The Tennessee Vols are off to an 0-2 start in Jeremy Pruitt’s second year as the program’s head coach.
That’s not the way the script read before the start of the season.
Tennessee was supposed to cruise to a 3-0 start before their late September showdown with the Florida Gators.
Instead, they’re left wondering if they’ll even match last year’s record, with no “guaranteed wins” on the schedule at this point.
So how did the Vols end up here?
Well, there are several reasons (as is always the case) for UT’s putrid start. But I believe the biggest reason Tennessee is 0-2 is because Pruitt made two critical mistakes, in the form of assumptions, heading into the 2019 season that cost the Vols the first two games of the season.
The first mistake is treating Georgia State like a scrimmage. Pruitt assumed Tennessee would cruise to an easy win. This is inexcusable — especially considering that Pruitt coached under Nick Saban, a coach who treats every game like it’s the national championship.
One college football team after another out here struggling today… and there is Nick Saban already in mid-season form pic.twitter.com/hgMwyt7PH6
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) August 31, 2019
I get that Pruitt wanted to try some different things against Georgia State and learn more about what his team can and can’t do. But the time for that is in the second half when you’ve built a major lead in the first half. Tennessee’s approach to that game was probably the worst approach I’ve seen since Mike Tyson thought he was going to sleepwalk to victory against Buster Douglas in 1990.
It was clear that Pruitt recognized his mistake from week one, as his team came out with more fire in week two against BYU.
But he didn’t correct his second mistake — the one that cost Tennessee a win against the Cougars.
Heading into the 2019 season I think it’s clear that Pruitt assumed Jarrett Guarantano could get the Vols to six or seven wins. For whatever reason, Pruitt didn’t want to gamble on one of his young quarterbacks. He believed that Guarantano, though the redshirt junior had reached his ceiling, could play well enough to be a bridge to 2020 UT commit Harrison Bailey.
I don’t know why Pruitt made this assumption. He’s played plenty of freshman so far during his first 14 games on Rocky Top. Pruitt seems to understand the concept of playing the most talented players — except when it comes to the quarterback position.
Pruitt needs to stop making assumptions. I understand he’s a young head coach who is learning on the job. And it’s impossible to know how long it will take him to develop into a good head coach (or if he ever will). But his assumptions are killing Tennessee football right now.
The Vols are 0-2 because of the choices Pruitt has made. Moving forward, Pruitt needs to reevaluate his decision making process.
Because if he doesn’t, the Vols might win only one or two games this season.
If that happens, the only decision Pruitt will be making is which real estate agent to use.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports