Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt was asked earlier this week about the approach he takes to in-game management — one of the most important aspects of being a head coach.
Pruitt gave an in depth answer, telling reporters that he and his coaching staff start preparing for various in-game situations in the winter, to make sure everyone is on the same page.
“There’s lots of scenarios that you have to work consistently when you have the ball offensively based off the score. Are you trying to score touchdowns? Are you trying to run the clock out? Do you need a field goal? It is before halftime?”
Pruitt added “You try to go through all the scenarios during the offseason, starting in probably February when we’re doing quality control and make sure that we all have the same philosophy”.
While it’s obvious that Pruitt likes to be as prepared as possible, he also noted that sometimes the preparation and planning goes out the window during a game, saying “Sometimes, you have to go off your gut too, so you see the game, you’re on the field you feel what’s going on.”
Notice anything missing from Pruitt’s explanation of in-game situations?
I’ll help you out.
He didn’t mention charts.
Previous Vols head coach Butch Jones, who was infamously a terrible in-game coach (just rewatch the 2015 Oklahoma and Florida games), was quick to reference a mysterious chart that told him when to go for two, when to kick a field goal, etc.
Obviously the chart didn’t work, because in 2015 the Vols blew three leads of at least 13 points just a month into the season.
Tennessee has held at least a 13-point lead in each of its games and is 2-3.
All other Power 5 teams that have led by 13+ are 157-5.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 4, 2015
Look, I’m all for analytics in sports — as long as teams don’t rely solely on them. Analytics can help programs understand what to do in certain situations and they can, if used correctly, complement a great coaching staff.
But coaching is still coaching. And at the end of the day, coaches sometimes need to go with their gut. It won’t always be right, but it’s a better option than a chart that has no feel for the game.
Pruitt is going to be wrong at times. He’s going to make the wrong decision. But the fact that he has confidence in his abilities as a head coach, and doesn’t feel the need to reference a chart in the fourth quarter of a big game, should make Vol fans feel confident they have a legitimate head coach leading their program.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports