With Jordan Murphy and Terrell Bailey leaving Tennessee football, it’s time to question Jeremy Pruitt’s credibility when he speaks on Volunteers players.
When Tennessee football lost to the Georgia State Panthers on Saturday, then-Vols receiver Jordan Murphy, who wasn’t on the field that day, raised eyebrows by sharing a tweet making fun of the Vols for paying them $950,000 to lose. You can see the screenshot of that tweet here.
Two days later, Jeremy Pruitt said that Murphy was battling an unspecified illness and was expected back at practice this week. Then, on Wednesday, he confirmed at an SEC teleconference that Murphy had left the program along with Terrell Bailey.
On the surface, the loss of either doesn’t seem like a big deal. Yes, Murphy was an athletic receiver who was once a four-star recruit. But he was buried in the depth chart with all of Tennessee football’s elite receivers. And Bailey almost never would have seen the field as a defensive back.
However, what’s disturbing is the inconsistencies. Murphy trashes the program on Saturday, Pruitt says on Monday he’ll be back this week, but he leaves the program on Wednesday. Does that not strike anybody as odd?
It would be one thing if this was the first time something of that nature happened, but it’s not. Instead, we’re seeing a trend with Pruitt. Remember the Quart’e Sapp drama last year after the Vols’ loss to the Florida Gators?
Pruitt said that he told Sapp to leave the game after Sapp refused to go in. But the next day, Sapp tweeted that the story was not what had been portrayed to the public. Days later, Pruitt announced that the issue was resolved and gave no explanation about the discrepancies to their story. We wrote then that Pruitt looked bad in that situation.
Well, when the season ended, Sapp surprised everybody by leaving early for the pros. At the time, we thought it may be due to lack of playing time. But looking back, he had to know about the injuries affecting Darrin Kirkland Jr. that forced him to retire, and he had to know that the other starting inside linebacker spot alongside Daniel Bituli would be wide open this year as a result.
Taking that into account, why would he bolt before his eligibility was up to enter a draft that he knew he would not be selected in? It just doesn’t make sense, and the fact that it came on the heels of a season in which this discrepancy between him and Pruitt happened should have raised everybody’s eyebrows.
When you take that and combine it with the Murphy situation, there is clearly a difference between what Pruitt tells the public and what is actually happening with his players. And his credibility is falling apart as a result.
Remember in 2017 when we all wrecked Butch Jones for the blatantly dishonest stories he told the public? There was the Jalen Hurd situation in 2016, when Jones said he was out due to an injury but Hurd left the program mid-season.
Then there was the lecture Jones gave the media after he denied that rumors that Shy Tuttle was injured in a dispute with another teammate, saying instead that Tuttle fell on a helmet, which nobody believes. We also have the stories of Hurd and later Brett Kendrick that suggests Jones and the staff tried to get players to play with concussions.
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In the end, it all became too much and a big reason Jones was seen as a snake and a liar by the time he was fired. Well, if we’re going to slam him for that, it’s time we slam Pruitt for having the same issues early on.
Pruitt has annoyingly hid details from the public, and it hasn’t helped him at all. Does anybody really believe that he didn’t know Trey Smith would be good to go before it was announced? What about the continual updates on Daniel Bituli that don’t make it clear whether or not he’ll play? And there is the depth chart issue, where he only pencils in 10 of 22 starters for two straight weeks.
Those seem like little things when looking at the overall picture, but they start to add up and seem like major issues when Tennessee football is losing players mid-season. It was considered not normal when it happened to Jones. Now it’s happening to Pruitt.
I’ve consistently said that Pruitt deserves more time and even defended him after Saturday’s loss, noting many great coaches have those things happen early on. But one disturbing trend is how things he says about his players publicly are contradicted by what actually happens. And if you want to say he’s just playing things close to the vest, well, it clearly hasn’t worked so far.