Rocky Toppled

The Tennessee Volunteers are 0-2 for the first time since 1988.

The Georgia State Panthers defeated the Tennessee Volunteers 38-30 two weekends ago.  The Panthers’ victory didn’t happen because of gimmicks or trickery.  Football is, after all, a simple game. The Panthers won the line of scrimmage over the course of 60 minutes.  The Panthers, a Sun Belt team that struggled to finish 2-10 in 2018, rushed for 213 yards on 53 carries. The Vols, meanwhile, rushed for just 93 yards on 31 carries.

This past week, Tennessee fell in overtime to BYU despite committing fewer penalties, gaining more offensive yards, winning the line of scrimmage and possessing the ball for most of the game. It was a crushing loss in a game that Tennessee certainly believed they’d win, and certainly should have won.

That’s how we arrived at this point.

What we don’t know is, what happens to Jeremy Pruitt and the Volunteers going forward?

Pruitt, besides being hopelessly unaware of what asparagus was in 2006, is only in his second season at Tennessee. He was hired to lead the program, despite having never been a head coach at any level. The Vols are 5-9 during his tenure and his critics are becoming increasingly vocal. Those that believe in Pruitt would trumpet his successes as a coordinator under coaches like Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher.  Furthermore, to Pruitt’s credit, the Vols have recruited well.

In a world that demands instant gratification, will Pruitt be able to sort through the potential missteps that come with learning how to be a head coach in the Southeastern Conference?

My initial inclination was that Pruitt would be given at least another few seasons to get things right on Rocky Top. That opinion, however, is subject to change. The Vols’ losses this season are borderline inexcusable and a treacherous schedule awaits. After this weekend’s matchup with UTChattanooga, the Vols will face the Florida GatorsGeorgia BulldogsMississippi State BulldogsAlabama Crimson Tide and South Carolina Gamecocks consecutively. In a worst-case scenario, Tennessee might be 1-7 before November.

While things seem bleak, Pruitt is fortunate that Tennessee is still paying Butch Jones’ buyout. I’m not entirely sure that Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer can rally boosters to provide the funds necessary to continue to pay multiple buyouts and bring in a new staff. Furthermore, is Tennessee really in a position to lure in a more coveted candidate than Pruitt right now? The job is certainly not what it used to be and, further destabilizing the program might do more harm than good.

There are more questions than answers for Pruitt and the Tennessee program right now. It would seem that the lyrics of Tennessee’s famous fight song “Rocky Top” are true… All I know is it’s a pity life, Can’t be simple again.

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