Shortly after the Tennessee Vols’ season-ending loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday night, reports surfaced that offensive coordinator Tyson Helton was on his way out at UT.
Source: Jeremy Pruitt expected to make a coordinator change https://t.co/fhTcpo9UZt
— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) November 25, 2018
Football Scoop’s report, however, was later disputed by WMNL’s Jimmy Hyams, who reported that Jeremy Pruitt called the rumors “false”.
Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said two reports that offensive coordinate Tyson Helton has been fired are inaccurate. “It’s not true and it’s not going to happen,” Pruitt told me tonight
— Jimmy Hyams (@JimmyHyams) November 25, 2018
It wasn’t a surprise to see reports that Pruitt might move on from Helton, who is making $1.2 million in his first season as a primary play caller.
The Vols’ offense looked dreadful against Vanderbilt. Tennessee didn’t seem to have much of a game plan at all.
I’m not even sure what Tyson Helton’s plan is in this game. He was bailed out by a 75 yard run. Outside of that, I have no clue what Tennessee is attempting against a defense that hasn’t been very good this year.
— Chad Withrow (@withrowzone) November 24, 2018
Of course, that’s not all on Helton. Pruitt told reporters after that game that Tennessee was banged up a bit at wide receiver, which prevented the team from going over the middle more often.
There’s also the whole offensive line not blocking anyone issue that Helton has to deal with. Trying to overcome bad offensive line play can be incredibly challenging for an offensive coordinator, whether it’s Helton or Norv Turner. Great play calls look like bad play calls when there’s poor execution.
The offense has obviously been handicapped by poor execution. I’m sure the coaching staff could’ve done a few things different to put players in a better position for success, but I’m not sure it would’ve made a big difference over the last two weeks. When a team loses by 33 points and 25 points in consecutive weeks, there are much bigger problems than who is calling offensive plays.
It’s not a good time for a coordinator change
Perhaps the biggest reason the Vols are unlikely to make a coordinator change right now is because it would be terrible timing.
The early signing period is only a few weeks away and axing Helton could negatively affect Tennessee’s 2019 recruiting class.
Three-star quarterback Brian Maurer, who is rated as the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the nation, tweeted his support for Helton on Saturday night after the Vols’ loss.
coach Jeremy Pruitt along with Tyson Helton are MY coaches everyone stop bashing . it’s still GBO
— Brian Maurer (@maurerera_2) November 25, 2018
Maurer is expected to sign with Tennessee in December and enroll in January.
If the Vols are going to make a coordinator change (which I don’t think they will), they’d be wise to wait until at least after the early signing period. There’s no reason to rock the boat right now.
Firing Helton before mid December would only serve to hurt recruiting.
Helton should be on the hot seat next year
Jarrett Guarantano obviously isn’t going to be a Heisman Trophy contender anytime soon, but he improved significantly under Helton this season.
Helton’s work with quarterbacks should be enough to give him some equity with Pruitt.
I’d like to see what Helton can do as an offensive coordinator when he’s not held back by a poor offensive line and when he has more players that have “bought in”.
If the offense doesn’t improve next season, then Pruitt should absolutely move on from Helton.
But I think Helton needs at least one more season, where he isn’t taking over a dumpster fire of an offense, to prove he’s worth the $1.2 million that Tennessee is paying him.
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