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Jeremy Pruitt’s burning desire to be the best is an attitude that Tennessee fans should embrace

Some thoughts on Pruitt’s controversial comments.

NCAA Football: Jeremy Pruitt Tennessee Head Coach Knoxville News Sentinel-USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s safe to say that Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt wasn’t happy with his team’s overall performance on Saturday during the Orange and White Game. Pruitt opened his media availability with a scathing review of his team’s effort, calling out some unnamed players who he said “flat out quit.

The Orange team, which featured Tennessee’s first team offense, dominated the White team, which featured Tennessee’s first team defense. Considering Pruitt’s defensive background, you can understand his frustration.

“I saw a couple of guys out there today just flat out quit. You call it what you want to, I’m gonna say they quit. That’s what I saw,” Pruitt said.

You’ve got to go back to the Butch Jones regime here, because these are mainly players that he and his staff recruited. It’s the ugly truth, but there are a couple of themes at work here.

You may remember an NFL scout calling Tennessee’s upperclassmen “soft” during the 2017 NFL Draft season. That rang true last year with a 4-8 season — the literal worst year of Tennessee football to date.

The Butch-era teams’ failure to close games late, his lack of player development and lack of accountability all stand out here. The all too common injuries seemed to become more than just bad luck. As outsiders, we can’t pinpoint what exactly was wrong. But we can say with certainty that something internally was off.

The players that Jeremy Pruitt inherited have grown up in this culture. It’s all they know about college football. That culture is changing, and it might just be a painful transition.

Pruitt’s comments were essentially “our way or the highway.” Some guys may not last, and that’s okay. Tennessee isn’t winning any titles this year, but they are laying the groundwork for something down the road.

That groundwork isn’t just the players, either. It’s not just the coaches or the administration. It’s the fans too. Pruitt actually called out the fans who weren’t in attendance on Saturday in his opening statement after the game on Saturday.

“To me, it’s kind of like our football team for the fans. The ones that were here, I’m proud they’re here. They’re fired up, ready to get going,” Pruitt said.

But then, Pruitt called out those who didn’t show. “Then there were some people that weren’t here, why wasn’t they here?” Pruitt asked. “I think we all need to look in the mirror and see who we want to be.”

Tennessee’s announced crowd of 65,000+ seemed a little inflated, but regardless, that was the third most attended spring game in Tennessee history. It was a great showing as far as spring game crowds go. In fact, that crowd actually ranks 5th in the nation this spring.

But Pruitt wants more. And you — the Tennessee fan — should want more. Even for something as trivial as a spring game crowd. Pruitt’s comments ruffled some feathers — and maybe they weren’t presented as well as they could have been — but it’s clear that Jeremy Pruitt just wants nothing less than to be the best at everything he does.

That’s a competitive fire that I’m not sure Tennessee has had in the past decade.

Tennessee fans have been through hell over the past decade however, so I certainly understand those who were upset by this. They’ve packed 102,000 seats full for teams that didn’t even go to bowl games. They deserve a football product that matches their efforts.

Maybe his comments were a little off-base, but I love seeing that burning desire to be No. 1. Even at something as meaningless as a spring football crowd. The Vols finally have a coach who isn’t going to settle for anything less than being the best. Embrace that.

Jeremy Pruitt knows a little something about being the best. He’s been around national championship programs like Alabama and Florida State. He’s been to the highest point as an assistant coach. He knows what Nick Saban did to get there.

It might be an absolutely dreadful year on the football field for Tennessee, but this staff is going to play the guys who put the work in and give everything they have. A transition year to establish a change in culture is probably exactly what this football program needs at this point.