By virtually every metric, the Tennessee Vols dominated UTEP on Saturday.
Tennessee held dominant advantages in first downs (24 to 7), total yards (512 to 134), yards rush (6.9 to 3.4), and most importantly, points (24 to 0).
Yet, Saturday’s showing was an eerie reminder of how the Vols would perform against inferior opponents under the previous regime. Although Tennessee shutout UTEP, the Orange and White didn’t overwhelm the lowest-ranked FBS team in the country.
Jeremy Pruitt was hired to rinse Tennessee of Butch Jones’ coaching sins. On Saturday, Jeremy Pruitt’s performance against UTEP was a touching tribute to the man himself.
For the third straight week, Tennessee’s offensive line struggled to dominate a physically inferior defensive line. If the Vols can’t run down UTEP’s throat whenever they desire, what’s going to happen next week against Florida? What about the three-game stretch of death against Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama?
You might want to hide your kids and hide your wife during those games. Clearly, Pruitt hasn’t coached the offensive line up to the standard of its talent. It’s too early to determine if player development is an area Jeremy Pruitt struggles with, but after lackluster performances against ETSU and UTEP, the red flags are rising.
Where Pruitt really caused heads to scratch was his handling of the quarterback situation. Clearly, Jarrett Guarantano is better than Keller Chryst. It was obvious before any games were played (Chryst struggled against weak PAC-12 defenses), and now that games have been played, any snap taken by Chryst in favor of Guarantano is a monumental waste of time.
And that’s exactly why Jeremy Pruitt decided to insert Chryst during a 2-minute drill at the end of the first half. At that point, the Vols were only up by 10 points.
At this point in the season, Tennessee needs its starters to not only take as many reps as possible, but as many reps in key situations as possible. Placing Chryst in a 2-minute drill when he’s the clear backup doesn’t help Guarantano in the slightest should he need to perform the same drill in conference play.
The cupcake portion of the Vols’ schedule is over. Over the next six weeks, Tennessee plays five teams who could easily take advantage of Pruitt’s rookie mistakes. It all begins with Florida next Saturday in Neyland.
If Pruitt continues to coach like Butch Jones, it’s obvious how that game will play out.
Featured image courtesy of Knoxville News Sentinel