Jeremy Pruitt is in his third year as the Tennessee Vols’ head coach and he has a 15-16 record.
I think it’s safe to say that fans expected more from Pruitt by this point in his tenure.
But after a surprising 24-13 loss to Arkansas, it’s clear that Tennessee is no longer on an upward trajectory. In fact, the Vols appear to be regressing, which is a troubling sign for Pruitt and his future at Tennessee.
To make matters worse, the loss to the Razorbacks on Saturday night wasn’t just because the team didn’t execute. Pruitt was outcoached by Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman.
And it’s not like Pittman, a first-year head coach, looked like a coaching wizard or anything out there. Pruitt just looked lost.
The most obvious error from Pruitt came in the fourth quarter when the Vols were down by 11.
Tennessee had the ball at the 25-yard line with less than five minutes remaining in the game. On fourth down, Pruitt elected to go for it on 4th-and-4, instead of kicking a 43-yard field goal. A field goal at that point would’ve made it a one-score game.
After failing to convert the fourth down attempt, the Vols’ defense was able to force a punt from Arkansas.
True freshman Harrison Bailey then led a UT drive that started at Tennessee’s own 18-yard line to the Arkansas 10 yard line. The drive ended in an interception, but it wouldn’t have mattered either way.
The Vols were going to run out of time even if Bailey had thrown a touchdown. Pruitt’s decision to not kick the field goal made the drive essentially pointless.
After the game, Pruitt uttered a line that sounded like it came straight from the lips of Butch Jones.
Pruitt told reporters that he didn’t kick a field goal because he didn’t feel like Tennessee was close enough.
Jeremy Pruitt on why he didn’t kick a field goal at the end of the game: “We wasn’t close enough I didn’t feel like.”
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) November 8, 2020
Now, I understand that college kickers aren’t always reliable. But the Vols have a pretty good kicker in Brent Cimaglia. In fact, Cimaglia had already made two field goals on Saturday night. He made one from 48 yards and one from 50 yards.
It should be noted that Cimaglia wasn’t 100 percent and Pruitt said after the game he almost didn’t make the trip to Fayetteville. But if Pruitt trusted him with a 48-yard attempt and a 50-yard attempt, how in the world was he not trusted with a 43-yard attempt with the game on the line?
This was simply coaching malpractice by Pruitt. And his excuse sounded a lot of like an excuse we would’ve heard from Butch Jones.
And that’s not a guy that Pruitt wants to sound like.
There’s not really any reason to feel good about the future of Tennessee with Pruitt in charge. The ship is going down fast. It might be time to find a new captain.
Featured image via Tennessee Athletic Communications/Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports