the mouth and a rash on hands and feet.
“WVU’s medical staff continues to monitor the situation, taking proper steps to control the virus and communicating with the proper campus personnel,” the WVU release said.
Contact David Cobb at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @DavidWCobb and on Facebook at facebook.com/volsupdate.