RTI contributor Murphy Carlton is the author of this article
When Tennessee played No. 3 Georgia on Saturday, the Vols showed a lot of fight against the Bulldogs, especially early on. But UT wasn’t just fighting on the field, apparently.
Late in the game, there was a scuffle on Tennessee’s sideline with some offensive players. There wasn’t a major incident, and according to David Ubben of The Athletic, that conflict didn’t spill over into the locker room and was handled pretty cleanly.
Head coach Jeremy Pruitt didn’t see the incident when it happened, but he was told about it afterwards.
When Pruitt was told of the skirmish on Tennessee’s sidelines, the Vols’ second-year head coach had a bit of a different reaction than what you might have expected.
It remains unclear who exactly was involved in the dust up, but offensive line coach Will Friend was among the rumored parties to have taken part in the fight. Pruitt was asked about the situation on Monday during his weekly press conference, and he made it clear that Friend was not involved. He also added that he was glad to hear about what had transpired.
“I don’t think it was Will Friend,” Pruitt explained. “I think it was some of our players. I didn’t see it either, so I got told about it, and I was fired up.
“I’m glad we have some passion around here where people want to do things the right way. We need a few more of them if you ask me.”
Tennessee had played very well in the first half, and they even led the Bulldogs in the second quarter. A lack of talent and depth seemed to be the Vols’ downfall, though, as they were unable to keep pace with the No. 3 team in the country and eventually fell 43-14.
While it’s unknown who exactly was involved or what the skirmish was about, it doesn’t appear to be anything that Pruitt needed to handle. It more than likely had to do with a player or group of players trying to hold another player or group of players accountable for not playing hard, missing an assignment, not giving enough effort, etc.
It’s always a good thing to have players on a team that buy in to what the coaches are preaching and also hold other players accountable for not doing things the way they should be done. That will be a huge factor in getting Tennessee back to where it ultimately wants to be as a football program.
The passion and effort level of the players was a big criticism of the Vols early on in 2019, especially after the unforgettable loss to Georgia State in Week 1. But the effort hasn’t necessarily been an issue since that game, and Saturday was more proof of that.
Pruitt, his staff, and Vol fans hope that the Tennessee team they saw in the first half against Georgia is going to be the team that shows up every week moving forward. Every game remaining on Tennessee’s schedule — outside of the Vols’ match-up with Alabama — is a winnable game if the Vols show up like they did against Georgia.
The next opportunity to show that comes this next weekend when the Vols host another SEC opponent in Knoxville.
Tennessee will take on Mississippi State this upcoming weekend in Neyland Stadium at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.