Tennessee football: Anonymous coaches say Vols upgraded staff, need 5 years

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 08: Head coach Jeremy Pruitt of the Tennessee Volunteers brings his team onto the field prior to a game against the East Tennessee State University Buccaneers at Neyland Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennesee won the game 59-3. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images)
KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 08: Head coach Jeremy Pruitt of the Tennessee Volunteers brings his team onto the field prior to a game against the East Tennessee State University Buccaneers at Neyland Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tennesee won the game 59-3. (Photo by Donald Page/Getty Images) /
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Tennessee football’s new staff received praise from one anonymous unnamed coach. But another said the Volunteers need five years to return to prominence.

Newsflash: Tennessee football has been in major rebuilding mode for the past couple of years. That’s no surprise to anybody, and opposing coaches stated the obvious by pointing out as much. However, there are mixed feelings about the scope of the rebuilding project.

Anonymous coaches spoke with the Lindy’s Sports College Football Preview magazine for 2019 about the Vols and the state of the program. Comments ranged from very positive to, in some cases, a bit concerning.

One fiery comment was a glowing praise of Tennessee football replacing Tyson Helton with Jim Chaney as offensive coordinator. In fact, the coach who made this claim did not hide for one second how big the upgrade was.

"“Jeremy lucked out getting rid of Tyson Helton and hiring Jim Chaney. “I think he’s the best, most proven offensive coordinator in the league. I think Jim is outstanding. If Jeremy will leave him alone, Jim will be fine.”"

That’s certainly glowing praise for Chaney, but it’s also a bit of a shot at Helton. However, there’s no question that Chaney is more proven coaching in the SEC, and he even had more success than Helton did coaching the Vols specifically.

Other takes, though, were more pessimistic in the short term, even if the long term outlook was optimistic. One coach said the Vols will need five years to get their talent back to the level it needs to be at.

"“Tennessee needs a talent upgrade…. It’s going to take five years to get it done. I think Jeremy Pruitt will get it done because he’s a good enough coach and recruiter to get it done. But it will take that long. The reason is, there’s other people in the league already getting it done. And they have no margin for error because they play Alabama, Georgia and Florida every year.”"

The flaw in that take is Tennessee football fans will never give a coach five full years. So if it takes five years, Jeremy Pruitt is not going to get it done. Fair or not, that’s the nature of the sport when you look at rebuilding projects at other schools.

Another coach raised a major concern, which is how the Vols finished last year. It was hard to figure out how they could beat the Auburn Tigers on the road and dominate the Kentucky Wildcats but get blown out their final two games.

"“The question is, why did they finish so poorly last year? They played like crap down the stretch against Missouri and Vanderbilt. They’ve lost three in a row to Vanderbilt — that’s unacceptable.”"

This is indeed a baffling question for everybody who followed the Vols. However, an injury to Trey Smith raised issues on the offensive line, and the Missouri Tigers were a bad matchup for UT. By the time the Vanderbilt Commodores came along, the team was already hanging by a thread.

There was also a bit of Monday Morning Quarterbacking from a decade ago about the Vols. One coach claims a specific hire would have saved the program and talked about how they were in position to make that move.

"“Tennessee should have hired [Ed Orgeron] after Lane Kiffin left (after the 2009 season). He’d have done a helluva lot better than Derek Dooley or Butch Jones. If Ed had stayed at Tennessee, Tennessee would probably be the best program in the East right now.”"

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Such a quote is ridiculous on its face. The LSU Tigers are slowly dying under Ed Orgeron, and the Vols were on fire as a program in 2010 as much as the Ole Miss Rebels were in 2005. We know how well Orgeron handled that. He proved he can’t rebuild a program from the ground up, and there’s no way he could have one with a stick as short as Derek Dooley’s.

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To make matters worse, though, Orgeron was the one allegedly telling Tennessee football recruits not to show up for class after Lane Kiffin left for the USC Trojans so he could get them to follow Kiffin and co. to Southern California. That was in the midst of the UT coaching search. There’s no way the Vols would’ve made the hire given that fact.

People are really overvaluing Orgeron having two decent seasons with LSU the past two years. But he still hasn’t won anything. And to say he would have the Vols at a level above the Georgia Bulldogs under Kirby Smart and the Florida Gators under Dan Mullen is ridiculous. Mullen accomplished more with the Mississippi State Bulldogs than Orgeron has at LSU so far.

So that was by far the worst quote of any of the ones given. However, not all the takes were bad from these opposing coaches. Whether or not their takes are accurate on the Vols remains to be seen, and we’re not likely to know for sure on those things until 2020 or 2021.

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What’s clear with these quotes, though, is that opposing coaches are still not high on the Vols this year, but they’re high on the job Jeremy Pruitt is doing. It is true that Pruitt has a much bigger rebuilding job than other coaches at major programs have had. But expectations are for a major step to be taken this year. That’ll surpass projections of coaches giving these quotes.