By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports
On a six-game winning streak to close out the 2019 football season, there’s no doubt that the Tennessee football team showed improvement and appears headed in the right direction entering Jeremy Pruitt’s third season at the helm of the Volunteers football program.
The eye test last season showed the best Pruitt-coached version of the Vols overall, strength and conditioning progress that translated to the field, individual players (Pruitt and Jones signees) that developed and an impressive ability to shake-off negative plays or stretches and come right back with a positive play. That last trait was especially critical during the strong close to the regular season, where the games weren’t always pretty or complete for UT but the team found a way to win a number of close games.
Just how much progress has been made on the field, according to the numbers?
I took a look at the numbers from Butch Jones’ last season, to Pruitt’s first campaign to last year’s second go-around for Pruitt to show just how much better the team is statistically (in addition to the wins) and how consistent that development has been.
Below, I’ve outlined the numbers in many team stats. I’ve added my notes with additional info, noteworthy accomplishments and opinions on what the numbers mean. You’ll also see some 2019 numbers highlighted in yellow. Those are the 31 of 64 stats where Pruitt’s team improved both from 2017 to 2018 and again from 2018 to 2019. Pruitt’s teams have improved consecutive years in almost half of the stats list. That’s pretty strong.
Will the loss of strength and conditioning Craig Fitzgerald to the NFL set the Vols back? Do the coaching changes stunt the development of the players under Pruitt? Will the loss of key experienced starters like Jennings, Taylor, Bituli and others be too tough to overcome? Could a still experienced team that features a greater percentage of Pruitt signed players enhance that improvement even more? Or will the progress continue, regardless of circumstance, as long as Pruitt is in charge?