From QB race to culture, 5 biggest takeaways from Tennessee's spring
KNOXVILLE — Jeremy Pruitt’s first spring at Tennessee was a success — on and off the field.
From top to bottom, key components are united, from Chancellor Beverly Davenport to Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer and Pruitt and his coaching staff.
Expectations, clearly, have been set. Here are takeaways from Pruitt’s first spring at Tennessee.
Whenever there is change, some buy in and some do not. It is obvious after 15 spring practices that some players have not adapted to Pruitt’s coaching style and the demanding attributes that it takes to win at the high level he is accustomed to. Pruitt made it clear that he “would not change the way he coaches” because he has had “much success” doing it his way. It is up to his inherited players if they want to buy in or sit behind the 14 additional players who are coming in this summer along with the 12 players who did not participate in the spring game.
“You see some guys out there competing pretty hard,” Pruitt said following the spring game. “They may not be doing things perfect, but they’re headed in the right direction; and then I saw a couple of guys out there today just flat out quit. You call it what you want to, I’m gonna say they quit. That’s what I saw.
“I was disappointed (in some players), but it probably tells you who you are. Some guys did rise to the occasion, so that’s a good thing. The good thing is, in a couple of weeks we’ll have a bunch of guys that are no longer on the injury report. We’ll have 14 new guys here and maybe more. Some of these guys that don’t want to do it and do it right all the time, they’ll just be watching.”
Pruitt also called out the fans, challenging them to go all-in. He challenged everyone involved with UT football to pull in the same direction.
Jarrett Guarantano answered the call and led the first team offense to a win over the first team defense in the Orange and White game. His ability to move the ball and make throws gives him an opportunity to start.
It was important, especially considering Stanford graduate transfer Keller Chryst will arrive soon and has designs on starting.
Guarantano was named the MVP of Tennessee’s spring game, completing 15 of 27 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, but the race will resume in fall camp. Pruitt has his eyes on who will be the quarterback in the fourth quarter in the first game against West Virginia in Charlotte.
“We will know who our quarterback is probably when we go to Charlotte about halfway through the fourth quarter,” Pruitt said. “We will have a good idea who our quarterback is at that point.”
From top to bottom, Tennessee’s coaching staff is made up of masters of technician. They have made a career in teaching the game. Tough, focused practices are the result. Discipline and details matter. Pruitt and his staff will not move on to another element of install until an understanding that a specific area has been mastered.
This is one reason Pruitt was not happy with the results of the spring game in preparation for West Virginia. Pruitt expects his first team defense to dominate, that did not happen as they were ran off of the field, losing 34-7. He did not want to see that type of performance, opening with a West Virginia team led by Heisman candidate Will Grier throwing the ball all over the field.
The Vols passed the eye test in terms of looking like SEC players. Pruitt mentioned that only four players have been sidelined since he arrived and if they had an actual game, “a couple of them would have been able to go.”
Craig Fitzgerald has provided stability for a strength program that has been fractured over the past two years. A focus of lifting three times per week and practicing on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday schedule this spring has helped provide a routine that helps players add strength and size.
Depth and recruiting
The Vols need numbers. It will take time to fill the roster with the caliber of players that Pruitt wants, in terms of ability and attitude. Pruitt stressed following the Orange and White game that he will not have to police his players as long as they continue to do the right things.
Many recruits watched the spring game, and that’s another reason Pruitt wanted fans to play their part in providing an atmosphere that sells to recruits. When Pruitt was hired he stressed that the lifeblood of a program is recruiting and he is trying to instill that mentality throughout the organization and throughout the fan base to be the best at everything that needs to take place.