It was Jimmy Hyams Day at the Rotary Club of Farragut. The club didn’t take time for humor and Hyams said he was sorry, but that he hadn’t found any humor to share about the 0-2 Tennessee Vols football team and embattled coach Jeremy Pruitt.
He spoke to a packed house at Fox Den Country Club.
Hyams, sports director of WNML The Sports Animal and the most respected commentator in town, said that he’s good friends with a number of SEC coaches. “Last year one of my really good SEC head coaching friends told me that he thought that the Tennessee job is a four- to five-year rebuilding job considering the lack of talent,” Hyams said. “Plus, the schedule and competitive recruiting in the SEC.”
But, would Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer, the university and the fan base, in this day and time, give Pruitt or any coach that long for a rebuilding project? “No. No one is that patient these days,” Hyams said.
He said “the jury is out on Pruitt. If the team can go 4-8 this year, I think he’ll be back next season. But if he beats Chattanooga and UAB and then loses all of the SEC games and finishes 2-10, that’s a different story,” Hyams said. “How could anyone justify keeping him after that?”
Hyams is predicting a 4-8 record at season’s end.
Hyams summed up the first two games with these comments: “They treated Georgia State like it was an exhibition game and were not ready to play and it showed. Big mistake. Georgia State sure noticed. Then they played much better against BYU but the coaches made really bad decisions on defensive alignments that cost them the game there at the end.”
He remembers the 1988 season under coach Johnny Majors. “That team started the season with six losses and was 0-6. Then they won five in a row and finished 5-6 overall and went 3-4 in the SEC. Can this team do that? We’ll see.”
One bright light, he says, is what the coaches say about the recruiting class of freshmen who are playing this season. “They signed 23 freshmen and the coaches will tell you that there’s not a bust in the bunch, that they all can play. That’s unusual and offers hope for the future.”
Many people are asking what’s wrong with quarterback Jarrett Guarantano. “He’s not the same quarterback as last year – yet,” Hymans answered. “This season he has his fourth different offensive coordinator (Jim Chaney) and his fourth quarterbacks’ coach (Chris Weinke) and they simply are not on the same page yet. He’s not as accurate and he’s not seeing the field. Maybe that’ll change.”
He then mentioned former UT quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who struggled back in 2006 in the opening games, but then he got his act together and turned into an NFL quarterback. Jim Chaney was the quarterback’s coach who remade him,” Hyams recalled. Crompton is now an assistant coach in the Canadian Football League in Montreal.
Guarantano has been injured before and if that happens again, Hyams said it will be a much longer season for sure. “The two freshmen quarterbacks (J.T. Shrout and Brian Maurer) are not close to ready and they don’t know the offense. Both have strong arms and Maurer is a quick guy with the ball. But they’re not ready.”
Other quick notes:
- There has been talk and opinions floating around about Fulmer taking over the head coaching job if the Vols continue to lose. Jimmy’s heard them. “I don’t think that Phillip wants to coach now. Being a head coach requires so much energy and work and he wants Pruitt to succeed.”
- About former Vol Josh Dobbs being traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars from the Pittsburgh Steelers: “I don’t see Josh being a starter in the NFL but maybe a good backup quarterback. We know he’s smart and I think he plays better in games than practice.”
- On UT basketball: “Rick Barnes is great at player development. Look what he did to the four guys in the NBA – Grant Williams, Jordan Bone, Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander. But this year I think they’ll take a step back and be a guard-oriented team. The inside game will not be near as good as this past season. But next year Barnes has recruited two 5-star players and a 4-star. He’s building for the future.”
- On women’s basketball: “I think they’ll be better overall and play better together as a team and be motivated to play. They’ll play harder. Kellie Harper will really coach defense. She has the No. 2 rated recruit here in the nation – Jordan Horsten (a 6-1 guard from Columbus, Ohio) and two new 6-5 inside players. I think Kellie Harper can get the Lady Vols back to national prominence.”
If you’re interested in exploring membership in Farragut Rotary, drop me an email at [email protected] We meet at 12:15 p.m. each Wednesday at Fox Den Country Club. You also can call me at 865-659-3562.
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California. He started writing for KnoxTNToday in 2017.