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3-9 or 9-3 in 2018; How would it impact UT football?

May 15, 2018

Let's face it; the odds of either of those records happening for Tennessee in 2018 are unlikely. The thing is; it could happen. Most prognosticators of the college ranks have Tennessee sitting at about five or six wins. What if they are wrong? The big question here is what would it mean for Pruitt and for the Tennessee program if they end up repeating last year's abysmal performance by going winless in the SEC or somehow they manage to exceed all expectations and get to nine wins?

3-9

Of the two scenarios that will be discussed in this article, I can pretty much guarantee that sports writers believe this to be the more likely to occur. In order for this record to come to pass, the Vols would probably lose every SEC matchup (again) and lose the opener to West Virginia. This would mean that Tennessee's three wins would come against, ETSU, UTEP, and Charlotte.

Right off the bat this scenario would mean that going into week 11 of the season, Tennessee would be 3-6 with home games left against Kentucky and Missouri and an away finale against Vanderbilt. Of course there would still be the chance to reach a bowl game at this point, but I would imagine that Pruitt would have already lost half of the fan base depending on how the six losses went.

I base that statement primarily on Pruitt's demeanor and comments with the press regarding his team. For many, Jeremy Pruitt's frank and unfiltered comments regarding his expectations are a welcome change. There are only so many times that you can hear the phrase "Resolve and resiliency" before you want to jam an icepick into your ears. However, UT fans are some of the most hopeful fans in college football. Every year, we hope to win and win often. How else do you explain the consistent attendance of games that more than surpass many other programs that are winning? UT fans want to believe that good things are coming, even though times are tough now. If Pruitt continues to tell us the team is not playing good enough that they aren't trying hard enough, at some point the finger gets pointed directly at him.

As I mentioned earlier, a big part of the fan perception of Pruitt depends on HOW Tennessee loses those games. If Tennessee is in every game and the losses aren't the result of poor coaching decisions or really stupid play, it would provide Pruitt some grace. The fans that would not be calling for Pruitt's job, were probably already expecting to have a record comparable to 2017. They would have resigned themselves to the situation before the season began. They would also hold out hope for a three game streak to finish the season and a bowl game. However, if the losses are as ugly as they were last season, then a pretty big chunk of those same fans will not be as forgiving and instead of hoping for a three game sweep to finish the season, they will require one.

Of course, there are always going to be fans that simply cannot stand seeing UT lose regardless of the performance. These fans will be loudly questioning the decision of Fulmer to hire an unproven head coach from arguably Tennessee's biggest rival, especially when there were still other possible coaching hires that could have happened. By all accounts, Mike Leach wanted the job and I personally feel that Lane Kiffin's pathological need to be liked by everyone would have brought him back, had the offer been there.

So what would be the big picture result of a 3-9 season? Honestly, I don't feel it would make things much different than they are now. It would just be much more depressing for the fan base.

I don't think recruiting would be hurt any more than the 2017 season hurt it. Tennessee would pull in a top twenty five recruiting class. Pruitt will be able to continue to pull from Jucos and sell early playing time to kids. Hopefully between that and Pruitt's ability to develop players, it would result in better days ahead.

Fulmer would take the most heat. He hired Pruitt and by the time the 2018 season completes, he may be feeling even more heat depending on how the Lady Vols basketball team is performing because many fans don't like the idea of Holly Warlick getting an extension. Fans will seriously question whether Fulmer was the right choice as AD.

There would likely be some shake up within Pruitt's staff. I would guess that any of the coaches that did not come in as a long-time friend of Pruitt would be on the chopping block first. I don't think Pruitt would have to worry about his job in the slightest during the season, but a 3-9 record would almost mandate at least 6-6 in 2019 to keep his job after that.

I don't envision much turnover from the roster. I already expect that Will McBride or Jarrett Guarantano will transfer out depending on how the QB scenario plays out this season.

9-3

2017's record was the result of a perfect storm of bad luck, bad coaching, and a tough schedule. Well, we can lop off the tough schedule excuse in this discussion because, guess what, Tennessee ALWAYS has a tough schedule. The bad luck that I referred to were injuries. UT suffered a ridiculous number of injuries to starters last season, and as much as I hate to admit it, it could happen again. And in game coaching...; I probably shouldn't even get into that.

If Tennessee can somehow avoid the level of injuries it suffered last year and the coaching staff actually is as much of an improvement as it has been hyped to be, then eight wins is extremely reasonable and 9 is not too much of a stretch.

I don't think there is really much chance at all of UT beating Bama or UGA. We can hope though. After that, the three biggest question mark games will be West Virginia, Auburn, and South Carolina. I think it is reasonable to believe that Tennessee could pull out two of those three with a few lucky bounces. The rest of the games on the schedule are better than 50-50 odds or nearly certain wins.

The funny thing about the thought of Tennessee winning nine games in 2018 is that it might actually be a bad thing for Pruitt. We Volunteer fans have notoriously high expectations. Don't get me wrong, I think it is much better to have high expectations than low ones. How else will you succeed in life? Still, nine wins in 2018 would set the bar immediately very high for Pruitt going into 2019. Somehow, I think that Pruitt would be able to temper those expectations by going full Saban and still finding flaws in the play of his team. "Yeah, I know the score was 52-13, but we missed too many opportunities. We just aren't where we need to be as a team yet." On that note, Pruitt's penchant to be forever displeased with the performance of his team will be even more favorably looked upon by UT fans in the same way that Patriot fans view Bill Belichick.

Fulmer will be living the good life and looking like a genious. The Lady Vols could be a sub .500 team in December and because of the massive football turnaround and the excitement that a major bowl game brings would be more than enough to distract from the retention of Warlick.

Recruiting will take a huge jump for Tennessee and I can almost guarantee that Pruitt would bring in a top 5 class. Players would not be able to ignore a team predicted to struggle to get to six wins somehow more than doubling their previous season's win total. It would be comparable to what Scott Frost and Lane Kiffin did at their respective Florida schools in 2017, except that this would be in the SEC. In addition, Pruitt will still be able to sell the prospect of early play time for 2019's recruiting class.

I still believe that either Jarrett Guarantano or Will McBride will transfer away during the off season between 2018 and 2019, but I also would expect that Pruitt and Helton will be able to lure one or two more top flight QBs to Tennessee that better fit their system anyway.

I would expect minimal turnover with the staff, which would further help recruiting. The turnover that does occur would most likely be promotions to other staffs due to excellent performance under Pruitt.

One of the biggest positives of a 9-3 season for Tennessee in 2018 would be that it would almost certainly include a win at home over Florida. That alone would almost guarantee two more seasons for Pruitt. If one more of those wins can be over Will Muschamp, you might as well tack on another year.

The biggest thing that a 9-3 season for the Vols in 2018 will do is bring back respect to the program. After the fiasco that occurred last season with John Currie, Tennessee fans need that more than anything. Tennessee football is not a punchline. It is a historic program that has held its own against the other big boys for more than a century. It deserves respect, but it still has to earn it on the field. 9-3 does that.

Picture of Florida QB sacked by Tennessee

The Vols Should Win 8 Games in 2018... At Least

May 12, 2018

Could there be any more of a blah time of year for the college football fan?  I think it is safe to say, “Not really”.  Sure, we still have plenty to read about our teams.  There are recruiting stories to enjoy and we hope to avoid seeing articles about one of our team’s players being involved in something embarrassing.  There may still be a few articles discussing the successes or short-comings of the teams and players during the prior season, but for the most part there ain’t much going on.  

So how do sports writers and fans fill the time?  Well, we look towards the future.  We look towards the possibilities of the next season.  For Tennessee, this is especially true because most of us want to forget 2017.  It was the first time that a Tennessee football team ever went winless in the SEC.  It was also the first time a Tennessee team lost eight games in the same season, leaving Ohio State as now the only school to never have that happen.  The administration took too long to both, fire the previous coach and then hire the next one.  This was a season that all of us would love to forget happened.

Even if you manage to avoid reading articles about either the disappointing football season or the embarrassing off season, the ones about next season aren’t much better.  Unlike the previous three seasons, it appears that every article exudes doom and gloom for the Vols.  There isn’t a single publication that has Tennessee listed as a preseason top 25 football team.  Most don’t even have UT sniffing the top 40.  USA Today recently posted their rankings for all 130 D1 schools post-spring practice. You can view the rankings here. They have Tennessee listed at number 66.  This puts the Vols behind such powerhouse programs as MTSU, Army, and North Texas.  I know, right? On the bright side, Tennessee is still listed ahead of Arkansas, Ole Miss, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt.  On the not so bright side; that means that MTSU is apparently considered the best team in the state.  That may need to be the topic of a future article.

USA today is not alone in their assessment of Tennessee’s chances next season.  Most analysts and writers think Tennessee is, at best, a 6-6 team.  A tough schedule isn’t going to help change their minds either.  Tennessee faces off against a ranked West Virginia team and their high-powered offense to start the season.  The Vols also face four other teams ranked in the top 25 of that same USA today list.  Tennessee is breaking in a new coach and staff for the fourth time in a decade after having only two head coaches the previous three decades.  On top of that, this new head coach really is a NEW head coach.   

So how can I possibly be writing an article that argues that Tennessee not only could, but probably should, win eight games this coming season?  I base my opinion on some logical flaws in the consensus thinking of most sports writers out there. 

If you have read anything about Butch Jones and his staff’s tenure at Tennessee during the last five years, you will probably have noticed that the general narrative has been that Jones could recruit but could not significantly develop the players that he signed.  I recognize that not every individual will agree with that comment but does it hold true for many. 

Say what you will about Jones, I believe that he DID recruit very well for Tennessee.  You may want to argue that Tennessee recruits itself and considering the facilities, the fans, and the history of the program. If you did, you would have a solid point.  However, Jones took over the program after it was put into a dumpster and not just set on fire, but napalmed by Kiffin and Dooley.  There were Title IX investigations to deal with as well.  Somehow, Jones still brought in recruiting classes ranked #7 (2014), #4 (2015), #14 (2016), and #17 (2017) according to 247Sports.com rankings.  I am not counting Jones’first class which was ranked 25th, because it was really more of Dooley’s last class.  For that same reason, I am not giving Jones credit for Sutton or Dobbs.  Even without 2013, Jones’ draft classes have included several NFL players. 

Consider this; those four classes had an average rank of 10.5.  Let’s round it up to 11 for the sake of argument.  In fact, let's be even more accurate. Let's eliminate 2014 because there are only two players from that class still on the team (Todd Kelley Jr. and Dillon Bates).   The new average ranking is 11.6.  Once again, let’s round up and say that the average class rank is 12.  That is a very solid rank.  Most of the schools that also have a comparable ranking are considered top 25 teams this coming season. 

CBS sports recently put out an interesting article that averaged the recruiting rankings of D1 schools over the last several years in order to provide a ranking of "roster talent". You can see the article here, CBS Roster Rankings. This article basically states that Tennessee should be the 10th best team in the country in 2018 based on their recruiting classes alone. That tells me the first flaw in the logic of sports writers across the country. They say the Vols are lacking in talent. With those recruiting classes in mind, I respectfully disagree. Yes, I know that talent alone doesn’t guarantee wins. I also recognize that the recruiting rankings aren't always accurate. I mean, they had John Kelly and Cameron Sutton listed as 3 stars. Let's put a pin in this point for a minute or so and move on.

There has been a solid argument made for and also against my next point, but I feel that it is safe to say that the overall feeling amongst fans and analysts is that Jones and his staff did not develop those recruiting classes to their full potential.  I agree with this.  Yes, Jones’ last two Volunteer teams suffered an inordinate amount of injuries to starters, but they weren’t the only team to deal with that.  I still believe that Jones simply did not develop the talent on his team enough to overcome those injuries.  Think about Joshua Dobbs and Derek Barnett.  Both players excelled as freshmen and as sophomores.   This was not too surprising.  Both young men were gifted with incredible natural talent and made the most of it. However, you never really saw a big increase in their level of play season after season that would have indicated that they had received excellent coaching and or had gotten physically better.  In all fairness, maybe this was more about the opponents scheming for them better once it became clear that both players were as good as they were.  I will concede that as a solid argument against my example, but then how do we explain Jonathan Kongbo.  Kongbo was about as raw a talent as you can get.  He was blessed with amazing physical prowess that seemed tailor made to be a beast on the defensive line and in Juco, that is exactly what he was.  Despite having almost no experience, he was able to outshine every other Juco D-lineman (many with experience but not grades) and was ranked the number 1 Juco talent in the 2016 class.  You would expect his first season at UT to be tough because of the increased level of competition, but by the second one he should have broken out… it never happened.   That is unacceptable and it tells me that Jones' staff did not develop talent like they should have.  Hopefully Pruitt will be able to prove that it was a lack of solid coaching and Kongbo will have a breakout year in 2018. 

This brings me back to the original points.  The overall consensus opinion appears to be that Jones and staff recruited well but did not develop.  So, with that in mind let’s move on to Pruitt and his staff.  Many of Pruitt’s staff, including him, have been touted as great recruiters.  More importantly, they have also been described as great developers of talent.  Yes, I do recognize that Pruitt had some pretty damn good talent to work with, so maybe there was little need for development.  Still, the general media narrative is that this new staff can make good players great and great players NFL ready.     How Jeremy Pruitt's Practice Style EMmphasizes Player Development

That's even how Pruitt's marketing team promotes the new staff to recruits.

Let's take that thought back to the recruiting classes that Pruitt has inherited.  70% of the players recruited between 2015 and 2017 are still on the current roster.  That includes 21 four star recruits and two 5 star recruits.  The incoming class will add 8 more 4 star recruits, including graduate transfer Keller Chryst who was listed as the 51st best overall player out of high school in 2014.  It’s a nearly even split between offense and defense with this group as well. 

So here is the next logical flaw in sports writer's narrations of the 2018 Vols. If Jones recruited great players and Pruitt can coach them up, as multiple articles have stated, then why on Earth is it unreasonable to believe that eight wins is attainable?

This season, there are only two games that I am quite certain that UT will lose, Georgia and Alabama.  There are a couple that I feel are likely losses, Auburn and West Virginia.  After those four games, I think it is well within reason to think that Tennessee has a better than average shot of winning the rest of their games.  The remaining opponents are either dealing with their own coaching changes or simply don’t have the horses to match up with the Vols.  I will admit, that Tennessee will need to stay healthy and probably need a couple of balls to bounce their way, but isn't that the case for most teams?

At the very least, Jeremy Pruitt has already shown us that he expects nothing less than excellence from his players and staff.  I don’t see any reason why fans shouldn’t expect the same; and that would be 8 or more wins in 2018.

Who will be the Vols QB in 2018?

December 27, 2017

This Christmas, I received a very interesting gift from my mother. She found a letter that was written way back in December of 1975 and was addressed to me. The letter was from Andrew D Holt, who was the President of the University of Tennessee from 1959-1970. I had been named after him and my Great Uncle James Hoskins, who had been the President of the University of Tennessee from 1934-1946. Here is the first paragraph of that letter.

“I have shown your picture to Bill Battle and he has authorized me to offer you a scholarship as quarterback and captain of the 1993 U.T. football team! After seeing your picture holding the football before passing it a mile and a half, he became convinced that you are exactly what our football team needs for a national championship in 1994!”

Click HERE to see the actual letter and YES, it's real. LOL.

I was just over a year old when I received that scholarship offer. ~And Lane Kiffin thought offering a 13 year old was getting in early on recruiting. HA!~ Now, as it turned out, I started college in 1992. That was a year ahead of my scholarship offer so I ended up just walking on as a kicker at UT Chattanooga. I know, I know, you are all furious that I didn’t decide to take President Holt and Coach Battle up on the offer. Still, I think it worked out well for UT. I mean in 1994 a guy by the name of Peyton Manning showed up and soon after, another pretty decent QB named Tee Martin got there.

Barring any other unexpected scholarship offers from former UT Presidents, the Vols will have four scholarship quarterbacks vying for the starting position in 2018. Here are their 2017 statistics.

Player GP Rating COMP ATT % YDS TD INT AVG/G NET RUSH RUSH TD
Jarrett
Guarantano
9 128.74 86 139 61.87% 997 4 2 110.78 -39 1
Quinten
Dormandy
6 117.88 76 137 55.47% 925 6 6 154.17 13 0
Will
McBride
2 72.67 17 40 42.50% 152 1 2 76 70 0
J.T. Shrout
H/S
12 72 211 414 50.96% 3064 27 25 255.3 262 4

Of course, just looking at the stats doesn’t always tell you everything. Let’s do a quick dive down regarding each of the passers coming back.

Quinten Dormandy from Boerne, Texas had waited patiently behind Josh Dobbs. Last spring, he was perfect during the Orange and White game and even though Jarrett Guarantano also looked good, many felt that it was Dormandy’s job to lose. Going into the Georgia Tech game, Butch Jones had said that he expected both Dormandy and Guarantano to play. As it turned out, only Dormandy would lead the Vols that Monday night. He had a solid game too. He threw for 221 yards, a couple of crucial touchdowns, and most importantly, no interceptions.

Unfortunately for Dormandy, his performance was not inspiring to the fans. This was probably not fair to him considering that he had to follow such a dynamic player named Josh Dobbs. Dormandy never fully took control of the starting position despite ample opportunities provided by Jones. The fans wanted to see Guarantano.

At some point in time, Dormandy injured his shoulder and who knows how much that impacted his play. However, after throwing an interception (that wasn’t really caught) on the first play of the UGA game, Quinten’s fate was sealed with the fans.

So how will Dormandy fare under new coach Jeremy Pruitt and expected offensive coordinator Tyson Helton? Helton ran Jeff Brohm’s high-powered offense at Western Kentucky before leaving for USC where he coached with Tee Martin. They run a Pro-style offense with elements of the spread. Depending on the offensive line play, this might end up being the best fit for Dormandy who is probably the most polished passer in the group.

Jarrett Guarantano of Lodi, New Jersey was a heralded recruiting win for Butch Jones in his 2016 class. He was one of the highest rated quarterbacks coming out of high-school. Luckily for fans, his first year on campus was Joshua Dobb’s senior year. This provided him with the luxury of a red-shirt year that few Tennessee quarterbacks have been able to enjoy in recent memory.

The thought was that having a full year to learn Butch Jones’ system and to bulk up would make him a serious contender to Quinten Dormandy during the 2017 campaign. It did make him a serious contender, but for whatever reason, none of the quarterbacks really thrived in the system. This was especially disappointing for fans with Guarantano, as he was considered the dual-threat option and the one quarterback that most closely resembled Josh Dobbs.

As mentioned before, Jones repeatedly said that the competition between Quinten and Jarrett was close and he expected both to play against Georgia Tech. Also as stated earlier, that did not happen. Guarantano’s image took a serious hit during the Georgia Tech game as the broadcasters kept cutting over to show him appear to be pouting that he wasn’t getting to play.

Jarrett got his first opportunity to play the following week and even though he did throw his first touchdown pass as Volunteer against Indiana St., he simply was not the exciting player we all expected. I personally believe this was more of a matter of play calling than play ability. I don’t believe the coaches wanted to let Jarrett play his game and instead tried to force him to play theirs.

Whatever the reason, Guarantano did not live up to the hype that he brought during his recruitment. He showed flashes of what he could be, but most commonly we saw him pummeled by opposing defenses when he held the ball too long.

I think Jarrett still needs some more maturation, but could absolutely live up to his recruiting promise in time and with the right game plan. Assuming that the offensive line doesn’t improve all that much, Guarantano’s mobility puts him a step ahead of Dormandy, but that is also assuming that the coaches let him run.

Will McBride is another Texas QB at Tennessee. Out of League City, Will was not expected to play last season, let alone start a game. Butch Jones took a lot of heat for pulling McBride’s red-shirt off in the Southern Miss. game. As it turned out, he didn’t have much choice when Guarantano became injured.

While McBride has the least amount of game time of the quarterbacks that played last season, I felt that he was the most exciting. Smaller than Dormandy and Guarantano, McBride showed equal toughness to them. He suffered a vicious hit on 3rd and 19 against Missouri but his perfectly thrown ball to Ethan Wolf still resulted in McBride's first and only touchdown toss of the season.

I wouldn’t have thought that he could be a strong contender for the starting position next season, but after the heart and potential he showed in his limited game time, I’d be a fool not to consider it now. What impressed me the most about McBride was his running and his long ball. He threw several beautiful long passes that only just barely were missed.

Given the limited amount of game time and that the team seemed to have given up by the time McBride got his opportunity, it’s hard to tell how he would do in the new offense. We will get a much better idea after the upcoming spring game.

In one very unfortunate day, Tennessee lost both of its quarterback commitments this off-season. Jeremy Pruitt had to work fast if he wanted to secure a quarterback by the early signing day. He managed to flip J.T. Shrout from Cal to Tennessee after one official visit.

So, who is J.T. Shrout? The newest Vol QB is from Newhall, California and is considered a solid pocket passer. Until recently, he wasn’t on a lot of radars from a recruiting perspective. Eric Ainge and several NFL scouts are very high on this young man and considered a 3-star prospect, many are calling him highly underrated. Sage Rosenfelds, a former NFL quarterback and now quarterback coach said the following about J.T. after watching him at the highly respected "The Quarterback Collective" camp this past summer,

"I think of all the quarterbacks who were here, if I were an NFL general manager or quarterback coach, (he'd be) the guy who could step in on day one and fundamentally work within an NFL system. His drop was smooth. His fundamentals were very efficient and he throws a great ball."

His numbers during his senior year season tell me that he’s a gunslinger of the Brett Favre mold. He threw 27 touchdown passes and for more than 3,000 yards during his senior campaign. He also threw 25 interceptions. What that tells me is that Shrout is not afraid to let the ball fly. If he is to be successful in any offense, he is going to have to learn a little more patience.

Tennessee’s spring practice will hopefully answer a lot of questions regarding how Coach Pruitt and Coach Helton plan to shape the Tennessee offense. It will also hopefully answer questions about which quarterback will best fit their system. The coaches have a unique situation in that they have not one, not two, but three quarterbacks on their roster with starting SEC experience.

All three have shown incredible toughness and all three have shown flashes of great play. With the right system and proper coaching, anyone one of these Tennessee quarterbacks could have a stellar season. Based on the limited amount of research that I have done regarding USC’s offense this past season, I would place Quinten Dormandy in the lead for the starting spot. His coolness under pressure also stood out to me this past season. I won’t call him a leader yet, and it may be that whichever quarterback steps up as a leader first will get the position, but I think he has the most upside for a pro-style offense.

I want to see two things improve from Dormandy though, before I fully sign off on him as my pick for UT starter. He needs to learn how to look off of his primary target before letting the ball go and his deep ball needs to improve. He tries to throw the perfect pass every time, and on the long balls, it ends up floating too much.

Something out of his control and a big factor for his struggles this past season was the offensive line. Unless the offensive line can improve greatly, the Vols may be forced to use a more mobile option in Guarantano or McBride.

Guarantano will need to learn to make quicker reads and to get rid of the ball sooner. I also want to see if he has matured since last season. I think he has the most potential to be the exciting leader that the team needs and the fans want. With that in mind, I think that he has the best chance at unseating Dormandy.

McBride is still a wildcard. I did not expect him to do as well as he did last year, but he also did that against much weaker competition than Dormandy and Guarantano faced.

I expect Shrout to redshirt in 2018 and if he can learn some patience and better control, he could be a strong contender for the starting position in 2019.

Jauan Jennings should get a second chance

December 21, 2017

A few years ago there was a talented football player at a prestigious football school. This player came out of high school a 4 star prospect, having rushed for 2,264 yards and 26 touchdowns, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. This propelled him to winning a Mr. Football Award in his senior season. He was ranked the number 5 player in his home state, and the 42nd ranked player nationally. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only talented running back on this roster.

His struggle to move up the depth chart further took a hit when he suffered a knee injury in training camp that required arthroscopic surgery. It would end any chances of playing as a true freshman. Frustration began to grow.

He worked hard to get better but saw his teammates progressing and playing, while he was relegated to watching from the sidelines. Frustration continued to grow and so did behavior issues that resulted in the head coach being forced to suspend him.

The intended impact of the suspension, which was to encourage this young man to change his behavior, did not occur. In fact, on an important recruiting weekend for this university, it was said that the young man went so far as to negatively recruit against his own school.

Knowing that he had pretty much destroyed his chances at playing for the school, he asked for and was granted a release from his scholarship. But things did not get better yet. He was arrested soon after for driving on a suspended license and even spent about 8 hours in jail.

That might have been the wake up that he needed.

He eventually transferred to a junior college and began his road back. In only 9 games, he scored 21 touchdowns and surpassed 1,200 yards rushing. He was named the Kansas Junior College Offensive Player of the Year.

This garnered attention from many big schools again and he soon transferred once more. He was now back in the “Big Leagues” of college football and ready to prove himself. But during his time over the previous year he had learned humility. As good as he was, he did not complain when he was made the back-up running back to a younger player already on the roster.

In his first game with his new team, he rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Despite that amazing performance, he was still considered the back-up running back. He did not complain and was only supportive and thankful to have another opportunity.

In his second season with his new team, his teammates recognized the character and drive that he exhibited and voted him Team Captain, even though he wasn’t the “starter”. Halfway through the season, he finally became the starting tailback and helped lead his team to a strong season finish and bowl win. He is now in the NFL and a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year.

If you haven’t guessed by now, this story is about Alvin Kamara. He made some serious mistakes as a 19 year-old. He owned up to them and learned from them. As a result, he became one of the most loved players at Tennessee, both with his teammates and the fans. He would not have been able to do all of this had he not been given a second chance.

Jauan Jennings is 19 years-old. He made a serious mistake in posting his rant against the former coaches and administration. There was no excuse for it. He has also owned that mistake and apologized. I would argue that many of us would have made several more mistakes in our younger days had we had access to social media like the players today have. From experience, I felt angry at my coaches in college and did not believe that I was given the same opportunities as others because I was a walk-on and not a scholarship player. I am thankful that I did not have Twitter back then.

Jauan is a young man with immense talent that will get a second chance somewhere… why not let him have that second chance at a place that he wants to be anyway? I sincerely hope that Coach Pruitt will allow Jauan the opportunity to earn his way back onto the team and prove that he has learned from his mistakes by becoming the leader that I believe he can be.

Tennessee’s Coaching Hire; the “Orange kool aid” edition

December 14, 2017

There are a ton of interesting facts that I made up and some that I didn’t in this article. Enjoy…
A once proud cathedral along the Tennessee River stood empty. The faithful fans have somberly filed out and returned to their lives beyond Volunteer football. In their absence, a dreary haze had filled Neyland. The haze was no less tangible than it was visible. We all felt it and no amount of resolve or resiliency would overcome it. Tennessee needed a change. Fast forwarding to today, Volnation can rejoice! We have found our new leader. Throwing off the shackles of the evil empire that is Alabama, Jeremy Pruitt has come to resurrect the once proud Tennessee Volunteer football program.

Even if you completely ignore the fact that Pruitt was hand picked by one of the greatest Tennessee Vols ever, this guy is awesome! I mean just look at him. Everything about him screams FOOTBALL! Would you want to piss him off? I wouldn’t. Don’t let the bald head fool you either. He purposefully chose to eliminate the hair because it prevented our yellow sun from fully nourishing his defensive genius mind! I’m not a historian, but I’m pretty sure that had he been at the battle of Thermopylae, the Spartans would have won.
Just say’n.

Already, coaches around the league are quaking in their boots. A random tweet that my cousin’s older step-brother’s former girlfriend may or may not have re-tweeted quoted Dan Mullen when he found out that Pruitt was coming to the East too. “Seriously!?!? I just left that guy! WTF man?!”

Ha! All of those, “defensive minded coaches” already in the SEC East. Yes, I’m calling you out Muschamp, Stoops, Smart, and Mason. I heard all about your secret meeting to try and figure out how to hide the fact that a true defensive mastermind has joined the division. Your paltry attempts to field SEC caliber defenses will be exposed. Your only option is to not bother bringing your offenses to the game in an attempt to keep the Tennessee defense off of the field.

Oh yeah, I hear you asking, “But what about the Tennessee offense? I can’t remember what a touchdown for feels like.” Worry not my little friends. By sheer association with the greatness that is Pruitt, Tennessee’s offense will explode. Even without taking into consideration our new head coach, look at the staff he is assembling! Brilliant offensive minds that are only exceeded by Pruitt’s defensive acumen. All they have to do is ask Coach Pruitt, what play will have the best chance against your defense. Of course the answer will always be, “None of them”, but he can still provide them with an glimpse of what will work against everyone else.

And even if the quarterbacks never quite achieve their full potential under this new coaching staff and we have to settle for between 30-50 touchdown passes next season; we have nothing to fear. Robert Gillespie is returning and that means that our running backs will plow over each of the hapless defensive fronts that will attempt to slow down the coming Volunteer juggernaut. I almost feel sorry for them.

“But I wanted a big name…” you whine. Kardashian is a “big name.” We have about as much need for a big name as the Kardashians do for a book shelf. Coach Pruitt is sly and crafty. I am certain that he has purposefully kept his name out of the headlines to further increase his mystique and create additional dread and foreboding emotions with his opponents. Not that he really needs to. I have to admit, it could just be his ultimate level of humbleness at work.

And don’t even get me started on recruiting… yes a few have de-committed, but I think that to their credit, those players understood that there was too much awesomeness to handle. Let’s be honest. Not everyone can deal with that kind of pressure. For crying out loud, when you saw those beads of sweat on Coach Pruitt’s brow during the press conference last week. That wasn’t sweat! That was some of his awesomeness leaking out. I mean, the man is powerful, but nobody can contain that much awesome. This is reality people. Recruits that can handle the situation will flock to Knoxville. They will come like baseball players to Kevin Costner. Oh yes my friends, things are looking up on Rocky Top.

Damn, this is some good kool aid.


Pruitt might just be a diamond for UT

December 8, 2017

If you're a fan of the University of Tennessee football program, Jeremy Pruitt is probably not the coaching name that you hoped to hear introduced as the next head football coach, but he just might be the diamond in the rough that UT needs...

My wife likes bling. Sparkle, ice, diamonds, or whatever you want to call it, she likes it. She would also love to have a much larger collection of it. That is unfortunate for her considering that she is limited by my meager earnings. Even so, that doesn’t stop Jared’s and Kay’s Jewelers adds from mysteriously appearing in strategic locations around the house so that I won’t miss them. Unfortunately, buying flashy fakes won’t cut it either. She wants the real thing. I never really understood why it was so important to her. I mean, it’s not like a sixty inch flat screen 4K smart television, right?

Now before this article gets me kicked out of the house, let me be very clear about something. My wife is awesome. Please don’t think that she is a gold-digger or anything like that. Quite the opposite, she is very down to Earth. In fact, in contrast to my above description of her standards for jewelry; her most prized piece of bling is the engagement ring that I managed to scrounge up enough money to buy many years ago. It’s nice, but not overwhelming to look at. Despite that, it is the one item that means the most to her.

The 2017 Tennessee coaching search has finally granted me some better perspective on her thoughts regarding her bling. Like many fans, I wanted the big name hire. I wanted the coach that everyone else wanted. I would have reveled in their jealousy and hurled insults would have bounced right off of the Star Wars quality shielding that our glorious coach would provide. How nice would it have been to strut into any opponent’s stadium and smugly know that my coach was better than theirs? Basically, know what it’s like to be a Bama fan for the last decade or so. So with that in mind, my first choice was Chip Kelly. I had dreams about that high-powered offense cutting through opposing defenses like a hot knife through butter. To finally see the spread offense done right, would have been wonderful. But then the most unexpected thing occurred. Jim McElwain, the coach that had won the SEC East division for the last two seasons in a row was fired. The odds of landing Kelly took a major hit when the Florida job became available and UT still had a head coach. Thankfully, UCLA jumped into the fray as well.

So okay, I had to move down my list…and down my list…and down. One evening, as I was beginning to despair regarding the search, a glimmer of hope was granted to me. Rumors of a swashbuckling coach that ran a high octane offense known as the Air Raid had suddenly surfaced. Oh, how I wanted UT to hire Mike Leach! It would have been almost enough for me to forgive John Currie for the heartache that he had put me through during the previous months as well. Mike Leach’s offense would most certainly have brought about the return of the moniker, “Wide Receiver U” to Tennessee. Who wouldn’t have been able to get behind that? Yeah, some people thought he was a little weird. To get back to my jewelry analogy, Leach would have been that obscure gem that wasn’t for everyone, but none the less, got attention. Alas, it wasn’t to be. So once again, despair began to encroach. I believed that Coach Fulmer was, without a doubt, going to give his all in finding the best possible candidate to be our new head coach. But the reported candidates didn’t have the wow factor that many of us still hoped for. I had to forcibly remind myself that while I have played football, I have not coached it at any level and that Phil just might have a better grasp on the position than me. I know, I know… you can’t believe it, but trust me. It’s true.

So once again, it appeared that Tennessee Volunteer football fans would be forced to accept a coach that we couldn’t get excited about. We would have to settle. I’ll admit it. It was my first thought as well, but that’s when I decided to look into Pruitt’s background a bit more. It is almost always a better idea to get more information before making a decision about how you feel about things. For those of you that don’t agree that it is NOT always better to think before acting, then explain to me how someone figured out that lobster tastes so damn good. Upon a deeper dive into Coach Pruitt’s background, I found quite a lot to encourage my interest.

After listening to his introductory press conference, I found even more. I have to key in on the most logical thing that I have heard a coach say in quite a while.
He said, “I think it’s important that you play the best personnel that you have. If, for instance, offensively, you have three good tight ends, it’s pretty foolish to put two of them on the bench. It’s the same thing when you’re playing defensive football.” “If you’ve got two really good linebackers and five really good defensive linemen, then we probably need to be playing those five defensive linemen and those two really good linebackers.” “I think that’s part of it, especially with me having a high school background. There’s some years that the three-technique weighs 300 pounds and there’s some years that he weighs 150, but I’m going to tell you that in Rainsville, Alabama, they want to win regardless. You have to find a way to be adaptable, be flexible, and that’s what we’ll do.”

FINALLY!!! It’s like he was listening in on almost every post-game conversation that I have had for the last nine years. Coach Pruitt may not be the flashy, expensive, and over-the-top coach that many of us wanted but I think he could be that diamond that ends up having much more value in the long run. If nothing else, Coach Pruitt already knows something about championship rings. He has three of them.