Dave’s Dish: How to grade Jeremy Pruitt’s first real test as a Vol

Let’s face it. No one really knows how to grade most college football programs solely on the inaugural signing period on Wednesday.

 

Sure, there’s the obvious. Georgia was phenomenal. Alabama was surprisingly just solid. Then, there’s Arkansas. Well, they still have plenty of work to do.

 

So where do you place Tennessee in the pecking order? According to pure star rankings per 247 Sports, the Vols come in at No. 8 in the SEC. Don’t start planning championship parades if the Vols hold that same position on the original National Signing Day in February. That won’t get it done.

 

However, the Vols, like a handful of other SEC programs, have to be judged on a curve – for now. The early signing period was an incredible cross to bear for any coach that had just been hired following the 2017 season. It was unknown territory. It was an unbearable time crunch. It is something that needs to be addressed going into the future. Perhaps an August signing period is the answer, but a signing period in the middle of December is unfair to any program that underwent a coaching change.

 

That being said, Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt deserves to be graded on a curve – just this once. Of the five SEC teams that underwent coaching changes, Pruitt and the Vols finished third. Florida was at the top of the heap. That’s understandable with its in-state talent. Finishing behind Mississippi State was a bit disappointing, but let’s remember the curve.

 

Pruitt is still helping Alabama prepare for a national title run. The Vols also didn’t make themselves all that appealing by their debacle of a coaching search. Still, Pruitt signed four five-star prospects and 11 three-star prospects. Not bad – on a curve.

 

Pruitt also beat out Alabama for tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson Arizona (Yuma) Western. The Vols also secured three four-star, in-state prospects in the early signing period. Not bad – on a curve.

 

Surely, UT wanted to make a splash during the early signing period, but that was nearly impossible. Instead, they got a solid start to assembling a 2018 signing class. However, if the Vols finish in the middle of the pack in the SEC on National Signing Day in February, they won’t be competing with Georgia, Florida or, maybe even, South Carolina.

 

Pruitt has to be selective moving forward. He has to determine where he needs help in the roster. UT’s football team was not as bad as it looked at times last season. The Vols weren’t properly trained, there was little imagination in game planning and many players strongly disliked former coach Butch Jones.

 

While some have said UT could be a 6-6 team next season, I firmly believe the Vols can and should win eight games. Because from this point forward, there will be no more grading on a curve.

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