Pruitt Has Seen “Lots of Improvement” from Jeremy Banks at RB

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    Photo by Anne Newman/RTI

    RTI contributor Adam McCracken is the author of this article 

    With the spring game only 10 days away, the preparation during practice is ramping up. After a couple of weeks that saw some position moves, Jeremy Pruitt has been looking to piece guys where they fit, as well as solidifying those already there.

    One player who knows all about position changes is Jeremy Banks. After a 2018 season that saw him move around between running back and linebacker, he looks like he may have found a permanent home back at running back.

    Last October, the 6-foot-1, 218-pound freshman was moved from his natural position of running back to linebacker. Issues with ball control and a tenacity on special teams were the main factors in the decision. Plus, Banks himself asked for the move after the Georgia game according to Pruitt. After moving back to offense later that month due to depth, Banks has since settled in nicely back at his natural position this spring.

    Pruitt loves the edge that Banks brings to the Tennessee offense.

    “I think Jeremy Banks is a really good competitor,” Pruitt said after practice on Tuesday. “He loves to play in the games and loves to play in the competitive atmosphere. There’s a lot that goes into the preparation for the games, and he’s still learning how to do that. He’s one of the most physical players on our team, and that’s a good thing.

    “If you want to be a good football player, you better have toughness, and Jeremy has toughness.”

    Last season, Banks eclipsed 10-plus carries in two of the six games he recorded carries, and he eclipsed 50-plus yards in one game. Weeks 2 and 3 saw Banks combine for 22 carries and 107 yards, but he also fumbled the ball in each game. Though a fumble vs. East Tennessee State was later overturned, Pruitt was never happy with Banks’ ball control, calling the freshman out multiple times. After a crucial fumble deep in Tennessee territory vs. Georgia, Banks started to slide down the depth chart. He began to lose the confidence of his coaching staff.

    “It’s like I told him, if you continue to do that, you’re killing yourself, killing your opportunity to develop as a player, because the coaching staff loses confidence in you. So you’ve got to take care of the football. First priority,” Pruitt told reporters after a 38-12 loss to Georgia in 2018.

    This spring, Pruitt has yet to shy away from those same beliefs. His message is simple: “Know when and when not to.”

    “He has to continue to work on ball security and work on protections in the throw game,” Pruitt stated on Tuesday. “He’s working hard to do that. He has been very conscientious to improve as a player. I’ve seen lots of improvements from him.”

    With new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney heading the offense, Banks’ bulldozing style and classic SEC build is just what Tennessee needs. With shifty starter in Ty Chandler, a returning power back in Tim Jordan, and a promising newcomer in Eric Gray, the Volunteers are hoping to mix speed with Banks’ bruising style.

    But can Banks continue to prove his worth? Chaney has worked endlessly this spring on protecting the ball on offense and making good choices.

    Banks took to Twitter to voice his determination of ball security before spring practices began. And he’s trying to keep that mantra throughout practices.

    If Banks can prove that his decision-making has improved, his build, tenacity, and overall competitiveness could make this offense more potent. With a veteran wide receiver corps, an improved junior quarterback, promising newcomers on the offensive line, and an experienced play-caller in Chaney, Tennessee’s offense looks to be much improved. Adding a back to the mix like Banks makes it much more well-rounded.