Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt put his Volunteers through that long-awaited first day of preseason practice Monday afternoon but provided some disappointing news afterward.
Junior offensive lineman Cade Mays, the former five-star signee from Knoxville Catholic who played all five positions for the Georgia Bulldogs the past two seasons before transferring to Tennessee in January, had his waiver for immediate eligibility denied by the NCAA. Tennessee is appealing the ruling.
Pruitt, who attained immediate eligibility as a defensive back after transferring from Middle Tennessee State to Alabama in 1995, expressed frustration with the verdict.
"Why should we stand in the way of a young man or woman trying to figure out where the right place for them is?" Pruitt said. "Right now that's not the rule, but I hope that it eventually will be the rule. I know that for everybody who has transferred from our place, I have written a letter for a recommendation for them to the NCAA that requested that they be approved for immediate eligibility.
"I know it's frustrating for Cade, and it's frustrating for our team."
Tennessee senior guard Trey Smith responded to the news by posting on Twitter, "Interesting how other positions get cleared seemingly without hassle," referring to quarterbacks such as Justin Fields, Tate Martell and JT Daniels, who each obtained immediate eligibility after transferring. Mays then asked Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano on Twitter if he could "rock that No. 2 (jersey) for a season."
In a nearly 30-minute Zoom call with reporters after the opening workout, Pruitt moved on from the Mays topic to provide an update on COVID-19 testing results.
"We've had a total of 23 guys on our team test positive," he said. "The first time we tested we had zero. There have been lots of lessons for us to learn in there, because we gave our guys an eight-day break around the Fourth of July. They had a chance to go home, and that was a point where we thought the season was going to start on time.
"We wanted them to spend time with their families, but some of them came back and tested positive. I believe our positivity rate is slightly under 2%, and we have not had any contact tracing that's been within our building. It's all come from outside our building, so we've got to do a better job when we're out and about in public."
Pruitt added that a few players are currently in quarantine and will join practice later this week.
With Tennessee's practices closed to the media, Pruitt was asked about Gauarantano's performance Monday and responded by saying all the quarterbacks threw the ball well but need to develop more consistency. He explained that it was a typical first day of practice with excited players flying around but making mistakes.
Banks is back
Jeremy Banks, the former Vols running back who switched to linebacker last year and had two interceptions against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga before being dismissed from the team, is back with the program and practiced Monday. Banks was dismissed last October on the heels of a September arrest in which he was argumentative with police.
"We're working him at the 'money,' (hybrid linebacker/defensive back) which is the position we moved him to last year," Pruitt said. "He's got a lot of catching up to do, but I'm excited that he's put himself in position to have an opportunity to do this."
Odds and ends
Early enrollee Jimmy Holiday, who signed as a quarterback out of Flora, Mississippi, will play receiver. "He felt like he would have an opportunity to get on the field faster there," Pruitt said. "He's a guy who can jump in there at quarterback and is still taking some snaps there, but he's going to take most of his snaps at the wide receiver position." ... Pruitt on sophomore Quavaris Crouch: "He's moved to inside linebacker, which is probably his most natural position."