These are tough times Vol Nation. After back to back losses to open the season for the first time since 1988, this season is looking like it could be one of the worst ever. Is the season over? No. But losing to a Sun Belt team, and then some invading Mormons at home isn’t exactly a good scenario. It’s been horrible to watch with the exception of a few bright spots.
Now yes, I know, its tough to be optimistic when your team is off to its worst start in 31 years. In fact, it’s nearly impossible. But fortunately, brighter days are ahead. While Jeremy Pruitt isn’t exactly loved by all right now, I still believe in his vision. Mainly due to the fact that I can see small parts of it coming to fruition already. And it’s happening on both sides of the ball.
On defense, Henry To’o To’o is looking like he will be the leader of this unit for the next several years. Through two games, he’s tied for 6th in the SEC in tackles and has been flying around on seemingly every play. And while his playing time may drop slightly once Daniel Bituli returns from injury, you can’t deny what you’ve seen from him so far. Another freshman defender that hasn’t gotten as much attention since the season started is Warren Burrell. He was already pushing for a starting job before the season, and in Bryce Thompson’s absence, has played well. To be thrust into the fold that quickly and not give up any big mistakes is a promising sign for any freshman.
And then on offense, it looks like we may have a potential star that could look familiar to Vol fans. Eric Grey looks like an absolute game changer at the running back position, and is one of the quicker players that I’ve seen suit up for us the last several seasons. When I see him move, I see Alvin Kamara. Am I saying that he will be as good as the current Saints superstar and last year’s NFL rookie of the year? No. That’s not fair to the kid or the team that he’s on. But when Grey catches a screen pass and takes off, you see glimpses of what he can be for this Vols offense.
Add in guys that have also already contributed like Wanya Morris and Darnell Wright on the O-line, and you’re starting to see a pattern develop. Most of the guys that are providing excitement on this team right now are freshmen and sophomores – Pruitt’s guys. Sure there’s upperclassmen like Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway, Daniel Bituli, Darrell Taylor and Trey Smith that play pivotal roles. But there are also a lot of upperclassmen that do not know how to win, a product of the previous regime. While some may mean well, it’s become evident that they aren’t going to get it done during their time in orange.
That’s why all of the talk of firing Pruitt is preposterous to me. Sure, the team is not performing where it needs to be at all right now. And yeah, some of the blame definitely falls on Pruitt and the coaching staff, and he’s been the first to say that. But the guy is still coaching a team where nearly half of the guys on the roster were not brought here by him. He’s really only had one complete off season with this team. Are those excuses for starting 0-2 the way we have? No. But see things from his point-of-view for a second. And to rectify the problem, he’s brought in these young contributors who show a ton of promise. So, for the people that want him fired, what else do you want him to do?
He’s went into recruiting and brought in some of the most athletic players that we’ve seen on campus in a while. He’s brought in guys that have already shown that they can more than handle their business as freshmen. And he’s tried to build a culture the way he wants it with some guys that couldn’t care less about wearing the Power T. And for most of the BYU game, this team showed a lot of improvement from week one. If not for some terrible QB play (from someone Pruitt didn’t bring in), we could’ve been looking at a pretty sizable win.
So after saying all that, I don’t know how you could still think that all of this is on Pruitt and he should be gone. Those people must just love the national scrutiny that goes along with our coaching searches. And the people saying that Pruitt seems disinterested must not have known Pruitt for his entire coaching career. He’s never been a media guy, and doesn’t try to be. Now that all those stupid topics have been covered, let’s look at the facts. Pruitt is bringing in his own talented players and will win with them. Sure this year may be rough, and I understand that’s not fun for anyone. But it’s part of the process of building a program. Not every rebuild is going to take place as quickly as Clemson and Georgia. That’s just not possible. Especially with the disfunction within the previous regimes that has been created here.
Take a breath and examine what we have. This is a young team that’s getting younger every week, as Pruitt is going to live and die by playing his guys. And yes, that’s going to be frustrating. Rookie mistakes will be made. But in the coming years, that experience could be what finally gets us over the hump. And it’ll be done Pruitt’s way.
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