Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt met with reporters on Wednesday and used over 1,700 words to discuss his team’s upcoming matchup with the Georgia Bulldogs.
Buried in the midst of Pruitt’s extensive responses to questions from the media were a couple of sentences that I believe are extremely important and relevant to the current state of Tennessee football.
Pruitt was asked by a reporter what he believes has held back UT’s offensive line in terms of run blocking. Tennessee’s second year head coach gave a lengthy answer that included a reference to center Brandon Kennedy and penalties after the whistle.
In the middle of his response, however, Pruitt said something that I think every Vol fan needs to hear.
“You’ll see guys on teams that didn’t play their freshman, sophomore, sometimes even junior year, then their senior year they are really good SEC football players. Everybody develops kind of at a different pace.”
In recent years, fans and media members have grown accustomed to seeing some highly touted players make an impact as true freshmen.
Players like Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence have changed expectations for young players. But it’s important for everyone to remember that players like Lawrence are rare. Most freshmen aren’t key contributors for their respective teams.
Sure, there are some true freshmen that play significant time early in their collegiate careers for elite programs like Alabama, Clemson and Georgia.
But for the most part, elite programs have upperclassmen on the field. It’s easier for a true freshman to to play for an established program and make an impact.
In Tennessee’s case, the program is being forced to play a lot of players that probably aren’t ready to contribute yet. As Pruitt said, every player develops at a different rate. Some kids are ready to play immediately. Some players don’t make an impact until their senior season.
For now, the Vols don’t have the luxury of picking their spots with their young players. They’re being forced to play their most talented players, regardless of whether or not they’re “ready” or “experienced”. As a result, the Vols have more inexperience on the field than experience.
That’s not a recipe for success.
Which means that Tennessee probably won’t find success until their youngest players are upperclassmen and have a chance to lead an established program.
Unfortunately for fans, that means another two or three years of waiting for the program to be built.
It’s understandable that fans are tired of waiting, but right now it’s the only choice they have.
Featured image via Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports