When Jeremy Pruitt said “instead of us talking about what we want, let’s talk about how we get there,” he probably didn’t have the Tennessee training room in mind.
But in order to build a healthy program, the new coach and his staff will need healthy players, and it has been awhile since the Vols were in great shape health-wise.
Pruitt is finishing up the early signing period class and then will be off to coach Alabama’s defensive throughout the College Football Playoff before becoming Tennessee’s full-time coach.
But come January, it’s a sure bet Pruitt will set his sights on getting Tennessee healthy enough for a productive strength and conditioning winter program and spring practice session.
Tennessee had 23 players miss last spring’s Orange and White Game due to injuries. Ten starters underwent offseason surgery — and things didn’t get better. The Vols had more than 80 missed starts due to injuries in 2017.
At least 10 Tennessee starters had offseason surgery following the 2016 season, so it was a case of the Vols starting from behind and never catching up.
“This is a two-year rebuild,” Tennessee strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson told SEC Country last summer, “and Butch [Jones] doesn’t have two years.”
Gullickson’s words proved prophetic. The Vols lost a heartbreaking road game at Florida on the final play and never seemed to recover.
Tennessee changed quarterbacks, offensive line combinations, and moved the offensive coordinator from the skybox to the field for the final two games of the season. Nothing seemed to help.
Along the way, injuries mounted, as the Vols had just four scholarship offensive linemen healthy enough to play in the second half of their game with LSU.
One glaring statistic jumped out: Tennessee scored just 1 touchdown and 10 points in the fourth quarters of the final nine games.
Pruitt, likely already aware of that statistic, instructed his team to “finish” strong.
“If you want to have success in this conference you have to learn how to finish,” he said. “That goes for the classroom, the football field and with everything that they do.”
Here’s a rundown of the injured players and how many games they missed this season:
Starters games missed with injuries
(departing players in boldface type)
*WR Jauan Jennings — 11
MLB Darrin Kirkland Jr. — 12
WR Marquez Callaway — 1
OL Jashon Robertson — 2
OT Chance Hall — 12
OL Drew Richmond — 3
OL Brett Kendrick — 3
OL Justin Martin — 1
OL Jack Jones — 8
OLB Cortez McDowell — 9
DT Kahlil McKenzie — 1
WR Josh Smith — 7
KR Evan Berry — 10
PK Aaron Medley 3–
Others who have started
DL Shy Tuttle — 2
FS Todd Kelly Jr. — 10
OL Coleman Thomas — 3
OT Marcus Tatum — 6
PK Brent Cimaglia — 3
TE Austin Pope — 1
TE Eli Wolf — 3
TE Jakob Johnson — 2
DB Shawn Shamburger — 1
DB Baylen Buchanan — 6
LB Austin Smith — 6
Others with season-ending injuries
QB Quinten Dormady
WR Jacquez Jones
DB Cheyenne Labruzza
OT K’Rohjn Calbert
WR Latrell Williams
TE James Brown
Others who have missed at least 1 game due to injury
OL Nathan Niehaus — 12
OLB Austin Smith — 6
DE Deandre Johnson — 5
WR Tyler Byrd — 1
RB Carlin Fils-aime — 1
LB Dillon Bates — 2
DL Quay Picou — 4
DB Marquill Osborne — 2
DB Shaq Wiggins –2
The post Coach Jeremy Pruitt needs healthier Tennessee team: A look at Vols’ injury situation appeared first on SEC Country.
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