The Tennessee Volunteers are in for a tough afternoon against the Georgia Bulldogs. If they got wiped out by the Florida Gators at home, a visit to Athens and a trip Between the Hedges do not figure to offer a sunny, happy ending for Jeremy Pruitt’s Vols. Anyone – everyone – can see that.
By Matt Zemek
The Florida game was a complete disaster, but at least the game underscores a few important truths about the status of Vol football which fans can now see even more clearly than before.
First, the quarterback situation was dramatically bungled by Butch Jones, a man whose inability to develop or manage quarterbacks was clear BEFORE he came to Knoxville. That might be one of the most damaging aspects of his tenure, something Pruitt will probably need two years to fix, not just one. That is something Saturday against Florida strongly conveyed to a large number of people.
Second, this program simply isn’t a quick fix. Too many weaknesses at too many situations have persisted far too long to think that a messiah can come in and turn water into wine. Nope – it generally doesn’t work that way. Ask Scott Frost at Nebraska and Chip Kelly at UCLA for confirmation of this reality.
Third, Tennessee could gain so much ground if not for the stupid stuff – losing a fumble at the 2 when trying to dive into the end zone; making mistakes on offense which set up Florida with short fields and allow the first quarter to become a nightmare; busted assignments on defense which allowed Florida to collect huge plays. This leads us into the keys against Georgia. The Vols can’t expect to win, but they can expect to develop the habits which will lead to winning football later in the season:
1 – STOP GIFT WRAPPING
The point was made above in reference to the fumble at the Florida 2 and the mistakes which caused the first quarter to turn into a clown show: Tennessee could gain so many points, and so much game leverage, merely by weeding out the Football Follies moments. Let’s see if UT can avoid those moments against Georgia. What might become a 40-point loss could turn into a 17-point loss and a source of real hope for the second half of the season against manageable SEC opponents.
2 – KEEP TRYING AT QUARTERBACK
The Vols would love to be able to make a bowl game, but in the long run, player development matters so much more than trying out a very specific and constrained plan which tries to win six games at all costs. No – Pruitt and his staff should obviously try to win when wins are attainable, but they should not treat this Georgia game as an occasion in which the Vols shouldn’t be ambitious. Tennessee should be EXACTLY that. The Vols should give Jarrett Guarantano and Keller Chryst every chance to showcase a full range of skills. They should be asked to make as many different kinds of throws and reads as possible. The coaching staff should try to put them in many different positions to help them grow.
3 – POUNCE
Georgia was very sloppy against Missouri. Can Tennessee pounce on opportunities whenever they arise? If so, this could become very interesting.