1. Emphasis on conditioning
This is an odd one, but it’s something Jeremy Pruitt clearly could not ignore. Conditioning was obviously a major factor in Tennessee football’s struggles last year, and it’s clearly a big reason for Pruitt’s increased confidence.
The one fact that Pruitt kept going back to is weight. He noted that last year, the Vols had two guys hit the 300-pound mark, and now they have 15. That size increase was a big reason for his praise of Craig Fitzgerald.
Increasing the size of the team was a combination of Fitzgerald and recruiting. But Pruitt is right. He said that size doesn’t make somebody a good football player, but it is a necessary component when you are in the SEC.
"“It’s hard to play in this league when you weigh 265 pounds.”"
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By the way, Pruitt said that in multiple answers to questions, and he then said it in his interview with SEC now. So his focus on the conditioning was a big deal and one reason we put it so high on this list.
Another reason is it helps explain the historically bad offensive line woes last year. Pruitt, without saying it, is clearly noting the conditioning as a reason for the offensive line struggling. That combined with injuries made things a disaster. In fact, Pruitt said the offensive line specifically was too small last year.
Now, though, he said that better conditioning hasn’t just improved their health and size but also their practicing. That seems weird, but remember that Pruitt kept talking about having to teach players how to practice last year. His tone was different on Tuesday.
"“We finally this spring had enough big men to go practice the way you’re supposed to practice.”"
Such a quote is very revealing and proves Pruitt’s increased confidence in his players, particularly on the line of scrimmage. Sure, there’s concern about experience, especially with the defensive line losing everybody anyway. But this makes things easier.
When Jeremy Pruitt took over Tennessee football, he was dealing with a program that had suffered a rash of injuries. That made it crucial for him to improve conditioning before anything else. He clearly knew that, and the positive emphasis on it entering his second year should be a positive sign for Vols fans everywhere.