Pruitt is no dummy

Marvin Westwestwords

A quotable philosopher, perhaps Socrates or maybe Casey Stengel, provided our talking point for today: “A wise man changeth his mind once in a while; a fool never.”


On the third Saturday in October, in the heat of a battle lost, 7:21 to go in the fourth quarter to be precise, Jeremy Pruitt sentenced Jarrett Guarantano to oblivion after a 14-point blunder against Alabama.

Enough already, that was it, you are finished, take a seat.

A little later, based on wisdom or circumstances, the coach changed his mind and told the quarterback his time would, in fact, come again, that he’d have a chance to help Tennessee win games.

It did and he did.

Guarantano, humbled but not destroyed, hung in there. He defied personal threats, displayed courage and tenacity, regained respectability, played despite a broken hand, made major contributions in four victories and achieved stardom at Missouri – 415 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Jarrett was less than perfect. He failed to complete simple swing passes. He overthrew co-star receivers. But, he hit the clutch outs and the big ones down the middle on third downs. His success was astounding. In all of Tennessee history, Tyler Bray once and Peyton Manning twice produced more passing yards in a single game. Guarantano is now fourth in the record book.

The Vols are bowl eligible. Pruitt has qualified for consideration as Southeastern Conference second-half coach of year. Hooray, hooray.

The Volunteers are on a four-game winning streak, five out of six. The coach got smarter with experience and the team got much better as opposition declined.

There is one more hurdle to jump before this is officially a much-improved season. Don’t ignore what looks like nothing. Struggling Vanderbilt turned into a powerhouse on Saturday. It overwhelmed East Tennessee State.

You know all about what the Commodores have been doing to Tennessee, their mini-monopoly, three in a row plus laughing, dancing and taunting. Vandy coach Derek Mason has been one of the laughers and dancers. Something must be done about that.

Vandy running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn ranks fifth in the SEC with 1,015 rushing yards. Volunteers Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan combined have 27 more.

If you attend the grand finale, Pruitt would like you to help generate excitement. The size of the bowl bid is yet to be determined.

Saturday will be senior day, time to say goodbye to the faithful who have run the race and almost finished the course.

Let us never forget Daniel Bituli, Jauan Jennings, Darrell Taylor, Marquez Callaway, Nigel Warrior, Dominick Wood-Anderson, Brandon Kennedy, Riley Lovingood, Tyler Byrd and others who have been with us through some thick and more thin.

Saturday at Neyland Stadium will be the peak of a big recruiting weekend, an opportunity to impress visiting prep stars who may be deciding between family fellowship, immediate playing time and potential championships.

Cheer, cheer for the Volunteers.

If you are in the house, Phillip Fulmer would appreciate it if you purchased food and drink, T-shirts and other remaining souvenirs. We don’t want too many leftovers. There is a budget to be balanced.

Looking back, the Vols didn’t beat the Missouri Tigers badly enough to make up for consecutive 50-17 defeats the past two seasons. But they did solidify their grip on third place in the SEC East, which is a far piece from last-place finishes in 2017 and 2018.

Tennessee doubled Missouri in key stats but made just under a million mistakes, two blocked field-goal attempts, more busts in the secondary, false starts, a kickoff downed inside the 10, a crucial fumble, a hit out of bounds, enough errors to sustain the Tigers and create a much-too-dramatic ending.

The Vols had to have two first downs, had to complete two more passes to run out the clock. They did it.

Happiness overflowed. The quarterback fought back tears. Trey Smith delivered a short sermon of validation. Jauan Jennings pretended to roll a bowling ball along the 40-yard line. A jubilant Austin Pope, bully blocker, knocked over some teammates.

The coach, smart and getting smarter, again summed it up: “Jarrett Guarantano is a winner, auright.”

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

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