By: Chase Hoke
Jeremy Pruitt has the University of Tennessee Volunteers football team trending in the right direction.
In the Pruitt era, recruiting, talent development and even the coaching staff looks good. It is evident the culture has changed on Rocky Top, especially compared to the culture during the Butch Jones era. The majority of Tennessee’s fans have bought into the hype, but it is time for Jeremy Pruitt to deliver. Assuming Tennessee is able to have a football season, Jeremy Pruitt will be handed a golden opportunity to show how far he has brought this program.
If football is played, the Vols will have an all-SEC schedule, and Pruitt will be able to prove himself to not only the fans and his peers, but also the entire country. The Big-10 and Pac-12 conferences have already postponed their seasons. All eyes will be on the SEC, Big 12 and ACC, if football is able to be played, and everyone knows which conference is superior (Hint: It’s the SEC).
Pruitt and his staff face a tough task. In one season, the Vols will play five teams that are ranked inside the top-13 in the most recent coaches’ poll. Those five teams are Alabama (3), Georgia (4), Florida (8), Auburn (11) and Texas A&M (13). In a 10-game season, it is virtually unheard of that half of your opponents are ranked within the top-15. Everyone knows how the Vols started last season compared to how they finished, but there is no room for error this year. Pruitt must have his team ready to play week 1.
There was significant backlash to the Vols adding Auburn and Texas A&M to their schedule, compared to other schools, but this season is the perfect way to gauge where Jeremy Pruitt has this program.
Noah McKay and I have talked ad nauseam about the Vols having to get back to consistently beating Vanderbilt, Kentucky, South Carolina, Missouri, etc. on Tennessee Talk. Last season was a good start, but you cannot stay stagnant in college football. This season is THE SEASON to prove we are back to reaching the expected level of excellence.
This is one of the toughest schedules this program has ever had, but the hype around the Vols has been off the charts. Tennessee has one of the best offensive lines in the country, a veteran secondary and one of the best linebackers in the country (Henry To’oto’o). 5-5 is not going to cut it this season. I see no reason why the Vols cannot win at least three of the five games against the teams I mentioned earlier. Alabama is a more winnable game than it has been in a long time.
I believe that Pruitt is the right man for the job, and his time to prove it is now.