It’s been apparent since the day Jeremy Pruitt and his staff held their first practice back in the spring that they wanted to bring a new standard, a new set of expectations to Tennessee football. And according to Pruitt after the Vols’ first day of fall camp this year, Tennessee’s roster is still learning those expectations.
Pruitt spoke to the media after the Vols’ first day of fall practice on Friday, and he was asked about his team’s understanding of the expectations he and his coaches set forth. And according to Pruitt, some of the players have learned, but there’s still a long way to go.
“I just think the longer they’ve been in the program, the more they’ve gotten used to the expectations that we have, whether that’s in the classroom, study hall, weight room, on the field, or how we practice,” Pruitt said. “We’re nowhere close to where we want to be, not even close to it. But at least we do have an idea, and we have an understanding of what we’re trying to get done. That’s probably half the battle.”
For Pruitt, the summer was an important time for his team to start learning more about those expectations and themselves. Some players started to act more as leaders while others began to understand their roles as supporting players.
“During the summer time when you have player-led practices, it gives a chance for people to step into leadership roles,” Pruitt stated. “Nobody is out there but the players. When you’re in a large group, sometimes you got people who can get everyone to do things a certain way, and you got some people who just talk about it and they don’t have any effect on anybody else. I think it gives a chance for guys who are true leaders to start doing that, and it gives guys who are going to be in support roles to learn to support the leaders, which I think is important.”
But for as many steps as the players took this summer, it still couldn’t prepare them for what Pruitt and his staff had waiting for them at the start of fall camp.
“The one thing you can’t do during the summer is you can’t match the intensity you have when practice starts and the coaches are out there and that tempo,” Pruitt added. “The players can’t get that done on their own during the summer. Obviously. it was a shock to guys who it was the first time they’d been out there. Some of these guys, I think they thought we were halfway through practice and we hadn’t even gotten through flex yet.
“Anybody can look good with headgear and shorts on. To me right now it’s learning a lot of what to do and how to do it. When we get closer to putting on the pads, I think that tells more about who you are.”
Luckily for Tennessee’s players, the Vols still have 24 more practices till the start of the 2018 season. That gives them a lot more time to figure out what Pruitt and his staff expect of them and of the program moving forward.
The standard at Tennessee for the last decade has slowly degraded to the point where the Vols ended up having their worst season in program history last year. It remains to be seen just how quickly Tennessee’s new coaches can turn around that culture, but according to Pruitt, there’s still a long way to go.
It’s not dire at UT, though. There’s been progress. But Pruitt, ever the perfectionist, is far from satisfied after eight months on the job. And you can expect him and his staff to continue to nail home the importance of those raised expectations over the next few weeks and months.