KNOXVILLE — Previously suspended sophomore cornerback Bryce Thompson will travel with Tennessee to Saturday’s SEC opener at Florida, though coach Jeremy Pruitt on Wednesday night tried to understate the freshman All-American’s potential impact.
Thompson was suspended from the team on Aug. 26 following his arrest for misdemeanor domestic assault on Aug. 24. Pruitt reinstated Thompson to the team on Sept. 11, and he practiced that day.
He did not play in Saturday’s win over Chattanooga, but this week he has been practicing with the first string in periods open to the media.
Thompson is perhaps the Vols’ best defensive player, but Pruitt said it will take him a while to return to that level after missing 2 ½ weeks of practice and he’s not sure how much Thompson will be able to contribute against the Gators.
“The guy has not done much in several weeks so we’re going to play these other guys and one of these days Bryce will be back in shape and be ready to play,” Pruitt said. “But that’s going to take a little time for that to happen.”
Pruitt pointed to defensive back Trevon Flowers as proof that expectations for Thompson should be scaled back. Flowers missed time during fall camp while recovering from a broken collarbone he suffered last season, and when he got into this year’s season opener against Georgia State he missed a couple of tackles.
“(Flowers) is a guy that I’ve always felt like all along could be one of the better players on our football team,” Pruitt said. “He was injured in fall camp and missed a lot of practice time, but I see a guy coming back that’s forming better. Same thing with Bryce. He’s missed a lot of time here in the last few weeks. He has to kind of earn his way back out there.”
Thompson appeared in court for his arraignment on Sept. 3. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Monday.
“I got back on Twitter to ask for you guys to please pray for Feleipe and his family,” Guarantano wrote in his first tweet since Aug. 28. “Also, prayers to Terry & Jake on a speedy recovery.”
The second sentence refers to Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson and South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley. Wilson suffered a season-ending knee injury against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 7, and Bentley suffered a foot injury against North Carolina on Aug. 31 that will sideline him indefinitely.
Guarantano and Franks met in 2016 when they were highly ranked high school quarterbacks. At SEC Media Days in July, Franks said Guarantano is ‘a guy I love being around.’
“The QB fraternity going back to the Elite 11, going to the Manning Passing Academy, all those things we do with each other throughout the years we get to know each other and get to know the different lifestyles we come from,” Guarantano said this week. “It’s definitely different for quarterbacks, and I have a personal relationship with all of them. I’m always wishing for the best for them. I hope they have speedy recoveries.”
Pruitt tried to minimize the harsh reality by saying they’re still playing the game they’ve played since they were kids. Guarantano had a different opinion because he’s played in it. No amount of artificial sound pumped into practice by speakers can simulate what it will be like to play in front of 91,000 fans at The Swamp.
The only way to get used to it is to play in it.
“It’s crazy. It’s hectic. The fans are nuts,” Guarantano said. “You start hearing things that you’ve never heard before. It’s really a great environment. It’s the best environment in college football. I’m really truly blessed to get the opportunity to do this again. I’m excited for this opportunity.”