It’s a bit of an understatement to say things aren’t going well for Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt right now.
Starting the season is 0-2 is never a positive — especially when the two losses were against teams the Volunteers were expected to beat.
But this is where Tennessee is right now. And it’s mostly because of Pruitt.
After all, he’s the head coach — it all falls on him.
Pruitt’s decision to stick with Jarrett Guarantano, when he clearly isn’t a SEC caliber quarterback, cost Tennessee a win against BYU.
Players play the game, but coaches prepare, motivate and make decisions that impact the game. When a program loses multiple games that should’ve been wins, it all falls on the head coach.
Now, if you dive deeper, there are factors beyond Pruitt’s control that contributed to Tennessee’s first two losses of the season. The Vols are being forced to play a lot of true freshmen because the upperclassmen simply aren’t getting the job done. Playing one or two true freshmen isn’t a big deal. Playing a bunch of true freshmen, however, isn’t ideal. Teams usually end up with a lot of situations where no one really knows what to do. And that’s been the case with Tennessee.
But, of course, the Vols still should’ve beat Georgia State and BYU. It just comes to the fact that Pruitt, for now, isn’t a very good head coach.
That doesn’t mean he can’t be, though. And it doesn’t mean the Vols should move on from him. In fact, I think UT needs to stick with him, as long as he keeps the young players on the same page and he keeps his 2020 recruiting class together (mainly Harrison Bailey).
Coaches learn and develop at different rates. Pruitt has never been a head coach before. Sure, some first time head coaches get it quickly. Kirby Smart at Georgia is a great example. But Smart also took over an established program that was regularly winning ten games a year. Tennessee hasn’t won ten games since the George W Bush administration was in office.
Pruitt was thrust into an impossible situation that garners a lot of media coverage. Tennessee football is popular, despite the state of the program. The fans aren’t apathetic. So every mistake Pruitt makes is magnified. Every decision he makes is scrutinized.
Maybe it’ll take three or four years for Pruitt to figure out what works. It might even take him three or four years to establish the right culture on Rocky Top. No one knows.
But there are clearly some folks who believe in him. Coaches like Jim Chaney and Derrick Ansley didn’t leave good situations to join a coach they don’t believe in.
Look, I can’t promise that Pruitt will turn Tennessee around. I don’t know what the next few years hold for UT football. No one does. But I know Pruitt is in the infancy stages of his head coaching career. And coaching is all Pruitt wants to do. He’s going to continue to fight to get better and make his team better. The narrative that Pruitt doesn’t care is absolutely false. I think he cares about winning football games more than anyone else involved with UT football. His head coaching career is literally on the line.
Moving on from Pruitt, right now, would be disastrous. There is no obvious head coach to hire waiting in the wings.
Tennessee’s best course of action is to stick through some rough times and hope Pruitt figures it out. It’s not what Vol fans want to hear, but it’s the only smart choice for now.
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