Don’t forget just how bad Tennessee football’s conditioning was the year before Jeremy Pruitt took over. Butch Jones tried to use it as an excuse for his unprecedented collapse on Rocky Top in 2017, ignoring that the issues were partially his fault.
More from All for Tennessee
- How to Win a GUARANTEED $200 Bonus Betting Just $5 on the Vols vs. Florida!
- Tennessee Football at Florida: Five Keys to a Vols Victory
- Week 3 SEC Power Rankings: Did Tennessee Football’s Win Help At All?
- Week 3 AP Polls: Why Did Tennessee Football Drop in the Polls?
- Tennessee Football: Top Five Performers in 30-13 Win vs. Austin Peay
Remember, in 2016, the Vols were 5-0 and in the top 10 after beating the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs. However, serious injuries, particularly in the secondary and on the offensive line, wrecked their season, as they proceeded to lose three straight and finish with a 9-4 record. A year later, the team got wrecked with injuries again, and again it was a huge issue on the offensive line.
This all stemmed back to the 2016 offseason. Strength coach Dave Lawson left the program, and Jones didn’t hire a strength coach but just had Mike Szerszen run things without the title. After that failure, he brought in Rock Gullickson, and that only made things worse.
The medical staff was just as bad. Remember, there were reports of Jalen Hurd’s concussion being denied, and then in 2017, Brett Kendrick allegedly played with a concussion. It was a disaster all around and had as much to do with Jones’ down fall as anything.
Well, Pruitt came in and brought in Craig Fitzgerald, who was there for two years. He also made changes to the Vols’ medical staff. The result was a dramatic drop in injuries those two years. A.J. Artis replaced Fitzgerald in 2020, and there were still no serious injury issues when you take into account how the season went and what happened to other teams.
Simply put, Tennessee football is much healthier now thanks to what Pruitt did. That alone is worthy of touting. He may not have been the best head coach, but he changed a few things that needed to be changed, and conditioning was at the top of that list.