It can only go up from here

Marvin WestFeature, westwords

Things learned, concluded or reminded of since last we met …

It can only go up from here.


There are two views of football pressure, feel it or apply it.

Most teams have more talent than ever before.

Success is not inherited but failure might be.

Coaches must control the controllables.

The way to go is all gas, no brakes.

Beware, life is unfair.

You have to have a big-time quarterback to have a chance to win in the SEC.

Jeremy Pruitt is even tougher than we imagined.

 ***

Considering his low profile for seven months as Tennessee’s new football coach, Pruitt landed an unexpected wallop on SEC Media Days.

He didn’t start it but he was the focal point of the biggest buzz.

Two former Georgia Bulldogs, Aaron Murray and David Pollack, now TV talking heads, agreed Pruitt was a misfit as defensive coordinator at their school in 2014 and 2015. They criticized his brash personality, behavior and how he disrespected his boss, their friend, former head coach Mark Richt.

Murray questioned whether Pruitt has the refinement to be a football CEO – too rough around the edges and too blunt. Neither critic mentioned Pruitt’s abuse of eighth-grade English.

As if what Jeremy may or may not have been or done is somehow relevant to now and the upcoming season, their assessment set off a small tidal wave of rebuttal support for Pruitt.

Nick Saban said Jeremy was one of the finest assistant coaches he has had at Alabama. Jimbo Fisher said Pruitt was ready several years ago to be a head coach.

“I think Jeremy will do an outstanding job,” said Will Muschamp.

Gary Danielson, another TV analyst, of higher rank than Murray and Pollack but not from Georgia, was asked about Pruitt’s credentials.

“I think he’s the perfect guy for what Tennessee needs.”

Danielson’s why included his perception of the Volunteers.

“They were soft. Their practices were hard to watch.”

To Pruitt’s credit, he said almost nothing about the Pruitt controversy.

He kept his complete cool. On stage, he controlled the narrative. He gave a preferred answer, no matter the question. He stayed with the script: He has an excellent staff of assistants. Eight of 11 have high school coaching backgrounds. Players are working hard during the off-season. Four quarterbacks will get an opportunity. Competition for other positions is open. Many unknowns remain, 30 players did not participate in spring practice.

Pruitt was very diplomatic when asked about rivalries. He has done his homework. He named several and said Tennessee must do its part to maintain tradition. He said the West Virginia game is the only one he has circled at the moment.

***

The SEC, top football conference in the country, has terrific talent up and down and all around. Selected media types selected 80 prime players to honor for probable excellence this fall – three teams and ties of offenders and defenders plus kicking specialists.

It is, indeed, an awesome group of all-SEC pre-season stars.

Offensive lineman Trey Smith, recently resurrected by Pruitt from the medically questionable list, was the one Vol mentioned.

We are, thus, 1/80th of great.

 ***

Tennessee’s years of mediocrity and nine consecutive losses to SEC foes have created an ugly impression. I suppose it is logical that even outsiders remember last year’s 41-0 home loss to Georgia, the 45-7 setback at Alabama, the 50 points Missouri scored.

Tennessee is the lowest it has ever been in the eyes of media beholders. The experts, showing no faith in the current restoration project, picked the Vols to finish next to last this fall, ahead of only Vanderbilt in the SEC East.

The Commodores don’t believe a word of that prognostication. They have defeated Tennessee four of the last six meetings and they have a better quarterback, Kyle Shurmur. We are reminded that in three seasons, he has passed for 908 yards and nine touchdowns against the Volunteers.

Vandy won last year, 42-24, on sacred Shields-Watkins Field. The next game is in Nashville.

Marvin West invites reader reactions. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com

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