Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt has done a tremendous job of changing the culture in Knoxville during his first year on the job.
Not only is Pruitt changing the culture on Rocky Top, he’s also working to install an offensive and defensive system that will be successful for years to come.
Part of that offensive system is a commitment to running the ball. Programs won’t win much if they can’t run the ball in the SEC.
The Vols haven’t found much success running the ball this season (they had only 20 rushing yards in their win against Charlotte this past Saturday), but Pruitt hasn’t strayed from his commitment to establish the run.
On Monday, during his weekly press conference, Pruitt explained his decision to keep running the ball even when it appeared to be fruitless.
Pruitt: It’s hard to win in this league, or any league, if you can’t run the football. We’ve gotta be committed to it and get it done.
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) November 5, 2018
I totally understand what Pruitt is saying. Eventually, the Vols have to be able to consistently run the ball. If Tennessee were to abandon the run every time the running game couldn’t get going, they’d never get better in that area. It’s not like a team will just all of a sudden start running the ball well if they aren’t committed to it.
But at the same time, the Vols have to do whatever it takes to win the game.
Reaching a bowl game this season is incredibly important for Tennessee. It’s huge for recruiting (exposure) and development (extra practices).
While I admire Pruitt’s commitment to the longterm success of the Vols, he has to do whatever is necessary to make sure his team wins two of their final three games.
And that might mean abandoning the run in favor of the passing game.
Tennessee isn’t going to beat Kentucky, Missouri or Vanderbilt by averaging less than two yards a carry. And if they aren’t finding success running the ball early in the game, then they probably aren’t going to suddenly be successful on the ground late in the game.
Jarrett Guarantano’s arm might be what determines whether or not the Vols reach a bowl game in Pruitt’s first season.
Pruitt needs to trust his starting quarterback to make some plays. He’s proved this season that he has the arm talent to do it.
Trusting Guarantano’s arm is likely the only way Tennessee is going bowling this season.
Pruitt can get back to establishing the running game in 2019. For the final three games of 2018, all bets should be off when it comes to the offensive play calling.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports