In Jeremy Pruitt’s first season as head coach, one of the major points he stressed was the need for competition within the football team. As many successful coaches will point out, competition often brings out the best in players.
Unfortunately, for the Vols, the depth wasn’t there at a lot of positions to truly have the level of competitiveness UT’s coaches desired.
With the addition of 18 new players through the early signing period — and with several more that will sign in February — Tennessee is nearing the level of competitive depth they need to get back to winning at a higher level.
“What I think we are going to have is a lot of competition and lots of opportunity,” head coach Jeremy Pruitt told reporters Wednesday when speaking about the early signing class.
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The Vols signed 10 players who project to play offense and eight players who will likely end up on defense. That will infuse some much-needed depth and talent into what was a fairly thin Tennessee roster.
Tennessee’s current players were instrumental in the recruitment of many of this week’s signees, and they are working to build the culture within the program.
“Our players have done a fantastic job recruiting these guys because they want to play with good players,” explained Pruitt.
There will be plenty of opportunity for early playing time for every signee. The Vols have very few players leaving from last year’s team, but it was a team that went 5-7 and lacked explosiveness on both sides of the ball, so there are plenty of areas that need improvement. Very few starters from a year ago can truly feel safe about keeping their job in 2019.
“The guys that we have coming in in this class realize that we have a lot of starters coming back, but they are embracing the opportunity to compete and to build something at Tennessee,” Pruitt stated. “We wouldn’t have recruited them if we didn’t think they could contribute early. I think lots of times we put unrealistic expectations on freshmen, so I think if they control that, they’ll control how much they play.”
With 18 spots filled up, the Vols will still have a handful of prospects left to sign in February. As for what they will be targeting with those remaining scholarships, Pruitt has a plan.
“There are certain areas of our football team that we just need more numbers, especially up front,” Pruitt explained. “We probably will look to take another skill player on offense and a skill player on defense. We can’t have enough big men so, we will take a couple other big men if we can get them.”
Tennessee’s class currently ranks 16th per 247Sports, and they are still after some big names like five-star offensive tackle Darnell Wright and elite four-star athlete Quavaris Crouch.
This 2019 class is a big step in the right direction for improving the depth of the football program, and it’s coming at a crucial time for Pruitt and his program.