Rocky Road On Rocky Top
“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.”
Listen what happened on Saturday is about as embarrassing a loss any fanbase can handle. And things are magnified ten-fold when it comes to the Tennessee Volunteers. The legacy is long, and the traditions run deep. The fandom though? It’s as intense if not the most intense in the country. Vol Twitter is undefeated. “Insert quote how they got a guy fired before he was ever hired here”. But they need to simmer down and wait on the fall weather to cool them off because our football team has an eastern Tennessee sized mountain to climb before we are anywhere close to being an elite team.
We as fans need to temper our expectations on what this football team is going to be like. We can’t expect Jeremy Pruitt to be the next Kirby Smart or Dan Mullen. Both immediately had winning football teams. They also took over teams that were of a much higher caliber than our lowly Vols. By now it is established that Butch Jones reeled in talented players but that’s about it. He didn’t teach them anything. Currently, this Tennessee roster is split down the middle with about equal part Butch Jones signees and equal part Pruitt signees. That is a mixed bag of underdeveloped talent and true freshman folks. That is why you saw a team that looked clueless on the field way too often. They were out of alignment, late to their positions, and generally just a step behind their opponent all game. The talent was there. We “looked” like a better team on paper and in person. But we were beaten. Not because our staff doesn’t care. Not because the players don’t care. But because they simply aren’t there yet. You can make the argument that they had an entire offseason to work on those things. And you would be correct. But none of that matters once the game starts. It’s how you react to pressure and how you handle the speed of the game.
For those who think Jeremy Pruitt isn’t saying the right things after the loss, shame on you. We have praised him since day one because of how he says the right things. How he says what he means, and he means what he says. Now suddenly, he doesn’t know what he’s doing? Believe me, he knows exactly what he is doing. He learned under Saban and he has Philip Fulmer guiding him now. If the coach has to convince you to bring your best and the season has already started, then he has lost already. It is on the team itself to handle that. Leaders must step up. If the coach is always the one pointing the finger, then no leaders ever step up because they’re not needed. Now, what do we have after a monumental loss? Seniors starting to speak up, namely Jauan Jennings. Then we have a player only meeting. Following that, we have some cake eaters and bus riders kicked off the team in a non-fussy way. I think the blueprint has been laid.
Basically, all I’m trying to say is, I have seen a ton of maturity from this team in a short time and I don’t see why that trend has to stop just because of a week one loss? However bad that loss may be, it is just one loss and there are at least eleven more games to go. So buckle up baby it’s going to be a bumpy ride in Knoxville.