There were plenty of folks who mocked Jeremy Pruitt’s reputation as a defensive mastermind when the Tennessee Vols gave up 38 points in their season opening loss to Georgia State
Those folks — fans and media — probably aren’t aware that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
And neither are elite defenses.
Pruitt’s reputation as a defensive wiz is justified. His reputation speaks for itself.
Here’s where his teams finished in scoring defense during his time as a defensive coordinator from 2013-2017:
- 2013 (Florida State): No. 1 (12.1 points per game)
- 2014 (Georgia): No. 16 (20.7 points per game)
- 2015 (Georgia): No. 8 (16.9 points per game)
- 2016 (Alabama): No. 1 (13.0 points per game)
- 2017 (Alabama): No. 1 (11.9 points per game)
I think it’s safe to say that Pruitt knows what he’s doing on defense.
(By the way, Alabama’s defense fell to No. 12 in 2018, the year after Pruitt left Nick Saban’s staff for Tennessee.)
The Vols obviously don’t have the same talent as any of the teams that Pruitt previously coached. So it’s understandable that Tennessee’s defense isn’t at an elite level…..yet.
While Tennessee still has a ways to go (they currently have the nation’s No. 41 scoring defense, up from No. 77 a year ago), it’s clear they’re making a progress.
And there are a couple of stats that prove this.
Tennessee’s defensive coaching staff has made some ridiculous halftime adjustments over the last month. In Tennessee’s last five games, the Vols have allowed a total of 21 second half points.
That includes a matchup against Alabama.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) November 12, 2019
On top of UT’s second half dominance in recent weeks, the Vols have some of the top defensive players (statistically speaking) in the SEC.
Notable stats for the Vols among SEC players:
-Darrell Taylor: 1st in sacks (7), t-9th in TFLs (8)
– Nigel Warrior: t-1st in INTs (4)
– Bryce Thompson: t-5th in INTs (3)
– Daniel Bituli: 5th in tackles/game
– Jauan Jennings: 5th in rec yards, t-6th in catches, 7th in rec TDs
— Rocky Top Insider (@rockytopinsider) November 12, 2019
It’s still going to be a while before Tennessee is on the same level as Alabama. But there’s absolutely no doubt that Pruitt and defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley have the Vols’ defense moving in the right direction.
Just imagine when UT has some depth and more talent.
It’s going to be a fun ride for Vol fans.
It won’t be much fun, however, for Tennessee’s opponents.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports