Vols notebook: Coach Jeremy Pruitt would like to see 'accountability' on wrong calls

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt yells at the officials during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Alabama, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

KNOXVILLE - Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt is willing to admit that some of the calls that went against his Volunteers in Saturday's 35-13 loss to top-ranked Alabama were "the right call."

A few others he's not so willing to agree with.

He also understands that Southeastern Conference director of officials Steve Shaw has a difficult, thankless job, but he wants some level of accountability if officials make mistakes that cost teams.

"There's nothing that Steve could tell me, or anyone else could tell me, that I would agree with, whether it was a flag on us or not a flag on us," Pruitt said Monday. "We make mistakes as coaches, and they're going to make mistakes as officials. Players make mistakes. We all do; nobody's perfect.

"There're a few critical plays in that game, and I'm not saying it would've changed the outcome of that game, and there was probably some against us, too, but unfortunately, we're all held accountable. From the accountability standpoint, it's tough. What are the repercussions here?"

One of those calls came in the third quarter. Alabama had a 21-13 lead, but Tennessee thought it had just forced its second consecutive three-and-out, only to see a flag on the field.

The officials called unsportsmanlike conduct (the official book said "roughing the passer"). The penalty occurred when, after a hit on quarterback Mac Jones after an incomplete pass, senior outside linebacker Darrell Taylor pressed himself up off Jones, resulting in the flag and extending the drive.

Seven plays later, Alabama scored to go up 28-13.

"The call on Darrell Taylor was absolutely not a penalty," Pruitt said. "Would it change the game? I don't know. I know they would punt instead of going on and scoring that possession. Could they have gone and scored the next possession? Sure.

"There are a couple of things in there where I felt like they took shots on our quarterback, absolutely. Their kids are playing hard just like our kids did, but we got a couple of targeting calls in the last two weeks. The officials in the game, they throw one. If it gets overruled in Birmingham, or from the replay booth or whatever - just the consistency there. It's a tough deal for everybody involved, and accountability is even tougher, but for our players we're moving on. There's nothing we can do about last week."

Linebacker Daniel Bituli was ejected for targeting in the second quarter of the game and sat out the final half, but he is available to start this Saturday's game against South Carolina at 4 p.m. at Neyland Stadium.

Maurer or not?

Pruitt had no update on the availability of freshman quarterback Brian Maurer, who left in the first quarter of Saturday's loss with his second concussion in as many weeks.

Maurer has started three games this season, throwing for 426 yards and two scores while rushing for 30 yards and two touchdowns, but has yet to finish a game he has started.

Pruitt said the coaches are prepared to get Maurer, as well as junior Jarrett Guarantano and redshirt freshman J.T. Shrout, "ready to play" in Saturday's game, while noting that they should know something on Maurer's condition "in the next couple of days."

"It's no different than pretty much what we've done every week. Whoever is going to be the starter takes the majority of the reps, so we'll get those other guys ready to go," Pruitt said. "I've not talked to our medical staff about where he's at today yet, but we're going to get the other guys ready."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3 or at Facebook.com/VolsUpdate.