Competition heats up as Tennessee’s SEC opener nears

As Tennessee gets ready for its first road game of the season and opens its SEC slate, head coach Jeremy Pruitt expects his Vols to play fearlessly when things kick off against No. 9/8 Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday at noon.

Despite UT’s recent struggles in the series, the Vols’ already high measure of intensity continues to be underscored by in-practice competition.

“The past has no bearing on the future, we have 60 minutes to write this chapter,” Pruitt said. “We start practice, usually every day, with some kind of competition drill. Whether it is one-on-ones or Vol drill or something. We keep score during periods to create winners and losers and try to create some competition.”

The Vols squad also got a bit of help from the weather to help simulate the team’s first time in The Swamp in the Pruitt era with the temperature projected to be in the upper 80s.

“I made a statement earlier in the year that it didn’t get hot in Knoxville, but it’s gotten hot the last two days,” said Pruitt. “That was good for us, getting ready for this weekend. Our players have lots of energy out there, which is good to see. I know they’re excited about playing.”

Pruitt expects that excitement and the preparation to translate into a very competitive game with the Gators, who came out with two tightly-contested wins to open the season.

“You are built for it. It gets you ready for it when it gets into one of those games. I think that has a lot to do with it. If you have a really competitive team, then you have a deep team. When it gets tight, that is when you want the best out of each person.”

Fils-aime Expected to Return
The Vols could get a boost on the ground with the expected return of senior running back Carlin Fils-aime, who’s been getting reps over the past few weeks.

“He started practicing kind of full-go a couple of weeks ago,” Pruitt said. “As a running back, you want a guy to take some licks. You don’t want a guy out there that hasn’t had any contact with the football in his hands.

“Last year, he was a pretty good special teams’ player for us. We moved him back to offense towards the end of the year. He is a guy that has some really good one-step quickness. He can get vertical and hit seams. He is back out there and he should be able to play this week.”

In 2018, Fils-aime switched from corner to the running back group full time prior to the South Carolina game. The Naples, Florida native has amassed 309 rushing yards, five touchdowns and 5.9 yards-per-carry so far in his career.

O-Line Tandem Calbert and Wright Growing Into Roles
The offensive line has played around with different personnel through the first three weeks of the season, which has given redshirt sophomore K’Rojhn Calbert and freshman Darnell Wright a chance to gel on the right side of the line.

“It gives us a chance to put those two guys side by side which we think gives us the best chance to have success offensively,” Pruitt said. “Darnell has only played guard for three practices and this week will make it five, while K’Rojhn, likewise, has moved to right tackle. When they get it right, they do a pretty good job at it.

“Neither guy has a lot of experience. I think both guys are extremely talented. If they know what they are doing, then they have a chance to have success.”

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