August 9, 2022

Has a light bulb turned on with Jeremy Pruitt’s Tennessee team?

Tennessee Volunteers head coach Jeremy Pruitt yells at his players in the first half of an NCAA college football game against UTEP Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)

The Volunteers were blown out in their home-opener and have lost to three SEC East Division foes, but after upsetting a Top-15 team last week, Pruitt’s boys are hoping to close out the season strong.

Pruitt stated after the Alabama loss that his squad won’t be able to play competitively with the Tide until more recruiting cycles, but Tennessee is starting to look like a team a year ahead of schedule. After starting off the season 3-5, the Volunteers are now one win away from becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 2016.

Ever since the Volunteers came out of their bye-week they have been a more competitive team and on offense the quarterbacks are playing productive and smart with the football. Sophomore signal-caller Jarrett Guarantano recently caught fire and has thrown for 967 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions in the last five games. Senior quarterback Keller Chryst threw for 164 yards, two scores and no picks against Alabama.

Tennessee’s defense has been a Jekyll and Hyde this season. In the Volunteers’ five wins the defense has been a stingy bunch and allowed 13 points per game. However, in the Volunteers’ five losses the unit has given up an eye-popping 42 points per game. Fortunately, Tennessee’s defense been lights out during the team’s two-game win streak.

Very few expected Pruitt to make much noise in the SEC for his first season. After all, the Volunteers are rebuilding, coming off a four-win campaign in 2017, including zero conference wins and lost seven of their last eight games to close out last year. Yet Pruitt’s boys have a chance to reach seven wins to finish out the regular season, including four in conference play.

Saturday’s clash will be Senior Day and against a surging Missouri team that won three of their last four games. Tennessee travels to play in-state division foe Vanderbilt in the season-finale. The Commodores have won the last two meetings against the Volunteers and are desperately trying to become bowl-eligible.

Pruitt needs to keep his young team focused on the task at hand and not hungover after upsetting Kentucky. The last two games will be a challenge, but If the Volunteers can keep the momentum going, their roller coaster season can end on a high note.