Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt’s biggest challenge in Knoxville during his first 15 months on the job has been changing a culture that turned toxic under previous head coach Butch Jones.
Changing a culture, however, is not something that happens overnight.
It doesn’t happen in a year, either.
Tennessee’s culture has obviously come a long way from where it was under Jones, but it still has a long way to go before it’s where it needs to be.
And where it needs to be is where it was in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. When players like Al Wilson, Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry, Peerless Price, Donté Stallworth and Kelley Washington, just to name a few, ruled the field for the Volunteers.
Tennessee had an undeniable “swagger” during that “golden age” of UT football. That’s something that only one person on Pruitt’s staff can truly help return to Rocky Top.
Enter Tee Martin.
There’s no one on Pruitt’s staff, or on the roster, that understands what it means to give their all for Tennessee better than Martin.
If anyone is going to bring “Tennessee swagger” back to UT, it’s going to be Martin.
And the Vols’ wide receivers are already recognizing that.
Senior wide receiver Marquez Callaway recently told reporters (via 247Sports) “Having a former Vol come back and coach us, especially on the ’98 national championship team, I mean, it’s just exciting to have him back — his atmosphere, his name, his title”.
I have a feeling you’ll see UT’s wide receivers play with a lot more confidence in 2019 with Martin as their position coach.
Tennessee used to be known as “Wide Receiver U”, but that reputation has waned in recent years.
Perhaps Martin, who helped several wide receivers at USC attain major success (Deontay Burnett, JuJu Smith Schuster, Nelson Agholor and Marqise Lee to name a few), can help the Vols regain their status as a NFL wide receiver producing factory.
Bringing Martin home is one of the biggest moves Pruitt has made during his short time in Knoxville. It’s a move that signals he understands what makes Tennessee a special place. It also signals that Pruitt understands what it takes to be successful at UT.
And that understanding will take the Vols a long way.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports