Nearly every college football head coach preaches toughness, so it wasn’t a surprise when the Tennessee Vols hired Jeremy Pruitt to lead their football program that the former Alabama Crimson Tide defensive coordinator told fans he wanted the program to exhibit toughness.
But being a team that displays toughness on a weekly basis and talks about it are two completely different things.
Former Vols head coach Butch Jones constantly preached toughness during his time on Rocky Top.
Butch Jones: “Our toughness must continue to improve, both physically and mentally.”
— Volquest Staff (@Volquest_Rivals) March 6, 2014
Whatever Jones was preaching, however, apparently didn’t work. A year ago, a NFL scout called Tennessee players “pretty damn soft”.
At the time, fans were enraged by the comment. But as the season wore on, it became abundantly clear that Tennessee had some major problems in the toughness department.
The hope is that new head coach Jeremy Pruitt will not just talk about toughness, but that he’ll be able to firmly establish it within the Vols’ football program.
Ultimately, only time will tell if Pruitt is successful or not. But for now, it appears that Tennessee’s players have embraced being a tough, physical team.
Kyle Phillips on Tennessee’s improved defense under Jeremy Pruitt: “We just believe we have a different mentality going into this season, being a tough, physical team. Those are things we struggled with last year and that’s been a main focus this year”
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) August 23, 2018
Phillips, a senior defensive lineman from Nashville, essentially admitted that Tennessee struggled last year to be a tough, physical team.
And we all know if a team isn’t physical, then they won’t win many games in the SEC. A program can have all the talent in the world, but if they can’t grind it out come crunch time (which involves the mental toughness aspect), then their outlook is pretty hopeless.
We obviously have no clue how the Pruitt era will work out in Knoxville, but he at least has his team entering the season with the right mindset.
And that this point, that’s about as much as you can ask for.
Featured image via Times Free Press