Since the last week of November, Tennessee hasn’t had an offensive coordinator on staff. Tyson Helton left after one year as the Vols’ play-caller on offense, and head coach Jeremy Pruitt hasn’t hired his replacement yet.
Many fans worried that trying to land offensive recruits heading into the early signing period would be difficult without an OC on staff. But according to Pruitt, that wasn’t the case.
Pruitt met with the media on Wednesday to discuss the Vols’ early signing class after the first day of the early signing period, and he was asked about Tennessee’s offensive coordinator search a couple times. He said he didn’t feel like not having an OC was an obstacle on the recruiting trail over the last few weeks, and he downplayed the significance.
“Nowadays, coaches, they change a lot and you’re usually recruiting to the head football coach,” Pruitt said on Wednesday. “There was never an issue there.”
Without an offensive coordinator on staff, Tennessee had to find someone else to go out and recruit players. In place of an OC, Pruitt tabbed quality control analyst Shelton Felton to go on the recruiting trail before the early signing period began.
“We put Shelton Felton on the road. Shelton’s a guy that was a high school coach in the state of Georgia, has a lot of connections there and he’s done it before,” Pruitt explained. “He came to us from UTC, so he’s got experience, so we just felt like that was a really good fit.”
Tennessee was able to sign all eight of their projected offensive players in their 2019 class who were previously committed to them before Wednesday without an offensive coordinator, and they even added a new addition to their class with the signing of three-star Georgia wide receiver Jerrod Means.
Not only does Pruitt believe having an OC on staff wasn’t necessary in recruiting, but he also said sometimes a play-caller can be a little overrated for an offense’s success.
“The offensive coordinator, sometimes, is overrated,” Pruitt added. “You can look and watch these teams out here, and there’s some of these teams, it probably doesn’t matter who the offensive coordinator is, based off talent or lack thereof.
“I think the most important thing right now is recruiting, and we’ll worry about that (hiring an offensive coordinator) later.”
Play-calling was never an issue for Alabama this past season because they had a ridiculous amount of talent on their roster that would make any offensive coordinator look good. The same can be said for schools like Oklahoma and Clemson.
For Tennessee, though, that kind of talent isn’t on their roster. The Vols often needed to try and get creative this past season to overcome their lack of talent and lack of quality play on the offensive line, but for whatever reason, that rarely happened. Tennessee’s new OC, whoever it is, will need to show some more creativity than what UT experienced this past year.
At least, until the Vols can start getting some more players on par with the elite offenses in college football.