September 2, 2018
With a lot of expectation and years of previous frustration, there is no describing how hungry Vol fans are to finally turn the page of an epic tragedy in the Tennessee Volunteer story. It would be delusional to expect this team could be turned around in one year by any coach. New coach Jeremy Pruitt has started off his head coaching career at Tennessee saying all the right things. Vol fans are once again starting a season with skeptical optimism or complete indifference and some claiming we’re ready to strike fear in opponents.
Optimism came crashing down to reality quickly from the start of the Tennessee vs West Virginia game. Tennessee looked like the same team in 2017 with a horrible start to the game against 17 ranked West Virginia. Granted it is the first game for Coach Pruitt with a majority of the team being his predecessor’s recruits but it quickly looked like a team that was no where close to being ready for prime time. The offensive line, which needed much improvement, was still a long way off from effectively blocking and giving Guarantano time to make plays as quarterback.
Having tapped Guarantano as starting quarterback over senior transfer Kelley Cryst left a lot of fans scratching their heads having seen Guarantano’s play last season. That was only exacerbated by his performance in this game passing for only 172 yards and having only one passing play over 20 yards for the Vols. Guarantano just has been unable to go through his progressions as quarterback and deliver consistent offensive series in games. It’s always been said that the most like person on any team is the backup quarterback. Cryst may emerge from that roll in the next couple games if Pruitt decides to test drive him for ETSU and UTEP.
The running game seemed to have its moments which pleased Vol fans who have been clamoring to get back to “Tennessee Football” and was one of the key talking points when Pruitt was hired. Tim Jordan was successful in putting up 118 yards in 20 carries and 1 touchdown for the Vols.
To Pruitt’s credit, he took full responsibility for the loss saying “How your team plays tells you what kind of coach you are, and their team played better than our team today — so that’s on me”. Something Butch Jones never did – Own it!! That will be put to the test after ETSU and UTEP as Tennessee embarks on a brutal 5 SEC game slate against all ranked opponents. Having gone 0-8 in the SEC last year, Vol fans are left wondering if we’ll even make a bowl game this year and how long will their patience last for Pruitt to get out of the hole that has been dug in Knoxville over the past decade.