It was Jeremy Pruitt turn at SEC Media Days on Tuesday afternoon. Tennessee’s second year head coach got his chance to face the media and kick off his 2019 season. After his time at the podium, Pruitt joined the SEC Network crew, getting a chance to sell his program a bit.
Pruitt noted the obvious progress that he’s seen from year one to year two, as he gets more of his guys in the program and transforms those that he inherited.
“Well if you looked at our football team 18 months ago and saw where we’re at today, it’s like night and day,” Pruitt said on the SEC Network set. “Some of it is because of recruiting, some is because of player development. It goes all the way down to nutrition, athletic training, our strength and conditioning, so our whole program top to bottom is clicking now.”
Pruitt has harped on the fact that he didn’t have enough scholarship offensive lineman to form two rotating groups in his year one practice. He said on Tuesday that he had just two linemen over 300 pounds. That’s all changed now. Pruitt told the media that he now has 15 offensive linemen over 300 pounds, citing that as a mark of progress for the depth of his program.
Tennessee ended up pulling in the 12th ranked class of the 2019 cycle, an impressive accomplishment coming off of a 5-7 season. According to Pruitt, he has his players to thank for that group that they were able to pull in.
“It wasn’t me and it wasn’t our coaches,” Pruitt said. “It was our players. Best recruiters you got in your program is your players and our players done a fantastic job. Our players are hungry. We’ve got some good football players at Tennessee and they want good football players around them. They want to compete against the best every single day. So these guys kinda formed their own little group and they’re selling a vision that they want to be.”
Tennessee may be returning 17 starters, but they’re still an overall young team. The Vols are expected to start two freshman tackles, along with two sophomores at cornerback. They’ll have a heavy freshman influence at the linebacker position with Henry To’oto’o and Quavaris Crouch.
“We’ve added some pieces to the puzzle in this signing class,” Pruitt said. “I can’t say enough about the players that we inherited, how hard they’ve worked to change their bodies, to create the right habits. We’ve got really good football players on our team, and then I think we’ve got guys who have potential to be good football players. Right now, we’re probably a little bit more on the potential side — just because we’ve got a young team.”
That young team is a popular pick by certain predictive rankings systems to improve — perhaps even surprise — under Pruitt in year two.