Via UT Media Relations
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee will welcome in-state foe ETSU to Neyland Stadium for its home opener on Saturday at 4 p.m. (SEC Network). UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt said he has seen many of his players show more intensity this week at practice as the Vols prepare to host the Buccaneers for the first time.
“I have seen guys with our whole team that have come out on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and you can see a little more giddy up in their step,” Pruitt said. “Guys have more intensity, which is a good thing.”
While the team continues to improve, the Big Orange received some unfortunate news on Wednesday evening when Pruitt announced that starting center Brandon Kennedy, a graduate transfer from Alabama, suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice this week.
Due to Kennedy’s injury, the Vols’ will have to move some pieces around on the offensive line for this week’s game. Redshirt sophomore Ryan Johnson, who started at center for UT during the final game of last season, and sophomore Riley Locklear are the two most likely candidates to fill the void at center for the Vols this week.
“We’ve repped four or five centers over the course of spring and summer and fall camp, you have to do that, so we’ll shuffle some guys around and see after today and tomorrow’s practice what’s the best combination,” Pruitt said.
Best Practice Players Will Play on Saturdays
Pruitt emphasized that the players that are the most productive in practice will be the ones seeing the majority of the snaps on game days.
“You play based on how you perform in practice,” Pruitt said. “Nobody is entitled to anything, and I think that is the best way. I think kids appreciate it. It makes them go to work and gets the best out of them. It makes them develop as football player and makes you have a better team.”
Eyes in the Sky
Pruitt was complimentary of the way his staff handled things from an “administrative standpoint” last Saturday when talking about which coaches would be on the field and which ones would coach from the booth.
“Defensively, Charles (Kelly) and Terry (Fair) and Chris Rumph all went in the booth,” Pruitt said. “Except for Terry, when you throw in Tracy (Rocker) and Kevin (Sherrer) on the field, we’ve all coached together at some point in time. So that part was easy defensively. From a special teams’ standpoint, Charles is the special teams’ coordinator, but he can do both, and he can see it from there.
“Offensively, some guys like to call it in the booth, some guys like to call in on the field. Tyson (Helton) would prefer to be in the booth, which is not unusual, lots of guys like to do that. To do that, you have to have men on the sidelines that can kind of control the unit, because it’s important to look them in the eye sometimes and say, ‘let’s go’, to get a feeling of what’s going on. And we have that with the guys on our sidelines.”
Manning Inducted into Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame
Legendary Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as announced earlier today. Manning, a New Orleans native, joins his father, Archie, a 1988 inductee, in the state sports shrine. They are only the second father/son duo in the Hall, preceded by the Ruston combination of NFL stars Dub (1982) and Bert (1986) Jones.
Manning was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player five times and won two Super Bowls during his illustrious professional career while setting league records for career passing yards (71,940) and career passing touchdowns (539).
During his time at UT, Manning set 42 NCAA, SEC and Tennessee passing records and earned All-America status as a senior in 1997 while also winning the Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award.
Legend of the Game
Tennessee will honor the late Reggie White as its Legend of the Game on Saturday afternoon. His widow, Sara White will be accompanied by VFLs Phil Stewart and Bruce Wilkerson during a pregame presentation to honor the former UT All-American and Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Times to Know
12:30 p.m. – Vol Village Opens (Located at Humanities Plaza)
1:45 p.m. – Vol Walk
4:01 p.m. – Kickoff
The Jeremy Pruitt TV Show Airs on Sundays
Find out the head coach’s thoughts on each game during the hour-long television program, the “Jeremy Pruitt TV Show,” which will air throughout the state and the southeast region during the football season. It will also be available on UTSports.com.
Market | Channel | Day, Time
WTVC Ch. 9 | Sunday, Noon ET
WJKT Ch. 16 |Sunday, 10:30 p.m. CT
WVLT Ch. 8 | Sunday, 11 a.m. ET
MyVLT Ch. 30 | Sunday, 9 a.m. & 9 p.m. ET
WATN Ch. 24 | Sunday, 10 a.m. CT
WLMT Ch. 30 | Sunday, 10:30 p.m. CT
WUXP Ch. 30 | Sunday, 10 a.m. CT
WJHL Ch. 11 | Sunday, 11 a.m. ET
FOX Sports SE | Sunday, Noon ET
Note: Affiliates and times are subject to change