Don't believe all you hear leading up to Tennessee-Georgia
Transparency has long been a weakness for coaches. It’s at an all-time high heading into the Tennessee-Georgia game.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart and Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt certainly weren’t very believable as they tried to control the narrative this week.
Smart actually had the audacity to say Tennessee is on the brink of something special with Pruitt, who is in his second season as a head coach with a shocking upset loss and an SEC blowout as part of a 1-3 record . It’s incomprehensible that Smart could actually stand in front of assembled reporters and say something like that about his upcoming opponent, who he’ll likely beat soundly Saturday. Check Pruitt’s record. Check UT’s recruiting ranking. The Vols are on the verge of something special alright, but it’s being especially bad.
Pruitt responded with a reminder that Smart had much more talent when he took over at Georgia compared to what Pruitt had when he took over at UT. Did Pruitt really need to remind himself or UT’s fan base of that fact? If Tennessee fans didn’t know that, they must have been watching another football team. Now, Pruitt has made it abundantly clear that he took over a bad football program. That’s still no excuse for what Pruitt has put on the field.
Remember Pruitt’s background. As the former defensive coordinator at Alabama, he studied the Vols before each game. Did he not see how far UT had to field a winning program — or even be relevant?
Pruitt sounds like be bought a home without an inspection, that he just showed up and droves of good players vanished. That’s not what happened. Pruitt’s predecessor, Butch Jones, sold UT fans on recruiting rankings and manipulated the media into being a schill for him. All coaches talk privately. Pruitt had to know how bad UT was. He was just desperate for his break as a head coach. Pruitt evaluated and recruited the same players that Jones did.
There’s simply no reason for Pruitt to remind UT’s fan base of what they already knew. In fact, it’s insulting.
What should he have said? I’m not sure. He can’t say UT is simply a bad football team. His team doesn’t want to hear that. However, he should be more guarded in his “woe-is-me” comments. It just doesn’t hold up.
Smart’s comment was even worse. If the opposing coach of one of your fiercest rivals thinks you’re doing a good job, then you’re probably not. At least former Florida coach Steve Spurrier had the creativity to make fun of former UT coach Phillip Fulmer. Spurrier never showered Fulmer with praise when he was beating him.
Here’s another example of public agendas gone wrong. Remember, when former Kentucky basketball coach Rick Pitino talked about how special former UT coach Wade Houston was? The Vols won 5 games the following season and Houston was replaced. His coaching career was over. However, at least he received Pitino’s blessing before moving onto the trucking industry.
Pruitt’s coaching career isn’t close to over, but it might be nearly done at UT. There’s only one thing worse than getting the dreaded vote of confidence from an athletic director; it’s getting a vote of confidence from a rival.
Speaking of publicly complimenting a coach, has anyone noticed that Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer has done nothing of the sort. Perhaps he knows that would sound agenda driven. Fulmer has said some off-putting things in the past, but even he can’t polish this mess.
Instead, Fulmer has even managed to leak information to ESPN that Pruitt’s job is in jeopardy and that Fulmer wants to coach again. I don’t blame Fulmer for that at all. It’s the best way for UT’s football program to right the ship. However, there aren’t many other good options. As I’ve said before, no coach of note is going to accept UT’s head coaching job with Fulmer in his current position. Moreover, Fulmer wouldn’t allow that to happen on his watch.
There are 2 things that can happen throughout the rest of this season to make 2020 better than 2019. The easiest is Pruitt fixes things fast, wins games and ignites recruits interest in the Vols. That seems unlikely. The only other solution is for Fulmer to do what he wants to do and simply take over. Sure, that seems like a broken record, but it’s a better tune with every loss that Pruitt posts.
There is one other plausible answer for UT. Start planning for the future. The present is lost. Play more younger players, especially when the Vols are no longer bowl eligible. Is that fair to the upperclassmen? Not at all. However, life isn’t fair.
Only Pruitt would know just what players are pressing his starters enough to see more playing time. However, if he makes the decision to play them, it will be incredibly obvious. It could start with quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. It could continue most anywhere. No one should be safe.
Pruitt will likely lose his team if he chooses such a drastic path. However, he could keep his job.