Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt has quickly developed a reputation on Rocky Top for being a no-nonsense kind of guy (a term that’s been used ad nauseam, but it’s appropriate).

Pruitt is straight up. He doesn’t play games with reporters. If he doesn’t want to say something, he just won’t say it. If he says it, though, then that’s just how it is.

When Pruitt isn’t pleased (which is often), then you can be assured there’s a good reason.

On the flip side, when Pruitt is optimistic, it’s not him just blowing smoke.

Lately, Pruitt is starting to sound more and more optimistic. On Wednesday, Pruitt seemed pleased with the Vols’ first practice with classes back in session, saying “That’s generally always a bad practice, but it was pretty good today”.

During Vol calls on Wednesday evening, Pruitt said his team is “heading in the right direction”.

That might not seem like a big deal, but it’s actually a huge positive for Tennessee.

We haven’t see a ton of optimism from Pruitt thus far during his time in Knoxville. And for good reason — he inherited a program that hit rock bottom last season.

But the fact that he senses the program is moving in the right direction means the players are buying into his vision, which is essential to the Vols’ success in 2018. Because if players don’t buy in, then Tennessee absolutely will not reach a bowl game.

Fortunately for the Vols, there’s no indication that any players aren’t buying in.

But before fans get too excited, Pruitt acknowledged that Tennessee still has a ways to go.

They have to do it when they’re tired, they have to do it when they don’t feel good, when it’s hot, when the other team is kicking their tail. they have to find a way to do it, figure it out, sustain it and do it again. We have a long ways to go in that department.

I think it’s obvious that Tennessee is making progress. But this isn’t going to be an overnight turnaround. Vol fans have plenty of reason to be optimistic, but there will be some rough moments for UT in 2018.

At the same time, however, I think there will be some bright moments for the Vols this season. I think they’re capable of winning some games they’re expected to lose (Florida, South Carolina). Does that mean I think they’ll win those games? No, not necessarily. But I do think the Volunteers will be more competitive than some folks expect.

Pruitt’s comments on Wednesday confirmed that Tennessee is on the right path.

At this point, it’s just important they don’t stray from that path.

Featured image via 247Sports

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