Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt has always had a no-nonsense approach.

The third-year Vols head coach is never going to be one that can hide his true feelings easily. If he’s displeased with his team, it’s going to come through in his media sessions with reporters.

That’s why I think Pruitt’s tone on Monday was notable.

While speaking with reporters during a virtual media session on Monday, Pruitt sounded a lot less critical of his team than normal.

“We did create explosive plays on offense. There’s times when we moved the ball at will, but we have to make some consistency there,” said Pruitt.

“We made a couple of really nice plays and a couple of good runs after the catch… Every position that we had on Saturday, there was really a lot of good things, but there’s really a whole lot of things that we can improve on and that’s what we’ve got to do this week.”

Tennessee Vols

Now, there were still several areas where Pruitt wasn’t happy. He had a list of things that he felt needed to be fixed.

But unlike previous seasons, Pruitt’s criticisms were very specific, instead of a sweeping observation that his team has a lot to work on.

For example, Pruitt pointed out that he wanted the defense to create more turnovers. He also felt like Tennessee played poorly on third down.

“There were probably three offensive possessions that we had which could have given us the chance to end the game or put some distance between us and them that we didn’t do when we had good field position,” explained Pruitt

“We’ve got to do a better job of closing out. Defensively, we have to get more turnovers. We got one turnover during the game. The ball was on the ground with a minute before the half. We had a chance to recover a fumble which would have been huge, and we didn’t.”

This might be strange to say, but criticism like this is a great sign that Tennessee is progressing.

Fixing specific areas — like converting on third down — is a lot more manageable than having to fix broad areas like toughness, effort, knowing what to do within the scheme, etc.

Pruitt is always going to be critical. He’s never going to be completely happy (same goes for any successful football coach). But when you start hearing specific, detailed criticisms it means that Tennessee, as a whole, is taking another step toward being a force in the SEC.

Featured image via Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports/Tennessee Athletic Communications

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