It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who closely follows college football, but Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt wasn’t very happy after his team’s 24-0 win against UTEP on Saturday.
Sure, the Vols accumulated over 500 total yards of offense. And they allowed only 134 total yards. But anyone who thought Pruitt would be happy with beating a severely overmatched UTEP team by only 24 points is absolutely insane.
Part of the reason the Vols didn’t score more points was because of several wasted opportunities. True freshman running back Jeremy Banks fumbled on the one yard line stretching for the end zone. Offensive linemen Drew Richmond and Jerome Carvin combined for an illegal block penalty that pushed Tennessee out of the red zone. And then there was wide receiver Marquez Callaway dropping a punt that UTEP recovered.
The eight penalties for 65 yards and two turnovers was enough for Pruitt to describe Tennessee’s play on Saturday as “shooting ourselves in the foot”.
Pruitt: Offensively not near as many negative plays but shot ourselves in the foot with penalties, fumbles, breakdowns in protection.
— WBIR Sports (@WBIRSports) September 15, 2018
But that was far from the best thing that Pruitt said on Saturday. Nope, that came later in the press conference.
Pruitt was asked near the end of the post-game press conference about Tennessee’s success at getting off the field on third downs. He gave a typical response about not getting in third and long situations. And then he mentioned a drive where they failed to get off the field on Saturday, before completely taking the blame for giving up the first down.
Pruitt: Once on third-and-long I had a bad call. That’s not on the kids. That’s me. I didn’t give them a chance.
— GoVols247 (@GoVols247) September 15, 2018
My immediate reaction to that quote was “well good for Pruitt, way to take responsibility as a head coach”.
That’s not something we saw a lot of from previous Vols head coach Butch Jones.
But that quote kept popping up in mind all evening. I realized, after giving it some thought, that what Pruitt said was much deeper than a head coach taking responsibility for a bad call.
That quote was basically Pruitt’s way of saying “hey guys, we’re all in this together”. He’s telling his players that no one is above making mistakes. Pruitt’s going to make mistakes, players are going to make mistakes, assistants will make mistakes, referees, etc. It’s going to happen. But what’s important is learning from those mistakes, giving a max effort and moving past the mistakes.
I think it says a lot about how Pruitt carries himself as a coach. He doesn’t walk into the room thinking he’s the smartest guy in the room. He has confidence, but he’s not ignorant in his confidence. Pruitt knows he’s not ever going to be perfect as a coach and he doesn’t let his insecurities prevent him from acknowledging that.
Tennessee’s players are already responding well to Pruitt as a head coach. And they’re going to continue to respond well to him, because there’s a certain trust that’s already been built there.
Saturday gave us a small glimpse into that world.
Vol fans should feel comfortable with Pruitt at the helm. He’s got this.
Featured image via Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics