Tennessee football: Jeremy Pruitt quote shows he’s way behind the times

Nov 30, 2019; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Jeremy Pruitt during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 30, 2019; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Jeremy Pruitt during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tennessee football Volunteers head coach made a ridiculous statement on Vol calls.

On Wednesday, Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt made his usual media rounds. Of course, he remained vague on the quarterback situation, but he confirmed that place kicker Toby Wilson would travel and that he hadn’t yet talked with Austin Pope, who recently said he’d recovered from his injury, specifically about future plans.

That morning on the SEC teleconference. Pruitt first talked about seniors still having a year of eligibility. Then, after practice, he talked about preparing for the Vanderbilt Commodores and getting ready for the early signing period next week in another press conference, which you can read here on GoVols247.

Later that night, he was on Vol Calls. That’s when he made a quote that should blow everybody’s mind. According to Patrick Brown of GoVols247, Pruitt, when asked about the key to being good in the middle eight minutes of a game, said it was best to run out the clock if you have the ball at the end of the first half with four minutes to go. Here’s his exact quote.

"If you’re going to get the ball to start the second half, it’s my opinion that if you’ve got the ball in the last four minutes of the first half, the No. 1 goal should be to run the clock out, right? I mean, everybody thinks, ‘Let’s go score.’ Obviously, you want to score, for sure, right? But to me, it’s important to make sure as you’re doing it that you do eat up the clock where you don’t give those guys an opportunity to have a chance to score."

If you ever needed anymore proof that Tennessee football was approaching things like it’s the 1980s, here it is. Even before Nick Saban had to evolve to keep up with the wide open and up-tempo offenses, this was not the case. Nobody in the college football world thinks this anymore.

Pruitt’s example was Tennessee football being forced to punt with two and a half minutes left in the first half last Saturday against the Florida Gators and then Florida going down the field to score. He noted that one more first down would have limited their ability to have time to score. Well, at issue there is not running the clock but actually moving the ball.

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This is wrong on so many accounts. For starters, it’s hard to run out the clock with four minutes to go, regardless of whether or not you get the ball to start the second half. We should note, by the way, the Pruitt played for halftime against the Florida Gators even though Tennessee football was not about to get the ball to start the second half.

Anyway, if you are facing a team that runs an up-tempo offense, as most do now, then four minutes likely isn’t enough time to run down the clock significantly enough to keep them from scoring anyway. You would actually have to move the ball and get a few first downs.

Beyond that, though, it shows a complete lack of faith in your defense. Why, with four minutes left, would you focus on running down the clock instead of scoring? Don’t you trust your defense to get a stop if you can’t move the ball? The issue wasn’t Florida having time last Saturday. It was the defense not stopping them.

Most importantly, though, it shows that Pruitt doesn’t value the number of offensive possessions in a game. If you have the ball and four minutes to go, you try to score, pure and simple. That should be your only focus.

Now, if you get backed up after first down and you’re deep in your own territory, or if you’re deep in your own territory with 30 seconds to go, we could have a different conversation. The idea, though, that you should be thinking about the clock when you have the ball with four minutes to go is ridiculous.

Everything about that quote is a defeatist mentality. The main object of the game should be to score, no matter what. If you can score while running more time off the clock to keep the other team from moving the ball, then great. But the clock shouldn’t come at the expense of scoring.

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Let’s face it. Tennessee football is behind the times. Pruitt has the mindset of a pure defensive coordinator on a team with a ball-control offense. His mentor, Nick Saban, may have once thought this way but has since adapted. If Pruitt doesn’t move on from this way of thinkings, the Vols are in trouble.