By now you’ve heard the buzzwords. Strong, tough, powerful, explosive — these are just some of the words we’ve heard from various coaches on the Tennessee staff regarding Tyson Helton’s offense.
“We’re going to be a strong team — a powerful team. A team that you know is going to come in and run the rock, but at the same time be explosive and exciting,” Helton said in a video from April.
But what does Jeremy Pruitt have in mind?
“We want to be able to run the football when we want to run it,” Pruitt said in his opening press conference. “It starts with dominating the line of scrimmage. If you want to be successful in this league, you’ve got to dominate up front.”
But then there’s this clue from David Ubben, who is now covering the Vols for The Athletic.
That's just asking too much from any D. Someone close to Pruitt told me this: "Being his OC is gonna be tough. He wants to score on every possession but he wants to bleed the clock just as bad."— David Ubben (@davidubben) July 10, 2018
"So, just 12 yards a carry, huh?" I asked.
"Think five yards, actually."
That’s basically a long-winded way of saying that he wants to sustain drives and control the clock.
Piece all of those comments together and there’s a clear target identity for Pruitt here. They want to win up front and run the football at will, which most head coaches would take any day of the week. Building off of that — and also judging from the spring game — they’d like for that ground game to open up the downfield passing game.
I’m sure he isn’t going to turn down big chunk plays, but Pruitt wants to break opposing defenses by not letting them off of the football field. He wants to win the time of possession battle by racking up first downs after a couple of pedestrian, but successful runs.
This philosophy is already being reflected on the recruiting trail. Tennessee has three offensive line commits currently in their 2019 class. They brought in four during the 2018 cycle, one of which being JUCO Jahmir Johnson, who is expected to help immediately. They have a clear type with their running backs. For the most part, they want backs that are over six feet tall and have some bulk to them. They’ve added two backs to the roster so far — Jeremy Banks (6-2, 215) and grad-transfer Madre London (6-1, 218).
Is this roster ready to win with five yards per carry in the SEC? Probably not. But it sounds like that’s the eventual blueprint. And after five years of watching Butch Jones’ spread offense, it’s going to be a nice change of pace.