Spring football practice is underway this week in Knoxville as new head coach Jeremy Pruitt looks to help the Volunteers bounce back from the worst season in school history. A record low of four wins overall and winless in SEC play led to the firing of Butch Jones and the subsequent tragic search for a new head coach. I'll spare Big Orange fans the agony of rehashing all the turmoil that led to the return of Phillip Fulmer as athletic director and the eventual hiring of Jeremy Pruitt as head football coach. The entire scenario was as dysfunctional as it could possibly ever be.
Things have settled down now for Coach Pruitt. No longer are fans questioning his Alabama background. No longer are fans obsessing about the Vols dismal performance. Instead, they're quietly welcoming spring football and being cautiously optimistic about the 2018 season. There is a general sense that things couldn't get any worse than the 4-8 Vols of 2017 but a lot of the Big Orange faithful are also thinking it could get worse. Trust me; it will be better. How much better remains to be seen.
The Vols are short on healthy offensive linemen after two days of practice. Sophomore to be Trey Smith, arguably the best returning offensive lineman in the SEC spent the last two days riding a stationary bike on the sidelines. He took no snaps at all but he isn't the only lineman to be missing snaps. Coach Pruitt stated that everyone will eventually be back and healthy again but for now the Vols' offense is short-handed.
There is a lot of chatter about the Vols' transfer quarterback Keller Chryst from Stanford. Chryst will transfer and will be eligible to play his one and only season this fall. Until then the only two scholarship quarterbacks Tennessee has in camp this spring are returning starter Jarrett Guarantano and back up Will McBride. Other returners from 2017 are trying out different positions; all in an effort to improve on team 121's 4-8 record of last year.
Jeremy Pruitt has promised that practices will be much more demanding this spring, which will likely carry over into the fall. I have no idea how the tougher practices, transfers or new signees will translate into wins, but I do know this; Tennessee will win at least a couple more games than last year. They will be tougher and will play harder. They will also play a lot smarter than they've played in several seasons. If I am correct and Tennessee finishes 6-6, they will go to a bowl game. It won't be a great bowl but it will allow them to have three more weeks of practice and allow their fans a fun trip around the holidays. Maybe it's too early for those kind of predictions. Then again, maybe it's not. Tennessee fans took a big hit at the end of last season, and they deserve much better. Maybe, just maybe things will get better.
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Randy Smith can be reached at email@example.com