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Jeremy Pruitt assesses Vols’ 2020 season

Tennessee concluded its regular season on Saturday with a 34-13 loss to No. 5 Texas A&M.

The loss on senior day marked the seventh loss in eight games for the Vols after beginning the season 2-0. Tennessee lost five home games during that stretch by an average of 22 points per loss.

Finishing 3-7 in year three under Pruitt is a shocking development after the Vols won six straight to finish the 2019 season. Pruitt finished year two 8-5 and with quite a bit of optimism surrounding the program. Enough optimism to give him a contract extension just before his third season began. That optimism has now turned into doubt.

“We obviously went 3-7,” Pruitt responded when asked by reporters after the loss to Texas A&M how he would asses the 2020 season. “That’s not what we want to do.

“It’s hard to compare from one school to another school, the circumstances around this season. I know just talking to some of my peers, there are some weeks it’s been like a normal year and some weeks it hasn’t been. It’s one of the things I think says a lot about the players. We’ve just kind of stuck with it. Like a couple weeks ago, we had a lot of guys who hadn’t practiced in two weeks, but yet they want to play. Things that they didn’t have control over, they hung in there. With our team, we didn’t have many opt-outs. Our guys played hard all the way to the end.”

Pruitt’s players may have played hard through the end of the season, but that doesn’t help explain the regression. Over the course of the 10-game SEC schedule, Pruitt’s defense finished 64th nationally in total defense, and eighth in the conference. The offense was even worse, finishing 104th in total offense and 12th in the SEC.

“When you look at, it’s kind of like I’m talking to (the team in the locker room), you’re looking at what we need to do moving forward, you can kind of look at (Texas A&M),” Pruitt said. “If you look at what Texas A&M did, they were able to run the football. They converted third downs. I think they were 10-for-14 on third down. Created a few explosive plays in there. When we created explosive plays, we scored touchdowns. But as the game went, we didn’t get as many explosive plays and it was tougher for us to score.

“Just kind of looking at that team and kind of comparing what we have to do to get on their level — something we’re talking about with the players after the game.”

It’s unclear whether or not Tennessee’s 2020 season is officially in the books. There’s the possibility the Vols could still play in a bowl. That decision will likely come on Sunday. It’s the only decision Pruitt is hoping will be made.

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