A lot of things are going to change around the Tennessee Vols football program now that Josh Heupel is the head coach.
Well, at least the Vols better hope a lot of things change — that’s usually the goal with a new head coach after the old head coach was fired.
One of the biggest problems that Jeremy Pruitt had when he was Tennessee’s head coach was scoring points.
During Pruitt’s three seasons as the Vols’ head coach, UT’s offense ranked No. 109, No. 98, and No. 108.
That’s obviously not going to get it done in the SEC.
The biggest reason Pruitt’s offenses struggled came down to quarterback play.
Tennessee wasn’t explosive on offense. There were a lot of three-and-outs and a lot of missed “splash plays”.
I don’t think that’s because the Vols had bad players. Quite the opposite. Tennessee had the talent to be successful.
But Pruitt preached ball security so much to UT’s quarterbacks that they were terrified to make a mistake. They would throw the ball away instead of taking a chance downfield. That mindset made the Vols incredibly one-dimensional and easy to defend against.
Nearly every Pruitt press conference featured some version of the phrase “we need to take care of the football better”.
Pruitt: Maurer has to make good decisions. He’s made some really nice plays, and that’s something we saw in camp. But he’s got to take care of the football. He’s got to learn from that and do it.
— GoVols247 (@GoVols247) October 16, 2019
Jeremy Pruitt: “The No. 1 priority this spring has got to be the ball. On both sides.”
Said offense needs to take care of the football more and the defense needs to produce more turnovers.
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) March 10, 2020
Quarterbacks playing scared isn’t a recipe for success.
Fortunately for the Vols, that mindset will be changing under Heupel and the new offensive staff at Tennessee.
UT quarterbacks coach Joey Halzle spoke with reporters on Wednesday and he made it clear that Tennessee wants its quarterbacks to make plays. The new Vols coaching staff doesn’t want their quarterbacks afraid to make mistakes, which is a stark contrast to what Pruitt preached.
“We don’t make guys play scared,” said Halzle. “We don’t make them afraid to make mistakes. Go out there and cut it loose.”
“You are going to get an opportunity to showcase your skills every Saturday.”
Pruitt was trying to win football games in 2020 the same way they were won 15 years ago.
Heupel, however, is much better equipped to win football games in 2021 (for a lot of reasons, but specifically offensively).
I don’t know how the Heupel era at Tennessee will end up playing out, but there’s no doubt the offense is going to be a lot of fun to watch with Heupel running the show.
Featured image via UT Athletics