Tennessee football: 10 New Year's resolutions for the Vols
Well, it is that time of year again. The time when you say to yourself, “I am finally going to learn Swahili” or “I am going to finally build that moat around my house.”
But New Year’s resolutions aren’t only for us mere mortals. College football programs also need to be introspective and find ways to better themselves in the next 365.
With that in mind, here are 10 New Year’s resolutions for Tennessee’s football program.
1. Find a quarterback
If anything, the past 4 years have shown us just how good Josh Dobbs was.
Was he the most accurate passer? No he was not. But for nearly 2 1/2 years, Tennessee could count on him to not only start games but finish them. And win a lot of them. Dobbs took major hits but keep on coming, leading the Vols to 3 bowl game victories and 18 wins in his 2 full seasons.
Since then it has been a revolving door. Quinten Dormady, Jarrett Guarantano, Keller Chryst, Brian Maurer, J.T. Shrout, Harrison Bailey … no one has taken over the position.
If the Vols are going to do anything in 2021, they need Bailey, Maurer or incoming QB Kaidon Salter to give them solid play. I’m not saying they need to be Heath Shuler … just not what we have seen since 2017.
2. Make some coaching changes
I don’t see Jeremy Pruitt being fired in the next few weeks. Unless something comes out of the internal investigation, Pruitt will be back in 2021.
But it is obvious that this coaching staff needs changes. Player development, which was pretty good at Tennessee heading into the 2020 season, has taken a serious downturn.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke might be first on the chopping block.
3. Improved offensive line play
Heading into the 2020 season, Tennessee’s offensive line looked like one of the best in the SEC. But the results over the past 10 games proved that this wasn’t the case.
The Vols were tied for 100th in the nation in sacks allowed, at nearly 3 sacks per game.
That group loses Trey Smith but is still filled with 4- and 5-star talent. They need to live up to that status in 2021.
4. Get the young receivers opportunities
Tennessee’s Class of 2020 had potential playmaker galore with Jalin Hyatt, Malachi Wideman, Jimmy Calloway and Dee Beckwith, but only Hyatt made a decent impact, with 20 catches on the year.
Josh Palmer, Velus Jones, Jr. and Brandon Johnson are each potentially gone, opening the door for a youth movement at wide receiver.
5. Get To’o To’o some help
Tennessee sophomore linebacker Henry To’o To’o had another very good season, leading the Vols in tackles (76) and tackles for loss (10). He is without a doubt the best player on defense, but he can’t do it alone.
Fellow sophomore linebacker Quavaris Crouch showed a lot of improvement with 57 tackles, but that’s not enough. The Vols need to develop more players that can pick up the slack.
6. Stop the slant pass
I’m not sure there is a metric that shows how many slant passes Tennessee gave up in 2020, but that number has to be around 5,000.
OK, maybe not that many, but it sure felt like it. Every game, the secondary allowed first downs a plenty on slant passes. They’ve got to find a way to get off the field and defend that better.
7. No Peyton at games
The greatest player in the history of Tennessee football is Peyton Manning. He is the ultimate ambassador for the football program and the university itself. At a time when there isn’t very much to talk about in a positive manner with the Vols, Manning remains its No. 1 supporter.
But he shouldn’t attend games in person. They always lose. Like clockwork, if the television broadcast shows him in the stands or pictures emerge on social media, you can be sure that Tennessee isn’t winning.
Extreme measure to him at the Neyland Stadium gates? Yes. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
8. No more contract extensions
Phillip Fulmer’s decision to extend Jeremy Pruitt’s contract looks really bad. Pruitt was 13-12 at the time and certainly not a coach that a rival was going to go after. Today his record sits at 16-19 and he is on the hot seat.
Athletic departments throw cash around like it has no consequence. The decision to extend Pruitt could potentially cost UT millions more than what would have already been a substantial buyout.
Maybe going forward fiscal responsibility should be at the forefront when these decisions are made.
9. Get new Vol Call screeners
The popular Vol Calls radio program used to be the safest possible landing for Tennessee coaches. They could be 0-12 and the fans calling in would pledge their support.
But a few weeks ago, caller Phillip from Wartburg asked, “When are you going to admit you’re not a ball coach and go back to Alabama?”
Pruitt handled the question well, but when things are going badly … they really are going badly.
10. Beat a big rival
For the past 4 years, the Vols are a combined 0-12 against Alabama, Florida and Georgia. None of those games has been close.
It’s time for Tennessee to give their fans a reason to be happy in at least one of those games when the clock strikes zero.