Tennessee’s football team has spent a lot of time at home over the last six months. After missing out on a bowl game for a second-straight season, Vol players had little reason to hang around campus or stay with the team in December and early January. Players also got a break midway through spring practices with UT’s spring break in March.
Now, the spring semester is over, but players are encouraged to hang around for the May miniterm before the June and July summer semesters begin. While it’s voluntary to stay on campus and workout with teammates, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt doesn’t see a reason why his players should want to head home after spending so much time there recently.
In an interview on The Swain Event morning radio show on Tuesday, Pruitt was asked if he and his coaching staff have made it mandatory for UT’s players to stay in Knoxville and not go home during miniterm. Pruitt implied that he’s pleased with the number of players who have elected not to go home in May, and he believes Tennessee has “had enough breaks” lately.
“We have, I think the number is 55, but we have 55 guys who are here for miniterm,” Pruitt told former Vol and current radio host Jayson Swain. “We’ve also got several guys who are here doing rehab. I think our guys are excited about getting going this summer. Me personally, when you look at it, I don’t know why you’d want to go home. Nothing against going home, but heck, we went home during the bowl season. We went home during spring break.
“We’ve had enough breaks. We need to go to work.”
After the 2018 season came to a disastrous halt thanks to a blowout loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville, the Vols finished the season 5-7 and missed out on the postseason for the second consecutive year. For Pruitt, it marked the first time in his collegiate coaching career that his team didn’t make a bowl game. Alabama made it every year he was an assistant or defensive coordinator there — winning several national titles in the process — and both Florida State and Georgia made postseason appearances while he was their defensive coordinator as well, with the Seminoles winning a national title in 2013 when he called their defensive plays.
For Pruitt, the failures of last season in his first year as head coach were completely new. He wasn’t used to spending so much time at home in December. So it’s no wonder he thinks Tennessee has had enough time off over the last half year.
While the Vols can’t do any official practices as a team during the miniterm, it still serves as a crucial time for players to bond, work out, and develop leadership skills before seven-on-seven work and more intensive workout sessions in the summer.
It may not be mandatory, but most of Tennessee’s team is following their head coach’s lead and sticking around Knoxville this month rather than returning home. After going 5-7 and 2-6 in SEC play last season, Pruitt hopes and expects his players to be hungry enough and motivated enough to get to work and improve. And it looks like the team is doing just that.
You can hear Pruitt’s full interview on The Swain Event here.