The end of a couple of long seasons is a fine time to catch your breath and maybe focus on a few things you’ve been neglecting for a bit too long. There will be no condemnation here because that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for the past week. For me, I devoted a day or two to digesting the Loyola-Chicago loss and then became a fan of the team, rooting them on to the Final Four. I’m hoping they win the whole thing. I’ve also been attending to some other business matters in much need of such attention and working on getting our annual magazine on pace to get to the printer on time in late April.
All that is to explain why this is a special ICYMI edition of our usually-more-regular Vols link dump. Mostly, it’s because I would have otherwise missed it, but I’m guessing that many of you might be in the same boat. So, let’s catch up together.
The Vols’ coaching search FOIA data dump
Yeah. This was big, and there’s a lot to process, but one of the best articles on the subject is this one from Celina Summers. Celina, by the way, has contributed an article on the topic to our magazine this year as well. She does a great job, and we’re happy to have her contributing this year.
Say Goodbye to Basketball
Rick Barnes had his post-season debriefing with the media a couple of days ago and said mostly what you’d expect him to say, but it’s still refreshing:
And no, we’re not being picked to finish 13th in the SEC next season. We already being picked first:
Say Hello to Football
The smell of fresh cut grass. The daffodils and tulips sticking their beautiful noses into the sky.
And guys running around in shoulder pads and shorts to the glorious noise of whistles and shouts:
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) March 23, 2018
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) March 27, 2018
And all of it happening under the no-nonsense leadership of Jeremy Pruitt:
Strain. Compete. Over and over and over again.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) March 26, 2018
Pruitt is either (a) not big on praise, or (b) lacking much to praise, as sweet nothings from the lips of the head coach are pretty sparse these days. He sounds like he’s in full-on evaluation mode, and he’s not yet drawn any conclusions about anything.
You can, however, begin to discern what is especially important to him from the few words he does utter:
“The first thing we talked about is that we want to become a team, we think that’s important for us,” Pruitt said. “We want to learn how to practice, we want to see how much knowledge we retain at each individual position and we want to see who the competitors are, we want to see who handles adversity.”
So, we didn’t know how to practice, we’re having to re-teach them everything, and we’re not sure yet which ones have the mental fortitude to do what we’re asking. Whew. Okay.
There’s also this bit that I found particularly interesting:
“Sometimes you get beat because the other guy’s better than you, and sometimes you get beat because maybe you don’t execute it the right way,” Pruitt said. “If the other team beats us because they’re better than us, that’s one thing, but when you make mental errors, which we made a lot of mental errors out there today. We were not very focused in the meetings and didn’t take what we went over in meetings to the field. That probably contributed to some of it.”
Most of our recent football-related pain has come in the form of Tennessee losing to teams that were not better, so woo for the focus on jettisoning those first. I think most of us will be happy only losing to better teams. That has to be first, and only after that do you get to actually being the best team every week.
But while we’re not getting any opinions from the head man yet, we do have some actual news. Four players are being tested at new positions: running back Carlin Fils-aime at cornerback, tight end Princeton Fant at running back, defensive lineman Ja’Quain Blakely at tight end, and wide receiver Tyler Byrd at defensive back. Pruitt’s not sure whether any of the experiments are going to work.
Also, Quay Picou has left the program, but the absences of Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Tim Jordan are nothing to worry over, as Kirkland is recovering from a knee procedure and Jordan is recovering from appendix surgery.
And finally, the defensive-minded Pruitt was “ticked off” after practice yesterday, and it made him openly wonder about his defensive bias. Statements like that are likely to cause fans to experience anxiety borne of watching other former defensive coordinators who suddenly found themselves in head coaching gigs running feeble offenses out onto the field and hoping to win every game 3-0.
Fortunately, Pruitt seems to be aware of this potential blind spot and has not only assembled an offensive staff he trusts but has also enlisted help from John Lilly, who’s been hired as executive assistant to the head coach. Check this out:
“The first thing John does is he’s here to help me,” Pruitt said. “I think it’s clear that I want to be involved on the defensive side from a daily organization standpoint, but at the same time, we’re not going to do anything our program that I’m not aware about, that it don’t go through me.“Now, what I don’t want to do is come in there and ask the offensive staff a million questions. ‘Why you doing this? Why you doing that?’ You’ve got a guy that can explain to me a little bit about what’s going on, so I can eliminate some of the questions.”
So, maybe Lilly is less an executive assistant and more a “Liaison to the Offense.”