Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt caught some flack last week when he said his team wasn’t using the open week to prepare for their next game (against Arkansas).

Not only do I think the criticism was unjustified — I think Pruitt’s approach during the bye week was perfect.

Specifically when it comes to the defensive side of the ball.

One of the biggest issues that’s plagued the Vols this season has been bad tackling.

And look, it’s impossible to win in the SEC without great tackling. A missed tackle can turn a third-and-five into a first down. A missed tackle can turn a short gain into a 75-yard touchdown.

Tackling is beyond important — it’s essential to playing winning football.

That’s why it’s a good thing that Tennessee got back to the basics and worked extensively on tackling during the open week.

“Coach Pruitt is right, we did miss a lot of tackles in that game (against Alabama),” explained sophomore linebacker Henry To’o To’o on Monday. “This off week that we had was huge for us. We did a lot of tackling drills with the offensive guys, a lot of open-field tackles with them.”

“We spent a lot of time in individual – trying to get that and making sure we don’t overrun things. This week was huge for us.”

I’m sure some fans will point out that tackling shouldn’t be an issue for Tennessee midway through the season. And I’d agree with that — it shouldn’t be an issue.

But the reality is that Tennessee just isn’t a good tackling team right now. Whether they should be or shouldn’t be right now doesn’t matter. All that matters is that it gets fixed — quickly.

Pruitt is doing what he needs to do to make sure it’s fixed. If it takes a few practices of individual tackling work to get it fixed, then so be it. Ultimately, the Vols won’t be winning games until they can get off the field on third down consistently. And to do that, they’ll need to be a much better tackling team than they have been.


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