Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt has said a lot of things about the Volunteers program he inherited. None make Butch Jones look good.
He never calls Butch Jones out by name. But there is no way you can look at the things Jeremy Pruitt has said about the state of Tennessee football when he took over the program and avoid the fact that he is slamming the former UT head coach.
Who else could be at fault for the way things happened? This was abundantly clear on Tuesday when Pruitt took blame for some of the issues that happened in 2018. He specifically mentioned that he forgot to focus on player relationships.
However, in a side interview Tuesday that you can read about here on GoVols247, his reasoning goes back to how bad of shape the program was in. And when you look at the quote he gave, it’s clear that he’s blaming Jones.
"“The first six months I’m at the University of Tennessee and Knoxville, I’m trying to fix everything. We want to get the weight room right. We want to get the practice fields right. We want to get nutrition right. It’s everything that goes into building the program for the next 10 to 20 years.”"
Yes, he used the quote “fix everything.” That implies that everything was broken. Some coaches may say they need a year to build a program because players need to develop in their system. However, Pruitt is very clear. Tennessee football wasn’t getting anything right.
This isn’t the first time Pruitt’s quotes have implied dramatic failure on Jones’s part either. He has consistently talked about having to improve the conditioning of the players and teaching them how to practice the right way. In the middle of the Alabama Crimson Tide game last year, he questioned the competitive culture of the majority of the team.
Again, these are all major indictments of Jones. Without naming him, Pruitt is basically saying Jones didn’t condition his players right, he didn’t coach them on practicing right, and he didn’t instill a winning mindset. How else could you interpret that?
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By the way, Jones is not deserving of defense. But this is all extremely harsh considering the fact that Jones is the only coach since Phillip Fulmer to lead the Vols to a top 25 finish, and he did it in back to back years, and he secured two top 5 recruiting classes that still had leftover players for Pruitt to work with his first year on Rocky Top.
Sure, all coaches talk about rebuilding a program. But the implications aren’t the same. Although Derek Dooley talked about inheriting a mess, you could attribute that to the level of attrition with Fulmer and then Lane Kiffin leaving after one year. Jones, meanwhile, could talk about changing his system and the youth that he just happened to walk into.
Meanwhile, Pruitt talks specifically about a culture issue that permeated through the program. You can’t listen to his quotes and not take them as a direct shot at how Jones ran Tennessee football. After all, Jones was there for five years. Maybe it’s valid, maybe it isn’t.
Injuries were indeed so common that conditioning clearly had to be an issue, and Jones’s last year did see the Vols stumble to 4-8, their worst season in school history. Also, his stubborn dedication to his offensive schemes seemed to do him in. But Pruitt is making this all clear. So either he’s trying to oversell the mess he inherited, or Jones really did wreck the program.