The Tennessee Vols were never going to compete for the national championship in 2019.
It didn’t matter if they started 2-0 or 0-2, it just wasn’t in the cards for a young team coached by a young head coach.
But the hope for the Vols is that Jeremy Pruitt will lead the program back to its glory days at some point in the next several years.
For that to happen, Pruitt will have to land some elite talent.
The only way to land elite talent is for elite recruits to believe that Pruitt is a solid college head coach. In order do that, talented recruits need to see how Pruitt operates as a head coach. How he treats his players, what kind of situations he puts them in, etc.
I believe that’s essentially what Pruitt is doing with his coaching style this year.
Sure, the goal is to win games. Pruitt, like any college coach, wants to win every game. But I think Pruitt also knows that history isn’t being made by Tennessee in 2019. He’s building the program and the finish date isn’t this year.
So Pruitt is using this season to do some recruiting via his actions.
The first thing that comes to mind is something I touched on Thursday. Pruitt publicly reaffirmed this week that he won’t force a player to play a position they don’t want to play.
Another way that Pruitt is recruiting via his actions is his handling of Jarrett Guarantano. It seems like the majority of fans, and media analysts, agree that Guarantano has hit his ceiling as a collegiate quarterback. A lot of folks would love to see redshirt freshman JT Shrout or true freshman Brian Maurer get a shot to unseat Guarantano.
But for now, Pruitt has no interest in benching JG.
I think this decision has a lot to do with 2020 Vol commit Harrison Bailey. Again, Pruitt wants to win games this year. But he’s not going to rifle through quarterbacks hoping to find a solution. Pruitt is going to give Guarantano plenty of time, instead of quickly benching him. This is a direct message to Bailey, telling him that he doesn’t have to worry about losing a starting gig because of a bad game.
The second way Pruitt is recruiting via his actions is by playing a lot of true freshman. Now, this is also a practical. Some of Tennessee’s true freshmen are simply better options. But I think Pruitt is making it a point to play true freshmen to show potential commits that promised early playing time isn’t just lip service. Pruitt has no qualms about playing true freshmen in key roles. And he’s proved that so far during his time in Knoxville.
Pruitt is doing his best to build Tennessee’s football program from the ground up. It’s going to be a long process with some delays. I’m not sure if he’ll be around for the finished product, or if the finished product will ever arrive, but I’m certain that Pruitt is all in when it comes to turning the Vols’ program into the powerhouse it once was.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports