Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt wants to win now with his new system. The Volunteers’ secondary complicates that a bit.
Jeremy Pruitt’s focus shows he’s clear about winning now with Tennessee football. And by winning now we mean this year. That’s why he went after a graduate transfer senior to compete for the quarterback job in Keller Chryst.
It’s also why he went after two other graduate transfers in running back Madre London and kicker Ryan Tice, and it’s why he’s pursuing graduate transfer Brandon Kennedy. Oh, and it explains his focus on elite junior college talent for next year combined with the guys he brought in this year in four-stars Jordan Allen, Emmit Gooden and Dominick Wood-Anderson.
But as he installs new systems on both sides of the ball, how does he balance winning now with throwing what he can at the players? That’s all going to clash when it comes to the cornerbacks.
Pruitt has been very specific in what he wants in his cornerbacks. He expects them to be able to play jam coverage at the line and to recover with the elite receivers. That’s been a theme of his for a while.
Single coverage is to be expected in his 3-4 scheme, and he will not back down on his expectations for his cornerbacks. Here’s the problem. As good as some of these guys can be, they are all career backups to this point for the most part. And they’re familiar with an entirely different system in what Bob Shoop ran.
As a result, this may be a good long-term plan for Tennessee football. No reason to believe Baylen Buchanan, Marquill Osborne, and Shawn Shamburger can’t play that way. But for now, it’s going to be disastrous.
Look, I’ve seen enough history of the 3-4 defense. Defensive backs struggle heavily their first year in the system. But Pruitt is clearly expecting them to fully live up to that and not backing off of his expectations. Overall, that’s a good thing.
Any great coach will install his system, not back off of his standard for the players and expect to win immediately without making excuses. The same should be true with the Tennessee football program and the coach leading it.
But the fact of the matter is Pruitt is not going to be able to win now and not give some leeway to these defensive backs. History shows they’re going to struggle, and they struggled in the spring. So this is going to be a serious balancing act going forward for Pruitt and Kevin Sherrer.