If you thought Tennessee was going to play nice with ETSU, then you must not understand how much the Vols needed 59 points on Saturday to at least send fans home happy and be able to regroup as a unit.
It wasn’t the prettiest of games. The Vols have a lot of work to do over the next two weeks, as they prepare for an underwhelming Florida team that will travel to Knoxville with one SEC loss already. Tennessee’s offensive line continues to struggle. Jeremy Pruitt is still trying to figure out which five guys can lead the team. The Vols will hope to plough open holes and expose Florida in the way the Kentucky Wildcats did last night. Do I think it can be done? Absolutely.
Tennessee rushed for 190 yards on Saturday against an overwhelmed ETSU team. Jeremy Banks and Tim Jordan showed off their talent to Neyland Stadium. One thing that concerns me though is the lack of touches for Jauan Jennings. Tennessee will need in big game situations to break things open downfield, something the Vols haven’t tried much this season.
Marquez Callaway was his normal self yesterday. Using the sideline to his advantage. Jarrett Guarantano only threw the ball 13 times and only one of those completions went to Jennings (for 8 yards). If the Vols are going to stretch the field, Jennings needs to be used more than just a blocker.
One of the brightest spots on the field Saturday was seeing Darrin Kirkland, Jr. grab an interception and return it to the house. If folks haven’t picked up on it yet, DK has had a very tough year coming off the knee injury. I know it was only ETSU, but Kirkland needed that moment more than ever. He’s getting healthier, which will mean good things for the defense.
One thing we know for certain is that Pruitt is relying heavy on the guys that give it their all during the week. This was evident in his postgame press conference by repeating the line “The guys that practice the right way are the guys that are going to play.” Well, the good thing for Tennessee fans is that these young crop of players seem to be going all out in practice and Pruitt is going to ride with them.
This team has work to put in. UTEP will give them that opportunity next weekend along with the two weeks of practice that come before Florida. But don’t expect Pruitt to feel any different about this upcoming game. “I don’t see this any different then any other game I’ve coached in,” he said.
I have a feeling he will be thinking differently when the Gators come to Knoxville on Sept. 22, but you won’t hear it from him. I kind of like it.