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How Jeremy Pruitt is preparing for players, coaches to potentially miss games due to COVID-19

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

An uncertain season ahead is going to place challenges that we’ve never seen before in front of coaches this fall. Details like wearing masks on the sidelines, constant testing and disinfecting locker rooms are something that staffs will have to get used to, but what happens when a player or coach pops up with a positive COVID-19 result and is forced to miss a game?

It’s something that can change a gameplan in an instant, and Jeremy Pruitt is preparing for a potential shortage of bodies at every position on the roster.

“We’ve already done some things since we’ve been here, playing a few guys on both sides of the ball or working them on one side,” Pruitt said on Tuesday. “Last year, Quavaris Crouch played running back, Jeremy Banks has played running back, Aaron Beasley has played running back since he’s been here. We’ve used defensive players as tight ends in short yardage and goal line. You’ve got to be creative.”

Pruitt has been notorious for almost cross-training guys at multiple positions since his arrival at Tennessee. As he points out, that’s something that could play into his hands this season.

“I feel like if it gets to that point, my high school background will probably create an advantage for us,” Pruitt continued. “We’ve definitely talked about, ‘do we need an emergency guy at certain positions?’ In fact, I just actually talked to our team about that. It’s the reason we practice the way we practice, is to develop the entire team. We’ve always done that, so we’ll continue to do that, and it gives everybody an opportunity to continue to grow as a player.”

The preparation also goes beyond the roster. What happens if a coach tests positive? If it’s a coordinator, who is going to call the plays? These are things that Pruitt and every other head coach is preparing for.

“We have not put a plan together, but just starting off offensively, if something happened to Jim (Chaney), we’ve got Tee (Martin), and Will (Friend), and Chris (Weinke), Joe (Osovet), Jay (Graham), all those guys could call plays, so it’s not an issue there and the same thing defensively,” Pruitt said. “We got guys that are familiar with what we do so we’ll be fine.”

Hopefully none of this preparation will matter, but it’s something extra for these coaches to think about as we prep for a very strange 2020 season.