Pruitt, Vols using bye week to 'refresh' ahead of final stretch of regular season

Cory Sanning

A year ago, Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt wasn't granted the luxury of an open week ahead of his team's final games of the regular season. The Vols would end up losing their final two games of the season, failing to make a bowl game with lack of rest playing a key role in that downslide. 

This year, UT will be afforded that opportunity. 

As the Vols begin their preparation for Missouri in Columbia on Nov. 23, Pruitt and his staff's top priority is making sure that the team's health is maximized to the best of its ability to close out the season. 

That starts with letting them get some much-needed rest.

"There are times where you have to take into account where you are right now as a football team," Pruitt said. "Whether that’s now with in-game adjustments or decisions or where you are on an off week."

Where the Vols are may not be where Pruitt and his staff envisioned at this time of the year in terms of injuries.

Sophomore defensive back Trevon Flowers is out for the season with a lower leg injury. Freshman Henry To'o To'o has dealt with nagging injuries along with quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who has been playing through a broken hand.

Given that reality piled on with the fact that Tennessee has experienced a resurgence in recent weeks has the coaching staff taking a cautious approach to end the season. 

"We took all of that into account and really decided Sunday after the game just kind of based on where we are," Pruitt said. "And what we needed to do to give us the best opportunity to heal up." 

Having won three games in row, including four of their last five, the Vols now find themselves in a position to earn a bowl game bid for the first time since 2016. While Tennessee certainly has played beyond expectations in recent memory, Pruitt isn't leaving any stone unturned over the course of the next week. 

Part of that recovery process includes evaluating where the team currently stands. 

"There are times where you have to take into account where you are right now as a football team," Pruitt said. "Whether that’s now with in-game adjustments or decisions or where you are on an off week."

With a little over a week remaining until Tennessee hits the road, the Vols are tasked with preparing for perhaps their toughest test since taking on Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

The Tigers have taken down UT by a combined margin of 100-34 over the past two seasons. The last time Tennessee took down Missouri came in 2016, when the Joshua Dobbs-led Vols scored a season-high 63 points at home. 

Pruitt isn't focused on what happened in the past, however. Both he and his staff are honed in on what this current version can do, and the reality of another road win can't come to fruition without a week of rigorous devising. 

With players having fought through various injuries in recent weeks, the off week couldn't have come at a better time.

"We have some guys that have been really banged up that have really pushed through," Pruitt said. "And we have guys that have been close to getting to be able to play that weren’t ready, so to give them an opportunity."

That opportunity began on Monday and given what Tennessee has been through in recent weeks, Pruitt felt that extra rest was necessary with just weeks remaining in the regular season.

"We tried to take all of that into account and that’s why we decided to do it the way we have.”

Comments

Football

FEATURED
COMMUNITY