RTI contributor Murphy Carlton is the author of this article
Last year was a disappointing season for the Vols under Jeremy Pruitt in his first year as head coach. Tennessee failed to make a bowl game for the second straight year, though they improved slightly upon a dismal 2017 season. Although there were some bright spots and exciting moments, a season is judged based on how many wins you achieve, and a 5-7 record was not ideal.
Pruitt appeared on The Swain Event morning radio show this past week, and he was asked if he or the team is using last season as motivation for this offseason. He implied that he and his players have put 2018 in the past, and they don’t plan on letting it influence how they prepare for the new season.
“I think last season will have absolutely no determination on what happens this year,” Pruitt told former Vol and current radio host Jayson Swain. “So, you know, I think we have to focus on where our feet are at right now. Continue to improve and get better every single day. On the field, off the field, in the weight room, in the classroom. So that’s what we need to focus on.”
Pruitt is not used to having a losing season to look back on when heading into a new season. Every other stop for Pruitt as a college coach has seen his team make the postseason, so looking back on a year in which that did not happen is completely new territory for him.
Unfortunately, Tennessee missed out on playing in a bowl game for the second straight year, so most of these players and the fans are familiar with wanting to rebound from a disappointing season. For fans, it marks the fifth time in the last eight seasons that they’ve experienced UT missing out on bowl season.
Pruitt’s approach to this offseason is simple: Younger players have gained a bunch of experience playing against some of the best teams in college football, and highly touted high school players are recognizing what is happening at Tennessee and deciding to be a part of it. Looking back on lack luster seasons doesn’t help you move on.
This team and its coaches are choosing to look ahead towards what the future holds. An optimistic schedule that looks to have some winnable games, new experienced coaches to help further the development of the players, and a team full of players capable of making plays on both sides of the ball give reason for hope that 2019 can be much better than last season.
There’s a benefit to learning from past mistakes, but there’s a downside to looking too much behind and not enough on the future. Dwelling on the past will only lead this team to look at the things they did poorly rather than making the effort to focus on the here and now and get better every day.
This team’s focus is on the present and making sure that they go out and make improvements every single day. Last year is over and done with, and to Pruitt and his players, it doesn’t matter anymore.
All that matters is focusing on getting better.