This column is written by RTI contributor Murphy Carlton
Well, these first two weeks did not go as envisioned for Tennessee’s football team. After two disappointing losses to start the 2019 season, the Vols have a chance in their upcoming game against Tennessee-Chattanooga to make some personnel changes that I feel need to happen.
The Vols find themselves in the midst of a program rebuild that looks like it will take longer than fans were hoping. With a new crop of young, highly-talented players brought in by Jeremy Pruitt and his staff littering the roster this season, it’s time to let the kids loose and start developing the young core of the future.
We’ve seen freshmen like linebacker Henry To’oto’o and running back Eric Gray play a lot through the first two weeks of the 2019 season, and both have made immediate impacts. Other young players have seen the field as well, but I believe it’s time for Pruitt and his staff to play “their” players over the ones they inherited.
It seems clear that some players left over from the previous coaching staff have lost their “want to” and are not playing as hard as they should be.
Players who have been around the program for three or four years should be expected to buy in to what the coaches are preaching and set the tone for the younger players. That way, the younger Vols know what is expected of them coming in and moving forward.
That doesn’t seem to be the case with some of the older players, however.
The coaches have talked about creating competition at certain positions, and they state that competition throughout the team is beneficial. However, it seems that some players are continuing to be see significant playing time when they haven’t shown any reason to continue to receive the amount of snaps they have.
Bear with me here; I’m not saying Pruitt and his staff need to bench all of the upperclassmen and start all the freshmen and second-year players on the roster. What I am saying, though, is that younger players need to get a chance to play to see what they bring to the table.
Let’s see the other two quarterbacks behind Jarrett Guarantano. Let’s see Trevon Flowers and Theo Jackson at the two safety positions. Play Quavaris Crouch and Roman Harrison more at outside linebacker. What are you going to lose? Tennessee has already lost two games that were thought of as victories.
At this point, Tennessee has nothing to lose.
In my opinion, it’s time for this change to happen now. Let’s be honest: This season is going to be rough the rest of the way. It doesn’t get any easier moving forward. Why not go ahead and start giving the younger players experience to see how they play and respond to adversity? Because it’s pretty clear to me that some of the upperclassmen just flat out don’t care anymore or don’t want to give the necessary effort.
I highly doubt this move will actually happen because the players that have started and played a lot are playing because the coaches feel they give Tennessee the best chance to win. But at what point do the coaches have to look at the bigger picture here and start giving more playing time to the players that actually want to be on the field?
I don’t know the answer to that, but I hope it’s sooner rather than later.
If the Vols are able to put some points on the board early and get out in front of UT-Chattanooga next weekend, then we could possibly see some of the younger guys play earlier in that game. But after what we saw from Guarantano and the Tennessee offense against BYU, I’m just not sure that’s going to happen. And I can’t believe I feel that way, but here we are.