Tennessee fell short of making a bowl game in Jeremy Pruitt’s debut campaign which many expected heading into the 2018 season. However, once the Volunteers pulled a few upsets late in the season and had a 5-5 record with two games to play, the postseason outlook was positive for Tennessee.

Unfortunately for Tennessee fans, the team whittled during the final two games of the season, losing to Missouri 50-17 and Vanderbilt 38-13. Those results cost the Vols a shot to play in a bowl game but based on recent comments from school Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer, that should be the only time Tennessee misses out on a bowl game under Pruitt.

During a recent appearance on Memphis-based radio program “Real Sports Talk 56” on 87.7 FM, Fulmer was asked how optimistic he was on his football hire and the direction of the football program he once led on Rocky Top.

“I do feel good. Jeremy is a heck of a football coach, a really good football coach,” Fulmer answered on the show. “He is a better game manager than I could have even thought about expecting from him. He knows football, he knows situational football, he is great with the kids. I’ve been impressed. He’s one of those guys that can push them and push them and he knows how to hug their neck as well. We are really developing the kids that are here, you know? He’s not ignoring them, he’s developing kids here but he’s also recruited well.

“Recruiting to 5-7 is not nearly as easy as recruiting to 7-5 in your first year. We would have all liked for that to be better but he’s got some kids in our program that are going to be really good down the road. But it’s a big ship and it takes a while to turn but we are turning it and I’m really happy about the direction of where we are headed in recruiting. Our kids don’t look the same in the weight room [this offseason].”

When it comes to the expectations on Rocky Top, Fulmer believes Tennessee should always be playing in the postseason.

“I can’t imagine Tennessee not expecting to be in a bowl game. We have to do that,” Fulmer said. “There may be good reasons sometime — we ran out of gas last year. We beat Auburn, beat Kentucky, you know, had South Carolina beat, played Georgia really tough for three quarters. We just ran out of people, ran out of gas last year. There will be more depth on this team and there will be a much better understanding of how to practice and how to prepare yourself for big games.”

Fulmer then made it very clear that everyone’s expectation at Tennessee is to return to the postseason this season.

“I do, I expect us to be – Jeremy, everyone here expects us to be better. If they don’t, they are probably in the wrong place,” he added.