Lang’s World: Tennessee is in a bad place, but it’s not time to panic. Yet.

On Saturday morning, I had the rare luxury of having a few hours to myself. My wife was otherwise occupied, and with my son having an early afternoon soccer kickoff, I had the opportunity to do what I wanted, for a change. Shouts to Lil Uzi Vert.

So I hopped in the car and hit the Farmer’s Market to visit my plug, and after securing the meats, I was ready to get some coffee and breakfast. Now, you should know that I eat oatmeal for breakfast five days a week. I don’t particularly like oatmeal, certainly not enough to make it the most consistently eaten food in my diet, but oatmeal is good for you (allegedly), so every weekday morning, I sit down at my desk and slurp down a cup of gruel. For the greater good, you know?

On the weekends, however, I allow myself some leeway. On this morning, there were a few food trucks at the Farmer’s Market serving a variety of breakfast options, but a $9 breakfast burrito is too rich for even my blood, so I decided to go elsewhere. I hopped in my car and pulled into a nearby Starbucks for a dose of cold brew. I contemplated getting some sort of a warm breakfast sandwich, but there was a long line, and I thought it best to just keep it moving. Hopped back in my car and stopped at a nearby market that puts out a variety of biscuits every morning, and found them completely out of biscuits.

I was striking out left and right, so I turned to my last resort: Me. I went home and put a couple of slices of bread in the toaster, then slathered them with really good dijon mustard. I fried an egg in a pool of olive oil until the edges were brown and crisp, then sprinkled it with kosher salt and a few cranks of black pepper. I found some cheese in the back of the fridge and laid it atop the egg, then threw a few slices of Black Forest ham into the skillet to warm them through, then assembled a breakfast sandwich that was, actually, awesome. It was not my first choice, but considering how everything worked out, I’m not sure I could have done any better. 

Which brings us to Jeremy Pruitt. Two years ago, the University of Tennessee hired Pruitt to be their head ball coach. Pruitt first entered our lives on MTV’s “Two A Days,” which is also where he encountered asparagus for the first time in his life.

 

 

Since then, Pruitt has shaved his head and apparently eaten many foods that aren’t asparagus. From Hoover High, Pruitt moved on to the college ranks, where he became known as a top recruiter, and as a defensive assistant coach and coordinator, Pruitt won three national titles as part of the staffs at FSU and Alabama. Pruitt firmly established himself as one of the best younger coaches college football, and was in line to have a shot as a head coach. 

Pruitt’s chance came in Knoxville, where two summers ago the Vols found themselves comically unable to hire a coach. They fired Butch Jones, who went 34-27 over five seasons, and then offered the gig to Greg Schiano. They had to rescind that offer, and then after literally dozens of coaches were linked to the job and didn’t take the job, and then after athletic director John Currie got fired, Tennessee eventually landed on Jeremy Pruitt. Tennessee made a breakfast sandwich of their own. Without asparagus. 

Last season the Vols went 5-7, but they seemed to have found their quarterback in Jared Guarantano, and then they hired a bunch of high-profile assistant coaches, including Derrick Ansley on the defensive side of the ball, as well as former UGA offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, which was a bit puzzling as many UGA fans couldn’t wait to get rid of Chaney, and Tennessee was willing to give him $1.5 million dollars a year and make him the country’s highest-paid offensive coordinator. 

Against their first SEC opponent last weekend, the Vols scored a total of 3 points and put together plays like this:

With that 34-3 loss to Florida, Tennessee is now 1-3 on the season. Their one win was against Chattanooga. Tennessee’s next game is against Georgia, and two weeks after that they play Alabama. In comparison, the Butch Jones era is starting to seem positively rosy. In a recent press conference, Pruitt compared the state of the football program to the Titanic. (While it was sinking, no less.)

Brent Cimaglia

Brent Cimaglia #42 of the Tennessee Volunteers hits a 40 yard field goal in the Vols’ 3-34 loss against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 21, 2019 in Gainesville, Florida. Photo by Carmen Mandato via Getty Images.


Where do we go from here? Pruitt is known for his recruiting prowess, but now that he’s got to go up against Saban and Smart instead of having them behind him, it may be a different story — Tennessee’s 2020 recruiting class is currently ranked 11th in the SEC. Perhaps AD Phillip Fulmer will take over for Pruitt, although that seems like a fool’s errand for a former coach who can basically only harm his legacy at this point. Then again, it’s not like he could do much worse. 

If I was Fulmer, I’d do something radical: I’d let Pruitt and his coaches do their jobs. They’re making millions of dollars, so you might as well get your money’s worth. What if they just aren’t good at their jobs? It’s a possibility, but I find it hard to believe that they’re as inept as they have been. Rather, this feels like a case of not being able to catch a break, over and over again. Like we saw in the clip above, players have been open, Tennessee just hasn’t gotten them the ball. And that’s got to change, eventually.

It might not be a popular move to sit back and do nothing, but what other choice does Tennessee? You can’t keep throwing money after the problem, and the Vols have a ton invested in this current group. Besides, there’s a bottleneck at the top of the conference that’s not going anywhere, not anytime soon. Why not build something from the ground up?

Things don’t always work out the way we plan them. I went out for breakfast and ended up in my own kitchen slapping bread together. Tennessee wanted to flip their program and become a contender. They flipped the program, alright. But why not wait and see if Pruitt can make something out of this mess before setting the whole thing on fire?

Just watch out for that iceberg. 


📝Lang’s World: The Atlanta Falcons may not be perfect, but at least they’re mine →


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