Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt opened his press conference on Wednesday evening on a negative note, immediately pointing out that his team had a poor practice.
Pruitt told reporters “you know probably, for the first time in a very long time, practice wasn’t what I wanted it to be today”.
The second year Vols head coach mentioned that they energy level wasn’t where he wanted it to be during Tennessee’s practice on Wednesday.
“Energy, everyone has it”, Pruitt explained. “We have to show some maturity and be able to push through to get the work done that we need to get done.”
The Vols’ matchup against Kentucky, which comes before UT’s final off week of the season, is extremely critical for Tennessee.
If the Volunteers can get past the Wildcats in Lexington on Saturday night, it will mean UT has to win only one of their final two games (a road tilt against Missouri and a home matchup against Vanderbilt) to reach bowl eligibility. It would certainly be nice for Tennessee to head into the bye week with a .500 record.
But for that to happen, the Vols will have to play some of their best football of the season against Kentucky. The Wildcats are a well coached, physical team who will be looking for some revenge after Tennessee upset them in 2018.
Practice good, play good?
A bad practice before playing Kentucky might seem like a bad sign for the Vols.
And it’s certainly not ideal.
But it might not be the worst thing in the world. In fact, I think it could actually help Tennessee this week.
The only thing that matters this week is the final score on Saturday night. It doesn’t matter how the Vols get there — as long as they get there.
As Pruitt mentioned on Wednesday, the grind of the season is really setting in right now. It might be easy for players to settle into routines and just go through the motions as the season nears its conclusion.
But that’s absolutely the worst thing that can happen to Tennessee right now. Which is why I think it’s probably a good thing that Pruitt likely made some players uncomfortable with his practice comments on Wednesday.
The Vols have been on a bit of a roll lately. There’s been a lot of talk recently of finishing 7-5 this season.
That’s definitely within reach for UT, but only if Tennessee shows the same focus and determination they’ve displayed over the last month.
Perhaps the bad practice on Wednesday was able to help everyone (that needed it) on the roster refocus. Maybe it will raise the intensity for the rest of the week and the game on Saturday night against the Wildcats.
A bad practice on Wednesday doesn’t mean the Vols will play bad on Saturday.
Just like a good fall camp didn’t mean Tennessee would beat Georgia State.
Jeremy Pruitt: “We have had a really good camp. The difference in the first two games has been turning the football over and not getting turnovers….We called the game more aggressively on defense this week.” #Vols
— Eric Cain (@_Cainer) September 9, 2019
I’m not sure what the final outcome will be when the Vols play Kentucky, but I feel extremely confident that Pruitt will have his team ready to play with energy and intensity.
Pruitt recognized a problem during the week and it’s clear he’s not going to allow it to fester into game day.
That’s the sign of a good football coach.
And it’s a big reason why Tennessee has a chance to finish the 2019 season on a high note.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports