Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt insisted on Monday that his team isn’t focused on reaching a bowl game this year.
Maybe it’s the natural skeptic in me, but I don’t believe him.
When asked about the possibility of playing beyond November, Pruitt gave a rare “coach speak” answer, telling reporters “We’re not focused on making a bowl. What we’re focused on is being the best football team we can be today and continuing to develop as a team and get ready for Kentucky.”
It’s not that Pruitt is dismissing the importance of a bowl game — he acknowledged that the 15 extra bowl practices would be beneficial — he’s just taking the right approach by focusing only on Tennessee’s next opponent.
That’s certainly the right attitude for Pruitt to have (even if I think the possibility of a bowl game is very much in his thoughts on a daily basis).
And it’s also why folks like me are around. We can speculate on what will happen the rest of the season, while Pruitt can, you know, coach the team.
I happen to think the Vols will go bowling this year for the first time since 2016. And I think it has a lot to do with the fact that redshirt senior wide receiver Jauan Jennings isn’t going to allow any other outcome.
When we look back on this era of Tennessee football, there won’t be a lot of positives. But one bright spot that will always stick out is Jennings.
The Murfreesboro native has had an up and down career on Rocky Top. He was involved in one of the program’s most memorable moments ever (the hail mary to beat Georgia) and has become a fan favorite in recent years. On the other side of things, Jennings was kicked off the team two years ago by interim head coach Brady Hoke and former athletic director John Currie. Jennings’ removal from the team in 2017 came just months after he suffered a dislocated wrist in a win against Georgia Tech (which forced him to miss the entire season).
Pruitt and new athletic director Phillip Fulmer, however, decided to give Jennings another shot. It’s an understatement to say the decision has worked out for them.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) October 30, 2019
Jennings leads the team this season with 47 receptions for 722 yards and eight total touchdowns (seven receiving and one rushing).
When the Vols are playing in a bowl game later this season, it will be largely because of Jennings — and not just because of what he does on the field.
Jennings, according to Pruitt, has developed a certain amount wisdom, which is beneficial to his teammates.
“He’s kind of been through the wars a little bit. He’s probably developed some wisdom about how to handle your daily business.”
Pruitt added on Monday “Jauan cares about his teammates, and he’s a guy that really wants to finish this season the right way”.
After watching the way Jennings has plowed through opposing defenses this season, I have no doubt that he’s going to will the Volunteers to a bowl game.
I mean, can you imagine stopping this guy from getting to where he wants to go?
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) October 27, 2019
Yeah, me neither.
Featured image via Bryan Lynn/USA Today