Tennessee heads into the fall with plenty of hope and even more reasons for concern.
Hope for the Vols comes from a new coach and an impressive coaching staff. First-year head coach Jeremy Pruitt comes highly regarded as a defensive coordinator and a strong recruiter. The concern is readily-apparent. The Vols were 4-8 last season for a reason.
No. 1 reason for optimism: A new attitude and philosophy
There’s no debate that the Vols had become dysfunctional under former coach Butch Jones. While no one knows what Pruitt will accomplish at Tennessee, he seems like a no-nonsense, hard-working coach who will rely more on teaching fundamentals than trite cliches. That’s a huge difference in philosophies.
Along with that new attitude comes a new philosophy on the field.
The Vols don’t have an elite roster, but they will surely benefit on defense from Pruitt’s approach to defensive schemes. He’s known for providing his players with a simpler game plan than many coaches. That should make the transition much easier for the Vols in a new system.
Team chemistry should be improved under Pruitt’s different approach. There have been several stories that have surfaced outlining the dysfunction the Vols had under Jones. Pruitt has been given the power to root that out.
No.1 reason for concern: The roster
Tennessee’s previous staff didn’t recruit nearly as well as their ratings indicated. Under Jones, the Vols secured respectable classes nationally, but they were only in the middle of the pack in the SEC. Many also believe the previous staff promoted their players on recruiting websites which inflated the actual ability of their players.
The talent deficiency is just one issue the Vols will face.
Tennessee’s roster was built for a far different approach than what Pruitt wants. He wants to be big and physical on offense. Jones recruited smaller players, especially on the offensive line. Pruitt also needs bigger players in the front seven on defense to fit his 3-4 style. The Vols ran a 4-3 or 4-2-5 under Jones.
If there’s any saving grace for UT’s roster, it’s likely Pruitt’s ability to better place players in their best correct position. The Vols will also have several incoming freshmen and graduate transfers that could help close the talent gap with elite teams in the SEC.
(You can follow Dave Hooker on Twitter @TheDaveHooker)
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