Opinion: The Writing Is On The Wall For Pruitt’s Time At Tennessee

It’s been a few days since Jeremy Pruitt and the Vols lost to Arkansas. I have contemplated writing this today, but I felt like it this piece had to be written.

That performance we all saw Saturday night was disgraceful. In fact, it was just inexcusable.

Even the Jeremy Pruitt supporters would have to agree that night was an embarrassment.

Tennessee allowed Arkansas to go on a 24-0 run in the second half to defeat the Vols 24-13. The Vols allowed over 400 yards of offense while Feleipe Franks went 18-24 for 215 yards and 3 touchdowns.

I said three weeks ago that Pruitt was coaching like a poor man’s Butch Jones. I wasn’t wrong then, and I’m not wrong now. It’s time for the Vols to move on from Pruitt.

The team has regressed in all aspects.

Quarterback play has gotten worse, we can’t defend the slant route, and we continue to miss tackles. The play-calling Saturday night was awful in the 2nd half. Pruitt puts in Brian Maurer after Jarrett Guarantano came out with a head injury, and what happens? Nothing but run calls. Now, maybe Maurer is just as bad as JG, but you can’t win in the SEC running the ball 50 times. The Vols had five straight three and outs in the 2nd half while Arkansas was on their way to a 24-point third quarter.

Even when they finally decided to put in Harrison Bailey, Pruitt continued to call run plays. I don’t believe Jim Chaney has full control of the offense, which is mind-boggling.

What makes the game more frustrating was that Pruitt decided to call a pass play on 4th-and-4 with five minutes left on Arkansas’ 25. We are down by 11 points with five minutes left, we have a kicker who nailed a 50 and 48-yard field goal earlier, and we go for it?

What the hell is this play-calling? Even Butch would have kicked the field goal. Pruitt’s excuse was that we were not close enough to kick the field goal. From Arkansas’ 25, it would have been a 42-yard field goal. A field goal that Brent Cimaglia would have made and would have cut the lead to just eight. Unacceptable.

Despite only playing in the last seven minutes in the 4th quarter, Bailey led the team with 69 passing yards. Bailey took what the defense gave him, but 69 yards from your leading passer is embarrassing. In year three, we should consistently beat the lower tier teams in the conference like Arkansas and Kentucky. In year three, we should be competing against Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.

In Pruitt’s year three, we allow Arkansas to go on a 24-0 run in the 2nd half and beat us by double digits. This is the same Arkansas team that went winless in 2018 and 2019 in SEC play. This football team is far more talented than Arkansas. We shouldn’t be losing to Arkansas in Year three. Tennessee should be beating Arkansas by 2-3 TDs.

In year three, Pruitt is getting outcoached by a brand new head coach in Sam Pittman. At least under Jones in year three, we were a point away from beating Florida, defeated Georgia, and lost five to Alabama. At least under Jones, you did not see a team quit just like that. At least Jones’ team in year three made you proud to be a Vol.

Tennessee is now the same level as Vanderbilt. It hurts to say that, but it is true. When we hired Pruitt, we all thought he was a defensive mastermind that would bring our defense back to a high level.

In year three, this is where Tennessee ranks among defensive categories::

  • Red Zone Defense: 82nd
  • Rushing Defense: 61st
  • 3rd Down Conversion Defense: 102nd
  • Scoring Defense: 76th
  • Fewest Penalties: 73rd
  • Passing Yards Allowed: 78th
  • Team Sacks: 53rd
  • Teams Tackles for Loss: 51st
  • Total Defense: 62nd

This defense is below average at best and is only getting worse. Here is another stat that I thought was quite terrifying: in our last three games, Tennessee has been outscored in the 2nd half 88-7. 88-7, in year three.

Tennessee now has four games left in the season. Three of our last four games are against ranked opponents (Texas A&M, Auburn, Florida). T best case scenario is that this team may win three games.

Quite honestly, I’m not sure the Vols beat Vanderbilt with this level of play. Pruitt is not making any progress, and it’s starting to feel like the Tennessee program is in a worse situation than 2017.

I know Phillip Fulmer gave Pruitt an extension and has a large buyout, but you have to save the program at this point.

Because if the Vols have too many more seasons like this, you have to say goodbye to this once great football program.