Saturday’s loss to Georgia was a tough one to swallow for Tennessee Vols fans.
Tennessee recovered a fumble in the end-zone on Georgia’s opening drive. And the Vols led 21-17 at halftime.
For a couple of hours, it really felt like UT was going to pull off the upset in Athens and give Jeremy Pruitt the biggest win of his career.
But everything fell apart in the second half. The offensive line looked overmatched. Jarrett Guarantano looked like the JG we’ve all come to know over the last few years. And the defense was on the field way too much.
It was a disastrous second half that made it clear that Tennessee is not ready to compete for SEC championships.
But while it’s obvious the Vols still have a long way to go before they’re going to be a threat to win the SEC East, I still don’t think there’s any reason to doubt Pruitt and the job he’s doing at Tennessee.
Pruitt is trying to build something sustainable in Knoxville. He’s not taking shortcuts (you know, like Butch Jones did).
It’s kind of like a diet. You can crash diet and lose weight fast. Only to quickly regain the weight you lost and then some. Or you can change your lifestyle completely and achieve sustainable weight loss. It takes longer, but the results last.
That’s what Pruitt is doing at UT.
It’s similar to what Dabo Swinney did at Clemson.
It took Swinney a while to get over the hump. In his third year, he went 6-7. Then for the next couple of years, Swinney averaged 10 or 11 wins a year. But he could never win “the big one”.
In 2013, for example, Clemson was cruising on their way to an undefeated season. They hosted No. 5 Florida State on a Saturday night and got absolutely dominated. The Tigers lost 51-14 in front of their home crowd, ending their national title hopes.
This was the narrative surrounding Swinney until 2015 when the Tigers finally reached the championship game. In 2016, Clemson finally won it all.
It took Swinney eight seasons to finally breakthrough. And since then, Clemson has been among the elite programs in college football.
And that’s because Swinney didn’t take shortcuts. He built a program that is going to have continued success because it was built the right way.
That’s what Pruitt is doing in Tennessee.
I think we saw last year after the losses to Georgia State and BYU that a Pruitt-led Vols team isn’t going to lay down. They’re not going to give up.
If anything, the loss to Georgia on Saturday will make Tennessee a better team.
I know it’s frustrating for fans to watch UT miss out on winning the big game. But would you rather see an upset win every now and then, or a program that’s goes through some growing pains but ultimately has staying power in the SEC?
Be patient. Tennessee is still on the right path.
Featured image via Tennessee Athletic Communications