Tennessee scrapped a scheduled scrimmage Saturday after head coach Jeremy Pruitt said 44 players were unable to go, the bulk of which were due to contact tracing and positive COVID-19 tests.

Pruitt said his team was short 31 offensive players and held a practice session instead. The Volunteers, who are scheduled to kick off Sept. 26 vs. South Carolina, are unlikely to be able to use their full allotment of practices in the run-up to the season, Pruitt said.

“It’s the safety of the kids, and when you start reducing the numbers, you start getting the workload — these guys are not professionals. They need to work on fundamentals and details and learn how to play,” Pruitt said about having enough players to practice or play. “There are guys who’ve been in the program for four years and guys who just got here, and when you start lining them up after practice and a guy goes the wrong way, that’s how you get guys hurt.”

Pruitt said seven or eight players have tested positive and, “as far as COVID-related, I think it’s close to 27 or 28 (total players out) when you talk about contact tracing also.”

Since players returned to campus starting in June, Pruitt said 48 different players have had to quarantine due to contact tracing, including two who have been quarantined twice.

Prior to the change in schedules this summer, Tennessee was originally slated to open its season Saturday.

“I’m really glad we’re not playing today,” Pruitt said. “We’d have had a hard time beating anybody, so that might be a blessing in itself.”

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