How Did We Get From Extension to Hot Seat?

Seriously, in 3 weeks. How did people flip their Vol faith and fandom so quickly? 

I shouldn’t even say it about only to the fans. It is some local, regional, and national media changing their minds in that little amount of time about their outlook on Pruitt.  

Hang with me here. This isn’t an opinion piece. This is an observational piece based on responses from our boy Matt Mikell’s article. All statements or questions made, will be from a sincere sake of curiosity from both sides of the argument. 

There are 2 very distinct sides of the Jeremy Pruitt talk. And no, I’m not making fun of either side by using a sarcastic “First time caller, long time listener” backwoods county voice. Even though that is fun and could lighten the tension in this dense Tennessee fandom room. 

ANYWHO. These are the separated fan bases and some of their takeaways from comments read via social media.

  1. The “Pruitt still needs time.” fan base. Who gave these arguments below.
    • If he puts JG out there, he must be the right guy for the job. 
    • He is just a quarterback away. 
    • COVID caused a big mess up in the player development especially this only being his 3rd year. 
    • We won 8 games in a row. And 6 in a row in the SEC (longest since 2000)
  1. The “Pruitt just isn’t the guy. He isn’t coming close to closing the gap” fans. They give these arguments below. 
    • Pruitt has lost 12 of his first 30 games by  21+ points. 
    • He won’t bench JG! Any other QB is better! 
    • The Alabama and Georgia games continue to be blow outs on Pruitt lead teams. Even though we are recruiting at a high level, the on field talent isn’t close.  
    • We are paying all this money to the defensive minded coach, and his defenses keep regressing. 

You can 100% see good points on both sides of the table.

You can see where Pruitt has regressed in some areas, yet progressed in others. There are a few main areas where people focus on those points of progression/regression.

We will get to the QB convo in a minute.

First, let’s talk Total Offense and Total Defense

I’m only going to use 2019 and this half of this year. Let’s be honest Pruitt walked into a inferno of a dumpster fire in 2018, so throwing that out.

  • 2019 Total Offensive Yards per game: 365.5 (12th in the SEC)
  • 2020 Total Offensive Yards per game: 323.8 (12th in the SEC) 
  • 2019 Points Scored per game: 24.2 (11th in the SEC) 
  • 2020 Points Scored per game: 22.2 (12th in the SEC) 
  • 2019 Total Defensive yards allowed: 337.1 (7th in the SEC) 
  • 2020 Total Defensive yards allowed: 407.0 (8th in the SEC) 
  • 2019 Points allowed per game: 21.7 (8th in the SEC)
  • 2020 Points allowed per game: 33.3 (11th in the SEC) 

These 2020 numbers do only show 5 games worth of stats.

The 5 games they do show, are a good balance of the week in and week out of the SEC. The Vols have played the highest of SEC power in Georgia and Alabama. Tennessee also had Missouri, Kentucky, and South Carolina. Teams most feel this program should beat based off of recruiting and top to bottom talent.

One stat for you to refer back to the 21+ Points or more losses. 

2019: 3 losses by 21+ points in 13 total games.

2020(so far): 3 losses by 21+ points in 5 total games. 

Sure. These stats can all be skewed, based on timing of certain opponents and loss of certain players due to multiple circumstances. The 2020 Secondary has had out of positioned players almost every game. COVID protocols have severely limited practice time for multiple players. 

To even look after the “look what we lost” folks. Offensively, there is no more Jauan Jennings or Marquez Calloway. Defensively, there is no more Darrell Taylor. And those are just the most notable names. 

Let’s be honest, how well the Vols do against the powers of the SEC is what the fans really want to see.

Here is a quick snippet of that.

  • 2019 Loss vs. Georgia: 43-14 (Brian Maurer’s first start)
  • 2019 Loss vs. Alabama: 35 – 13 (Maurer started, but got concussed. This was the JG 4th and goal fumble game)
  • 2020 loss vs. Georgia: 44-21
  • 2020 Loss vs Alabama: 48-17

Speaking of Brian Maurer and quarterbacks…

Let’s get to the real reason Jeremy Pruitt might be on a warm seat. 

Jarrett Quarantano.

It is very hard not to see the flaws in JG’s season. It’s even harder to turn a blind eye to the fact he’s crumbling mentally every time he takes the field. 

There is panic you see from his body language when pressure is coming. 

  • That panic causes him to over think. Over-thinking leads to slow reaction.
  • Slow reaction leads to being a half a second slow stepping up in the pocket. 
  • Half a second slow stepping up leads to a pull back on the arm from an edge rusher, causing you to lose momentum, or worse a strip fumble. 
  • If you don’t get stripped, the momentum lost leads to rushing a throw you can’t get all your mustard on.
  • A mistimed and under thrown ball leads to trouble. 

That sequence right there…. Seems to happen all too often for Jarrett. 

Yet Pruitt continues to let him start. There has to be a trust from the team that the others QBs don’t have, right? 

The differentiation of names being called for to replace JG has really dwindled down to 2.

Maurer and Bailey.

Maurer, decently high ceiling. Maybe knees shaking and stomach turning on a ladder kind of high. Relatively low floor, mainly coming from the concussions and other injuries.

Bailey, higher ceiling. Think getting blobbed in the lake with Trey Smith being the one jumping off the dock, kind of high. The ceiling based all the other stud quarterbacks who have rolled in from that area of Georgia high school football and him seeming to break all their records. Scary low floor, being from lack of practice and you don’t want to ruin the guy if he fails early. 

A bye week and then a winnable game vs Arkansas will tell us more on what Pruitt’s fate holds. Last year, Pruitt’s team made monster strides rolling off a 6 game win streak in the last half the season. Maybe there is a 2nd lighting strike in that win streak bottle?

Plus, the financial side of letting Jeremy go is tough. Pruitt’s buyout is around $10 Million right now I believe. Tennessee is finally done paying Butch in February of 2021. Do you really want this buyout train to keep rolling?

Last Thing.

We are talking about a coach who was a former assistant Under Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher. He played under 2 Hall of Famers, Boots Donnelly and Gene Stallings. The guy knows football. 

Is it he or we who are missing something? 

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