Practice number one of the Jeremy Pruitt era has come and gone. Tuesday’s practice marked the beginning of a new day in the Volunteers football program, and fans couldn’t be happier.
Many Tennessee fans look forward to spring practice kicking off. Coming off of a 4-8 season, however, there is very little to be excited about. The arrival of Pruitt could change all of that.
If Pruitt and his staff want to compete and become relevant in the always powerful SEC, he will need to have a productive spring camp. With 14 practices left until the Orange and White game on April 21st, here are five questions facing Pruitt and his first Vol squad moving forward.
Can Pruitt find his footing?
With the Tennessee job being his first head coaching job in his career, Pruitt will be under the microscope by the Vol faithful. With his blue collar, no-nonsense mentality, it seems that the program is in good hands.
Pruitt has said that he will be a hands-on coach with his players and not be a CEO-type coach. That mentality worked for him when he was an assistant coach and only had to focus on certain areas of the team, but now he is responsible for everything that goes on in the program. It will be interesting to see how his hands-on approach will work as head coach.
How will the spring game change?
Under former coach Butch Jones, Tennessee’s spring game had a strange point system filled with drills that were meant to entertain the fans. Under Pruitt, we can expect that this will change. It may not matter that the format changes, but it will be interesting to see.
Going back to his no-nonsense persona, I expect that Pruitt will run a spring practice that models a regular game. We can expect to see the first team offense go against the second team defense, and the first team defense against the second team offense. There may be a few drills to get the fans excited, but not to the magnitude that Jones had.
Who will Pruitt weed out?
There has already been one departure from the program this spring with senior defensive lineman Quay Picou departing from the roster. It’s unclear why Picou left, but he is the first to do so. This will be one of the interesting storylines to follow through spring and summer camp.
Pruitt will bring a much more intense format to his practices. We can expect Pruitt’s attitude to be “if you don’t like it, leave” when it comes to his players. This could cause a few players to leave the program who got used to things run a different way. It would be for the best if he can weed out the weak links, but only time will tell.
Who will change positions?
There have already been a few players that are changing positions for spring, such as Carlin Fils-aime, Tyler Byrd, and Princeton Fant. Pruitt said in his post practice press conference on Tuesday that there are players who will work with a new position for seven days and then will be evaluated to see if they need to switch back.
These changes could help, but it can be difficult to change positions after playing a certain one for the majority of your career. Byrd has switched to defensive back, which is what he was coming out of high school. The other changes, however, will be interesting to watch.
Who will be the starting QB?
Quarterback controversy is always a hot-button issue during the offseason. Tennessee had an abysmal QB showing in 2017, with Quinton Dormady and Jarrett Guarantano equally being unproductive. Their play was not solely their fault, but they did not show much promise moving forward. Dormady is now gone, and Guarantano looks to start in his third season in the program.
Now that graduate transfer Keller Chryst has committed to the Vols, Guarantano’s starting job is in question. Chryst fits the new offensive system better than Guarantano does, but that does not mean Chryst will get the nod come fall. This battle will be the most interesting to watch throughout camp. Chryst is not yet in campus, so spring could give Guarantano the upper hand.