Why didn't Tennessee show up in Florida? Jeremy Pruitt. It's time to end this
Tennessee didn’t just prove it wasn’t able to overcome Florida on Saturday. The Vols proved they weren’t able to overcome themselves nor their head coach.
An eventual 34-3 loss to Florida had a much different feel as UT was driving deep in Florida territory during the 1st quarter. The Vols were down just a touchdown and were very much in the game. Then, disaster struck … like an iceberg hitting the Titanic. Please attribute that last line to Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Tennessee receiver Jauan Jennings couldn’t haul in a touchdown pass on that drive. Deflected. Then intercepted. Sound familiar? Another disaster not averted.
From that point forward, all hope for the Vols sank when Florida intercepted the tipped pass and protected a 7-0 lead. Facing a struggle, this UT team had no answer and simply folded as its team has done so many times before.
Past UT-Florida contests could have been pinned on just one play. Yes, I’m talking about Jabar Gaffney. However, this contest was never contested.
Let’s pretend Jennings was able to catch that potential tying touchdown pass and that the Vols had some momentum in the The Swamp. It wouldn’t have mattered. UT would have found another reason to buckle under the pressure. History repeats itself. The Vols have proven as much.
For a team trying to find itself, the Vols need an intervention. They have no moxie, no direction and no leadership.
One might say it is time to rally behind Pruitt. Why? The Vols treated the season-opening loss to Georgia State like a preseason scrimmage, then blew a late lead against BYU. As for last week, the Vols were playing Chattanooga. Do Pruitt’s players believe in him? It certainly didn’t look like that Saturday in Gainesville.
As for that Chattanooga win, Mocs head coach Rusty Wright told me that the team he was playing on Saturday, James Madison, was better than the Vols. Ouch. At the time, it could have been considered coach-speak for Wright to get his team motivated. In retrospect, Wright’s assessment carries some weight.
UT’s recent history is startlingly bad, even for a team that has suffered a decade of disaster. Tennessee has lost 7 of its past 16 games by 25 or more points. After the Dooley and Butch debacles, the Vols have dug down to a new, unfathomable, low.
Will things get better? Probably not. Not this year, anyway.
After a bye this week, the Vols face Mississippi State, Alabama and South Carolina. UT will be underdogs in each game. The Vols will very likely be 1-6 in late October.
At that point, things would get interesting. Would UT athletic director Phillip Fulmer have the guts to boot Pruitt, who was his choice? Don’t rule it out.
Fulmer knows what good football looks like. These Vols aren’t it.
Regardless, it’s hard to imagine that UT can stick with Pruitt if the lead ship of the Vol Navy keeps sinking. How bad does it have to get? A 6-loss season is almost a guarantee at this point. What about 7 or 8? It’s all on the table after one of the most pitiful beginnings in UT’s history.
It’s easy to point to UT quarterback Jarrett Guarantano as the Vols’ main problem. I’m not willing to take that bait. Sure, he looked horrible again Saturday. However, was anybody watching the offensive linemen miss a block or the receiver running the wrong route? Probably not. But they did – a lot.
All of that would have been understandable in Pruitt’s first season. However, this is his second try at the big time. Pruitt has clearly failed. The Vols have clearly regressed. Sure, UT has a talent problem, but most of all it has a coaching problem. The Vols have a head coach who clearly doesn’t understand how to lead a program. Pruitt is a steward and there’s nothing wrong with that. Good for him and his career. However, UT’s football program was once a mighty luxury liner heading into the beyond with great anticipation. Under Pruitt, it will sink. It’s just a matter of time.
Being optimistic is hard. Pruitt could win his team back. He could become a schematic genius. Let’s be honest: neither of those things is going to happen. Pruitt is a lifelong assistant who got the luckiest break of his career. He’s not a head coach.
This is quite simply one of the worst teams in the modern era of Tennessee football. There’s no Jennings touchdown catch that would change that.