KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football has its offseason conditioning program up and running, with Jeremy Pruitt having met with the team to share his expectations.
There will be some “straining” going on, Pruitt has said, introducing the concept at the first team meeting last week.
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“What is straining?” Pruitt said in a video Tennessee football put out last week. “I’m not talking about facial gestures. I’m talking about your max potential. We have got to learn how to do that, and do that all the time.”
Pruitt harped on effort throughout spring drills, and the Vols’ inability to finish strong was on display for all to see in the Orange and White Game.
Pruitt said many of the players needed “an awakening,” in terms of the honest and sometimes critical feedback he provided.
The next step is for the Vols to develop the sort of work ethic and effort that Pruitt is aiming for, hence the “straining” terminology.
“You’ve got to do it when I’m not looking, you’ve got to do when Coach Fitz [Craig Fitzgerald] is not looking, and you’ve got to do it when your teammates are not looking,” Pruitt told his players at the team meeting.
“It’s got to become a habit. We’ve got to learn how to strain. Most people don’t know how. It’s going to teach us how to finish, because this football team right here is going to be finishers.”
Pruitt’s emphasis on finishing goes back to his very first team meeting after he became head coach, when he spoke to the team about finishing the semester strong in the classroom last December.
No doubt, the Vols’ new coach is very aware of how games got away from Tennessee last season.
Opponents outscored the Vols 60-10 in the second half of the last three games of 2017, with Tennessee’s depth worn away after leading the nation in starts missed because of injuries for a second straight year.
And most Tennessee fans don’t want to remember how Tennessee let games with Florida, South Carolina and Kentucky get away in the final minute.
Pruitt made it clear after the Orange and White Game that a lack of effort won’t be tolerated and will lead to a quick trip to the bench.
“Eventually around here, we’ll have things the way we want it, and I won’t have to police them anymore,” Pruitt said back in April.
“They’ll police themselves because they’re so invested in the program that’s paid the price that they’re not going to let any of their teammates, roommates or whoever let them down and they’ll confront them.”