Preaching about good performances from players during fall camp doesn’t transfer to on the field production, I guess. Tennessee found out the hard way on Saturday.
The Vols came out onto Bank of America field fired up and ready to go. Head coach Jeremy Pruitt set the tone, punching every player he could find in the pads; he was ready to battle.
I give Pruitt a lot of credit. He handled his defensive play calling in stride. From calling in the plays to switching plays based on every formation that West Virginia lined up in. In the end, it just wasn’t enough. The Vols were sliced and diced in the secondary by Will Grier.
Not much went right when it came to the offensive line. Jarrett Guarantano was sacked & hurried on multiple occasions on the first few drives. One thing we saw, however, was an improvement from the starting QB from last season, particularly with his ability to make reads. It’s going to take time for this offensive line to mold into a unit; the potential is there if they can stay healthy.
There were times on Saturday that Pruitt wanted to rip into his defense. Broken coverages, missed tackles in the backfield, and not enough penetration from his linebackers, frustrated the first-time head coach. Pruitt seemed, from my vantage point, to take things in stride and not get overwhelmed during the Mountaineers offensive air raid.
Sitting in the press box I thought about the small things that tilt the course of a game: not being able to bring down Grier in the backfield on multiple occasions, which would’ve forced punts.
Remember: this will take some time. This group of athletes who have been in the program longer than one year have been accustomed to their head coach mailing it in, they weren’t going to feel that way on Saturday.
Pruitt is constructing a brand-new building. He continues to gut the place. He and his assistants have had just nine months to lay the new foundations. Foundations, to a building that doesn’t give in and will not quit when it gets a little too messy. He’s got the tools to get this done. Pruitt didn’t make excuses, post-game, he just told the raw, honest, truth — something that has been missing for ten years.
Give this staff the time. Give them patience. Pruitt took over a building with a broken foundation. Slowly, he will construct it to his liking. Vols fans & players will reap the benefits. Trust me guys, he’s not trying to sell you a 1976 Buick…
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It’s Optional airs 1-3 each afternoon on Fanrun Radio. Host Trey Wallace brings his SEC expertise to the program along with an expert guest lineup. Wallace is known for his original content produced at The Read Optional. Brandon Johns is the executive producer of the show.