Tennessee head football coach Jeremy Pruitt talked with the local media Friday discussing his football program amidst the coronavirus. It’s a challenging time for all college football program’s as players are away from campus due to the global pandemic.
While many are focused on whether the 2020 season can begin on time and how football programs move forward during these trying times, Pruitt is more focused on the well-being of his players and the country.
“My first thoughts are with everybody in our country,” Pruitt said. “Football is a sport, it's a great game that's been really good to a lot of us and we love doing it. I know it's tough on everybody, but there's also bigger issues out there right now that are be addressed daily with our government and those in the medical field. Whenever that time comes for the season to start, we'll be ready at Tennessee.”
As players are away from campus, having them put in adequate work without supervision becomes a challenge. It’s made even harder for Tennessee who is currently without a strength and conditioning coach after Craig Fitzgerald bolted for the New York Giants last month.
For Pruitt, the focus is on other things ahead of strength and conditioning in this unprecedented time.
“We’re doing very little,” Pruitt said. “The first priority or us is their health and wellness. Not only for them, but them and their family. The next thing for us the academic piece, the school part with everybody across the country doing online classes.”
When it comes to managing his team now and when they return to campus, Pruitt sees a challenge that all coaches will face. He believes it’ll be about making wise decisions in how you handle a team full of players in different circumstances.
“It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen especially with this virus,” Pruitt said. “Going back and drawing on my experiences from high school, you get creative, you find a way. Whatever the outcome is, whenever we do start back, it’s going to be the same for everybody.”
“It’s something where you have to think outside the box and figure out a way to be efficient with your time. … Every team’s going to be different. Every player is going to be different. Some are going to have lots of experience, some are going to have absolutely none, but you have to find a way to figure out the guys that can help you have success.”
While the 2020 season may be in jeopardy it is only part of the challenge’s college teams are facing. With the NCAA extending its suspension of in-person athletic activities until May 30,on-campus recruiting camps are unlikely to occur.
This period helps coaches evaluate recruits in person, helping them get a feel for whether they’d be a good fit.
With that period likely lost, Pruitt says they have to lean on what they see on tape.
“I think it’s very similar to what’s going on in the NFL,” Pruitt said. “They have to go back and look what’s on tape. They have to go back and trust their scouts in their scouting department. It’s the same for us. We have to gather as much information as we can, so we can move forward.”