How to win more games

Marvin WestFeature, westwords

If, in December, you are going to say “I told you so,” now is the time to tell me.

This Tennessee football season could be anything from another disappointment to a surprising success. I don’t see how it can be worse than 2017. I think it will be better. It might be exciting.


The obvious question is how can the Vols win more games? I do believe I’ve got it.

This is semi-complicated. Restoration does not appear as simple as a change of command. Come to think of it, finding a new coach was no simple matter but we finally made it. Alas, we don’t really know what we have. Jeremy Pruitt has never been what and where he is.

Be sure he is crusty. I do believe he is tough enough. I’m not sure about diplomacy or just how important that is.

Can he promptly transform a loser into a winner? That won’t be easy but it doesn’t sound impossible. Who is to say for sure that the Vols can’t become a bold positive in the SEC this season? Projections are low, as in maybe six victories overall and a baby bowl game. Eight-four would be much better.

Sorry, I cannot name the eight.

The new coaching staff is supposed to be a big improvement over the previous group. It costs more. It includes more men who have been in the big leagues. I do believe Jeremy will do more and talk less than Butch.

On second thought, I know he will talk less.

If evaluations of junior college and graduate transfers are accurate, the roster is already better. That is an absolute requirement for my brainstorm to work.

Any chance for significant improvement starts with improving the offensive line. The first best news was the official clearance of Trey Smith by Jeremy and the health and welfare department. Whether Trey returns with combat disposition remains a question. There is no question about his courage.

There were 20 offensive linemen at practice the other day. There is limited experience returning. It was not good experience. Drew Richmond is the poster person, 13 starts, but not much to show for it, as in we didn’t beat anybody.

There are other survivors. Amazing that Chance Hall can pass a physical exam. Refreshing that he wants to try again. Three knee operations are not a world record.

There is more than a chance that one or more of the new linemen will root somebody out of the way. Newcomers include Alabama graduate transfer Brandon Kennedy, four-star junior-college tackle Jahmir Johnson and four-star freshman Jerome Carvin, an early enrollee who looks like a man.

I know what Pruitt says about stick-on stars. For the most part, I agree. I have seen fives fold. Development is more likely to pay bigger dividends.

Speaking of development and dividends, the quarterback decision will be vital in winning more games. Pruitt and offensive coordinator Tyson Helton, former Southern Cal assistant, must get this one right. I don’t claim to know whether the incumbent, Jarrett Guarantano, or Stanford grad Keller Chryst is more likely to succeed. I do know the answer is critical.

My third key to winning more games is really serious. Pruitt must discover cornerbacks and see that they are properly instructed. There have been some in the past who didn’t know to look for the football in flight.

Defense needs a much better sense of direction. Somebody must hit somebody at the line of scrimmage. It is unacceptable for foes to run up and down the field for 500 yards, or until they get tired and pause for refreshments.

Starting with the West Virginia game, I’m guessing Tennessee’s secondary will have no chance without pressure on the quarterback. Wouldn’t it be something if Jonathan Kongbo became a pass-rusher? He looks like a football player.

Such focus and insight point back to the beginning. Pruitt wants the Vols to run the ball, even in obvious situations. Pruitt wants to throw downfield, not dink and dunk.

In this era of tempo and flash, back-to-basic ambitions require blockers. The lack thereof in 2017 is among the several reasons we have Jeremy instead of Butch.

Our new coach has a comfortable contract. No reasonable fan will demand a miracle. Improvement will be applauded. There is a way. To win more games, Tennessee must have an offensive line, a quarterback who performs better, a defensive makeover and far fewer injuries.

Tennessee is headed for 12th in the SEC – ahead of only Arkansas and Vanderbilt – according to resident experts, sports information directors. I say wrong.

My forecast is 7-5 which means at least three conference victories. You are invited to e-mail your prediction. I’ll keep names and numbers and discover in December if you really had it right in August. Game on.

Marvin West welcomes reader remarks. His address is marvinwest75@gmail.com.

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