— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) April 7, 2018
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt made it clear on Saturday the Vols are lacking in the leadership department.
“We have to figure out what kind of team we’ve got,” Pruitt said after Tennessee’s scrimmage on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. “Do we have guys that have leadership that can affect everyone else that way? Do they even know how to do it?
“And if they don’t, we have to be the ones that teach them, and if we don’t have them, we have to be able to do that as a staff.”
Tennessee displayed poor body language on Saturday, upsetting Pruitt and triggering his criticism of the team’s lack of poise.
Pruitt said he noticed through his years of playing and coaching at Alabama, Florida State and Georgia, that great team leaders are hit and miss.
“Sometimes you have teams that have really great leaders on the team,” said Pruitt, who played his final two seasons with the Crimson Tide alongside Alabama all-time great Shaun Alexander and hard-nosed quarterback Freddie Kitchens, as did current Tennessee offensive line coach Will Friend. “There’s been one individual, didn’t matter if you played offense or defense, when he said, ‘Lets go,’ it affected both sides of the ball.”
Tennessee fans quickly point to linebacker Al Wilson as the ultimate team leader in the Vols’ modern era. Quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Tee Martin, Casey Clausen and Josh Dobbs also demonstrated the ability to lift teams with their words and style of play.
But, Pruitt said, it’s not always just one player.
“I’ve been on teams and coached on teams where there’s several leaders in the group on either side of the ball,” Pruitt said. “I can tell you there’s been two teams I have coached that the coaching staff was the leader of the team.
“Two of them we won national championships with the coaching staff having to say, ‘Let’s go,’ because football is a physical game and everyone is trying to impose their will and make the other team quit.”
Tennessee hasn’t been physical enough this spring to make anyone want to quit, Pruitt said, noting the team lacked the necessary “pop” during the scrimmage.
Those teams were both at Alabama, and Jameis Winston was the clear-cut leader on the 2013 national championship Florida State team where Pruitt served as defensive coordinator.
The message from Pruitt where Tennessee is concerned is that leadership is a must, whether it comes from one player, several players or his own coaching staff.
“I’ve seen it, and you can see it from the look in their eyes,” Pruitt said. “You’re having a great year, things get tough, sometimes it’s easier for guys to say, ‘You know what? We’ve had a great year,’ and they start accepting the fact that they are defeated.
“I’ve seen staffs that I’ve been on that bring guys out of it and find a way when they couldn’t find a way; we [coaches] helped them find a way.”
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