There were many things during the Butch Jones era that Vol fans wished Tennessee’s coaching staff would’ve done differently. Whether it was not using Evan Berry on offense, not letting Josh Dobbs throw more, or not using Alvin Kamara more, fans were often frustrated with how Jones and his staff ran their offense.
Another thing Vol fans wanted to see Jones and his staff do was use a fullback or some sort of H-back in the backfield. Many felt the Vols’ offense was too finesse and dependent on zone blocking schemes with the offensive line under Jones, and they wanted to see Tennessee go back to using a fullback to help block in the run game on occasion.
The Vols never really used a player in that type of role under Butch Jones. But will Jeremy Pruitt implement a fullback?
Pruitt seems to be more old school than Jones was in terms of how he views football. And new offensive coordinator Tyson Helton has run more pro-style sets as an offensive coordinator in the past, and it’s likely he and his offensive staff will do so at Tennessee too. So could the fullback return to the Vols’ offense under Pruitt?
As of right now, that answer is “no” for Pruitt.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a whole lot of fullbacks on our team,” Pruitt said after practice on Thursday. “We’ve just gotta figure out our personnel and who we’re going to be.”
This spring has been a learning process for Tennessee’s coaches. They’ve been trying to figure out what they have on the roster and who best fits where. That’s why there’s been so many position switches this spring; Pruitt and his staff are trying to make sure they know where each player fits in best.
And right now, Pruitt isn’t even sure if the Vols have the right type of tight ends to block in the new offensive system, let alone someone who can play fullback.
“We gotta figure out what our best personnel is, and once we figure out our best personnel, that’s what we’ll put on the field,” Pruitt stated. “We’re trying to figure out, do we have any tight ends? I’m talking about tight ends that can block, not line up there and run pass patterns.
“If we’re going to run pass patterns, I’d rather put wide receivers out there.”
The Vols have bodies at tight end right now, but they’re not experienced ones. Nor are they big ones right now.
Eli Wolf, Austin Pope, James Brown, and Jacob Warren are all listed on Tennessee’s roster as under 235 pounds. The only scholarship tight end who is currently working at that position who is bigger than that is Ja’Quain Blakely (who’s listed at around 255 pounds), and he’s a converted defensive player who is getting his first snaps at tight end this spring. LaTrell Bumphus was also bigger, but he’s been working with the defense recently.
Simply put, the Vols don’t really have a player to fit the fullback role on the roster right now. Blakely might be the best fit in terms of size, but he’s likely very raw from an offensive skill set standpoint. All of Tennessee’s tight ends need to get better at pass and run blocking, and it starts in the weight room. That should be a big point of emphasis this summer for that unit.
Pruitt and Helton may want to use a fullback or an H-back in the future at Tennessee. But as of the spring of 2018, their options on that front are extremely limited.