Tennessee football: 5 important offseason goals for the Volunteers
Jeremy Pruitt will enter his second offseason with plenty left to prove. There’s no time like the present.
The 2019 season could determine plenty when it comes to Pruitt’s fate. If the Vols can win 7 or 8 regular season games, that would be cause for optimism in Knoxville. No one expected UT to do that in Pruitt’s first season. If Pruitt can’t at least get the Vols to a bowl game with 6 wins, then he’ll be on the hot seat in 2020.
Here are five realistic but important goals for the 2019 offseason that can make UT’s football program much better this season:
1. Trim the fat
Be it a coach or player, Pruitt still has some dead weight on his team. The days of keeping a player on the roster just to be polite are over. There are some players that Pruitt is sure to have a heart-to-heart talk with about a potential transfer. Also, are all of UT’s coaches carrying their weight, especially in recruiting? I’m not so sure. Pruitt must not be either. He has overhauled the staff, bringing in OC Jim Chaney from Georgia and Vol legend Tee Martin, among others. Former UT coach Butch Jones felt comfortable early in his UT tenure which caused him to wait way too long before making some tough decisions. Then, just like that, it was over.
2. Let Jim Chaney take over the offense
Pruitt made a fantastic hire when he wooed Chaney from Georgia to become UT’s offensive coordinator. Now, Pruitt has to let Chaney coach, which he’s proven he can do at multiple stops throughout his career. It’s been well documented that Pruitt wasn’t fond of former UT offensive coordinator Tyson Helton’s offense, so Pruitt took over late in the season. That wouldn’t be a wise decision now that Chaney is in the fold.
3. Secure two 5-star prospects before the season
Pruitt has done an adequate job in recruiting to this point. However, he could still use a bit more pop in his upcoming classes. The Vols have to secure more elite prospects to compete with Georgia and, eventually, Alabama. The proof is in the numbers. UT has 9 4- or 5-star commitments/signees. Six SEC teams have more than that.
Darnell Wright, a 5-star OT, is considered a strong lean in the 2019 class, but he just took an official visit to in-state West Virginia. If the Vols get Wright, they’ll have 2 5-star tackles in this class alone. Wanya Morris already has enrolled.
4. Prepare a backup quarterback
Surely, UT quarterback Jarrett Guarantano won’t get hit as many times as he did last season. However, the Vols’ offensive line is still a work in progress, so he’ll get his fair share of contact. With Keller Chryst’s eligibility expired and Will McBride’s decision to transfer, the Vols will likely depend on incoming true freshman Brian Mauer as QB2. He’d better be ready.
5. More media access
In his first season as a head coach, Pruitt didn’t allow his players and assistant coaches to talk to reporters very often. That needs to change. I know that seems like a selfish request on my part given that I’m in the media, but it could truly help Pruitt in the long term. UT fans are, quite frankly, needy given their recent lack of success. Pruitt has a chance to stretch out his honeymoon period if will allow reporters to tell positive stories about his team and make them more relatable.