Just over a month ago, after season opening back-to-back losses to Georgia State and BYU, there were folks who wanted to see Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt fired.
I get it. Losing to Georgia State, a team the Vols were expected to easily beat, is frustrating for a fan base. Especially when Tennessee was considered a fringe eight win team before the season.
But calling for Pruitt’s job, just after the start of his second season as a head coach (not just at UT, but his second season as a head coach at any level), was silly.
Sure, the loss to Georgia State was inexcusable. And the loss to BYU was the result of embarrassing defense in the final moments of regulation.
But I think we forget that Pruitt is trying to rebuild a program that was left for dead by Butch Jones.
And he’s trying to do it as a first time head coach. Pruitt is still learning how to build a program and how to run a successful program. There’s no doubt he has the football acumen to make it work. He’s just trying to figure out everything that goes along with the X’s and O’s.
Tennessee’s win against Mississippi State on Saturday is another reassuring sign for Vol fans that Pruitt knows what he’s doing and can get the program on the right track.
Is Mississippi State a powerhouse?
No, of course not. But this is a game that Tennessee has basically been losing for nearly 10 years. The Vols haven’t had much success against the SEC West over the last decade. Under Jones, UT never beat a SEC West opponent.
But under Pruitt, the Volunteers have now beat SEC West opponents in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2007-08 (under Phillip Fulmer).
The record hasn’t been where fans would like under Pruitt so far, but there are signs that the program is on the right track. Have there been some setbacks? Absolutely.
And there will probably be some more setbacks. Tennessee is playing a lot of young players. They don’t have much depth. A couple of injuries could derail the rest of the season.
I think it’s clear, however, that Pruitt has kept the team together and moving forward toward their goal of going 1-0 each week.
College football fans have been making hasty judgements about head coaches for years. Sometimes those judgements prove to be correct. Other times, though, those judgements prove to be terribly incorrect.
Remember when everyone said that LSU hiring Ed Orgeron, after his stint as the Tigers’ interim head coach, was a mistake?
Orgeron took over as the program’s full time head coach in 2017. In the fifth game of the season, LSU lost a home night game to Troy.
Tsk, tsk….LSU violated my rule: NEVER HIRE THE INTERIM! https://t.co/QWCjSylSSq
— Bruce Hooley (@BHOOLZ) October 1, 2017
Fast forward to 2019 and LSU is a top five team (and maybe the best team in the country after beating Florida).
LSU was in good shape when Orgeron took over, but the program still suffered some setbacks under a new head coach.
Tennessee wasn’t in good shape when Pruitt took over. It’s going to take a couple of years of mistakes before the Vols are consistently good again. Patience is the most important virtue that UT fans can exhibit right now.
It took over 10 years to get the Vols in this situation, it won’t be erased overnight.
Featured image via Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports