Once again, the reset button was used in Knoxville on the Tennessee football program. Jeremy Pruitt was fired following an investigation into Tennessee’s recruiting under his leadership, paving the way for Danny White and Josh Heupel to come over from UCF.
Pruitt’s year three fell apart as the Vols ended up going just 3-7 after being expected to take another step forward from a mostly successful year two. In Athlon’s yearly SEC preview magazine, coaches from around the league spoke anonymously about each program. One coach in particular didn’t hold back on Pruitt’s time at Tennessee.
“You got the feeling he didn’t know how to let go from being a coordinator,” the coach said of Pruitt. “Culturally, they lost the kids; we heard that from transfers and gossip, but it’s also on the tape. They didn’t want to play, they didn’t want to work for each other.”
Tennessee lost several key starters to the transfer portal, and I’m sure they weren’t shy about telling everyone what happened during the Pruitt era. The comment about it showing up on tape is also true, as the Volunteers spiraled out of control mid-season after a promising start.
It’s now on Josh Heupel to stop the tailspin and get everyone pulling in the same direction. Of course, that’s quite the task after the offseason Tennessee’s had. The Volunteers are staring some NCAA sanctions in the face, and of course have a total roster rebuild in front of them.
One coach spoke on how tough the rebuild would be with Athlon.
“There’s so much work to be done here, and on top of it they’ve got to deal with the NCAA thanks to the last staff,” the coach said. “In short order? Find a quarterback and some receivers, create that battery and work on your team speed. Heupel wants a track meet, but he inherited that in Orlando. It will be harder to build that in this league. The transfer portal beat them up pretty badly. I wouldn’t be shocked if they’re still shopping for skill position transfers.”
Tennessee has added several pieces from the transfer portal to help with depth concerns. Heupel installed his offense this spring, sorting through an offense full of inexperience. How this thing looks in the fall will be fascinating, considering the night and day difference in scheme from Jim Chaney to Heupel.
What do you think of these comments from opposing coaches? Fair or foul?