Spring exit interviews could lead to Tennessee football transfers

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt walks on the field before the Orange and White spring game at Neyland Stadium on Saturday, April 21, 2018 in Knoxville, Tenn.

KNOXVILLE - Spring practices are over and final exams do not begin until next week, but this week could still turn out to be significant for some Tennessee football players who were the subject of Jeremy Pruitt's wrath on Saturday.

The coaching staff is expected to conduct exit interviews with each player this week, and if Pruitt's harsh words after this past weekend's spring game are any indication, those interviews could lead some to consider transferring, unless they want to sit on the bench in 2018.

"Confront them," Pruitt said of his plan for the players who believes "flat out quit" as the Orange beat the White 34-7 in front of an announced crowd of 65,098.

"Confront them," he reiterated. "You know, there's nothing any better than peer pressure. It's easy to stand out there with your chest stuck out and pretend you're somebody that you're not."

With 12 players sidelined during the spring game with injuries expected to return and 14 players from the 2018 signing class and at least three graduate transfers joining the program this summer, the competition for playing time is set to increase this offseason, and Pruitt has indicated on numerous occasions that the Volunteers are not done shopping for players on the graduate transfer market.

That all sets the stage for some honest conversations this week with the players who struggled to meet Pruitt's standards over the 15 spring practices.

"I want us to finish strong academically this semester," Pruitt said. "I want them to do what's right from now until we get out of school. Some guys will go home in May; some guys will stay here. We'll meet with everybody and have our exit reviews this next week and kind of talk to them about where they're at, our expectations and what we want them to improve on this summer. So it'll probably be different for each individual."

Tennessee can ill afford transfer-outs at some positions, such as offensive line and cornerback. The first-team corners had a mixed day Saturday as they struggled at times to defend the Orange team's passing game. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano earned most valuable player honors for his two-touchdown, no-interception performance.

Texas A&M graduate transfer cornerback Nick Harvey visited Tennessee over the weekend, and after three seasons with the Aggies he would have the experience to enter and immediately compete for a starting spot. How the Vols fare in the recruitment of Harvey and other graduate transfer corners also could impact where touted freshman Alontae Taylor lines up in 2018.

Taylor, a Coffee County Central star who graduated from high school a semester early to join the Vols for spring practices as a wide receiver, worked at cornerback the last two weeks of the spring and played there for the second-team defense Saturday.

"At least he's got a background now that if we decided to move him over there in fall camp or if somebody got hurt, he would have an idea of how to go over there and we could get him ready to play in a couple of weeks," Pruitt said. "It's good for him. It didn't help him develop as a wide receiver, but that's OK. We've got time for that."

What Pruitt does not have time for is players who are not fully bought in to doing things his way.

"We want to be the best," he said in a Sunday night appearance on "The Nation" radio show. "And if we want to be the best, we can't (just) talk about it. We've got to try and do it in everything we do."

Contact David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidWCobb and on Facebook at facebook.com/volsupdate.