Tennessee had their annual spring game on Saturday, and it was the first time Jeremy Pruitt conducted the Orange & White Game as the Vols’ head coach. The Orange Team dominated the White Team 34-7, and the one-sided nature of the game concerned Pruitt.
The Vols’ first team offense handled their business well, but the second team squad was far from impressive. The Orange Team totaled 360 yards of offense while the White Team had just 85 yards. The disparity was even more apparent in the run game. The Orange team gained 134 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns on 27 carries while the White Team had a mere 14 yards on 14 attempts.
Some of the issues with the White Team had to do with the extremely thin depth along the offensive line. But according to Pruitt, it was much more than that too.
“You see some guys competing pretty hard,” Pruitt said after the Orange & White Game on Saturday. “They may not be doing everything perfect, but they’re heading in the right direction. It’s something we can build off of.
“I saw a couple guys out there today who just flat out quit. You can call it what you want to, but I’m going to say they quit based on what I saw.”
Pruitt would go on to add that the last time he had players quit on him like this was “probably 20 years ago.” Two decades ago, Pruitt was coaching at Plainview High School as a defensive backs coach.
The contrast between Tennessee’s first and second team offense was stark. There was certainly a drop-off from the first string to the second string on defense too, but it was much more apparent on offense. And Pruitt says it wasn’t that way during the rest of spring.
“Is one team that much better than the other? I don’t think so, I’ve watched them practice for 14 days,” Pruitt added. “There was some guys who went out there and competed and tried to do the best of their ability, and some guys, well that ain’t what they did. After 15 days, that’s very disappointing.
“That probably tells you who they are. That’s a good indication of who they are. We gotta figure out where we’re at with some of these guys.”
Competition was ramped up this spring because of the new coaching staff coming in and shaking things up. But with the lack of depth at a multitude of positions, competition still wasn’t what Pruitt and his staff wanted.
That won’t be the case over the summer and in the fall, though.
“The good thing is in a couple weeks we’ll have a bunch of guys who aren’t on the injury report anymore. We’ll have 14 new guys here, maybe more,” Pruitt stated. “Some of these guys who don’t want to do it, don’t want to do it right all the time, they’ll just be watching.”
Tennessee was without the services of a handful of players this spring. Most notably absent for the entirety of the spring were Trey Smith, Chance Hall, Todd Kelly Jr., and Jauan Jennings. Other players, such as Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Daniel Bituli, missed parts of spring and also failed to participate on Saturday.
But once fall camp comes around, those players will all be back. And the Vols will welcome in the remainder of their 2018 signing class too. Not only that, but they’ll be adding a few grad transfer as well, such as quarterback Keller Chryst and running back Madre London.
And there’s a chance Tennessee adds another grad transfer or two between now and August as well. The Vols had Texas A&M grad transfer cornerback Nick Harvey in Knoxville this weekend.
So how does Pruitt plan to go about changing the attitudes of these players? Right now he plans on confronting them about it. But he hopes in the future, his players will confront each other over issues like this.
“There’s nothing better than peer pressure,” Pruitt said. “It’s easy to stand out there with your chest stuck out and pretend you’re somebody you’re not. But the film don’t lie. Guys who don’t compete, don’t hustle, the film don’t lie.
“Eventually around here when we have things the way we want it, I won’t have to police them anymore. They’ll police themselves. But until then, I’ll be the one doing all the confronting.”