After the Tennessee Vols lost to Georgia State and BYU to open the 2019 season, there weren’t many folks who thought UT had a shot to reach bowl eligibility.
But after a four game winning streak, not only are the Vols bowl eligible, they have a chance to finish the season with eight wins.
I don’t think there’s anyone outside of Tennessee’s football program that believed seven or eight wins was realistic after the team’s 1-4 start.
Of course, what’s wild to think about is the fact that Tennessee could be looking at a potential 10 win season had they won the first two games of the season.
Then again, that’s not how football works. Perhaps there were lessons learned in those early season losses that helped the Vols beat Mississippi State, South Carolina and Kentucky. Maybe those lessons aren’t learned if Tennessee wins the two games they were “supposed to win”.
I’m of the opinion that the two early season losses were actually good for the Vols.
Tennessee’s players and coaches weren’t where they needed to be at the start of the season. The loss to Georgia State forced the entire program to do a lot of soul searching. The loss to BYU a week later forced everyone in the program to make a decision — fully buy in to Jeremy Pruitt or hit the road.
A few players hit the road, but the rest of the team bought in.
The results speak for themselves.
The unintended benefit of Tennessee’s poor start
The lifeblood of any college football program is recruiting.
And what helps recruiting the most?
Aside from relationships, it’s the ability of a coaching staff to develop players.
This season, we’ve seen Tennessee’s coaches take a 1-4 program that no one believed in and reel off wins in five of six games (with the lone loss coming against Alabama). That doesn’t happen without strong player development.
Not only did Pruitt and his staff manage to turn the season around via player development, they never lost the team.
That’s something that recruits and their parents see. They see the unbreakable bond that Tennessee’s players have. They see the way the team chemistry grew stronger as the season progressed.
When Pruitt was hired as the Vols’ head coach, the biggest question about him was whether or not he could be the “CEO” of a program.
Pruitt hasn’t been perfect this season, but he’s absolutely proved he’s SEC head coach material. He never panicked in a tough situation. Pruitt believed in his vision and it paid off.
And it will likely continue to pay off. Tennessee should land more top recruits because of the way the team responded after the slow start to the season.
It can be hard to see it at the time, but the most amazing things can from the toughest situations.
And I think that’s exactly what’s happened with UT’s football program this season.
Featured image via Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports