The first month of the season didn’t go very well for Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt and his team.
And month number two isn’t off to a good start, either.
Pruitt is currently dealing with a 1-3 team that’s in the midst of its toughest stretch of the season (two of the Vols’ next three games are against Georgia and Alabama).
On top of the poor on-the-field results, Pruitt is now dealing with the fallout from sophomore linebacker/running back Jeremy Banks’ recent arrest.
Banks was arrested after Tennessee’s win against Chattanooga for having an outstanding warrant for a failure to appear in Knox County court.
The footage of the arrest was obtained by WBIR and released on Tuesday. It shows Banks making some troubling comments toward police officers. It also gives us a candid look at how Pruitt handled the arrest (Banks called Pruitt in the midst of the arrest).
On first glance, it appears that Pruitt was trying to sway the police to let Banks go without being arrested. On Wednesday, Pruitt clarified that he was just trying to get a grasp on the situation (it was 3:30 AM).
Pruitt says it was “absolutely not” his intention that police would cut a player a break or that they had at his previous stops. Says issue was the warrant was issued, and smaller issue blew up into a larger one. Says staff needs to do a better job of managing issues like that.
— David Ubben (@davidubben) October 2, 2019
Obviously this is a situation that everyone wishes wouldn’t have happened. Banks shouldn’t have made the remarks he made. Tennessee should’ve been more aware of Banks’ situation and what he needed to do.
But the situation happened. It’s something that happens on a daily basis. People make mistakes. Banks’ comments were unacceptable, there’s no denying that. But Banks’ comments aren’t an indictment on Tennessee football or Jeremy Pruitt.
On the outside, it might look like UT football is a mess right now. Tennessee probably isn’t finishing the season with a winning record. And Banks is the second player this year to have a run-in with the law (though both Banks and Bryce Thompson had charges dismissed).
This is a thing that happens in college football all over the place. Pruitt’s conversation just happened to be caught via a body camera and released.
How many of these similar conversations have we not seen that likely occurred in college football over the years?
I’m guessing it’s quite a few.
I noticed a lot of national media members giving Pruitt the business for how he handled the situation. I don’t think that’s necessarily fair.
Sure, Pruitt didn’t seem to have the best grasp on the law (failure to appear, no matter how silly the offense, always ends in an arrest), but it was also the middle of the night. I’m not exactly my best self at 3:30 AM.
But there’s something about Pruitt’s actions that I think is getting completely glossed over.
Banks has no one at home to help him through these situations. It’s something that Pruitt mentioned during the call. I think it says a lot that Banks felt comfortable calling his head coach in a bad situation. I also think it says a lot about Pruitt that he was doing his best to help his player through the situation. It was almost like Pruitt was dealing with one of his own kids.
The whole situation shows how much Pruitt cares about his players. And it shows what kind of culture he’s trying to build in Knoxville.
No one is condoning how Banks handled himself. But this is a young kid from Memphis with no one to help guide him. We all make mistakes. Banks, in the moment, made a mistake. And his head coach was there for him.
To take this one incident and decide that Tennessee is a “mess” would be completely shortsighted and unfair to the players and coaches who invest the majority of their time into the program.
Tennessee football is nowhere close to being an elite program. And I don’t know if it ever will be. But there are certainly a lot of folks in the program doing their best to make UT football relevant again.
The path to greatness is never smooth.
There’s no reason to expect that to be any different for Tennessee.
Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports