Tennessee’s frustrating 2018 season is over, following a blowout loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville on Saturday night. It wasn’t all bad in Jeremy Pruitt’s first season at the helm, but it certainly ended on back to back sour notes.
The Vols picked up two wins over ranked opponents this season, but were crushed by Missouri and Vanderbilt. The worst part about Saturday? They just didn’t look all that interested in being there.
Senior defensive lineman Kyle Phillips played his final down for the Vols against Vanderbilt on Saturday and he thinks he has an answer to why Tennessee was so inconsistent throughout the year.
“We don’t show up every Saturday, and that’s been a big problem of ours. That’s the inconsistent play — offensively, defensively, special teams — I mean, it all goes back to sustaining that level of high energy every day, sustaining that level of execution every day and sustaining that level of just want-to and grit and toughness that you have to do every day to be a championship-level team. We didn’t do that, and as a program, like I said, moving forward we’ll have to find ways to make that happen.”
“We definitely have a young team with some new faces and trying to embrace a new culture that this coaching staff is trying to bring into us, and everybody wasn’t bought in. That’s what happens when everybody’s not bought in. That’s when you get inconsistent play.” (Quotes via 247 Sports)
And that explanation makes sense. Most of the players currently in the program were recruited by a different staff, who by all accounts ran things very differently. Toss in the infusion of young talent that was forced to play early and that’s a recipe for inconsistency.
For Pruitt, he’ll likely see a jump when all of his players buy into what he’s selling. That’s going to take time — and a couple of recruiting cycles.