With the Vols dropping out of the Liberty Bowl due to COVID reasons, the 2021 offseason has officially started. Tennessee was scheduled to face West Virginia in Memphis for the Liberty Bowl on December 31. But after head coach Jeremy Pruitt and other players tested positive for COVID-19, Tennessee officials decided that it would be best if they did not play the game. Now, all heads turn to a Tennessee Vols offseason that could be very chaotic.
A lot of smoke regarding Jeremy Pruitt’s job was present the last few weeks with much of the fanbase wanting to move on and find a new head coach. It seems that Tennessee Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer shot these down in his statement regarding the Liberty Bowl.
This hints at the possibility of Pruitt returning as head coach of Tennessee in 2021. However, other staff changes are imminent as Offensive Line coach Will Friend will most likely be leaving the Vols to go coach at South Carolina under Shane Beamer. Tennessee could have current OC Jim Chaney take over that role or hire a new name.
Tennessee parted ways with DL coach Jimmy Brumbaugh earlier in the year and will look to replace him. One name to watch here is Bo Davis, who currently is the DL coach for the Detroit Lions and previously coached at Alabama. Other staff changes could be made, especially if the ongoing compliance investigation ends up being serious. Also, expect to see reshuffling of the staff with coaches moving to different positions where they may be a better fit over the offseason for Tennessee.
Tennessee has lost many players to the transfer portal this year including Jarrett Guarantano, JT Shrout, Austin Pope, and Brandon Johnson just to name a few. Jeremy Pruitt and the staff will look to do the opposite and add players from the portal. The biggest need is quarterback as there are only three scholarship QBs that are currently expected to be on the roster next season in Harrison Bailey, Brian Maurer, and Kaidon Salter. However, there have been rumblings that Maurer could also add his name to the transfer portal.
Signal callers that Tennessee could pursue are Hendon Hooker from Virginia Tech, Jack Coan from Wisconsin, and Bailey Zappe from Houston Baptist, among others. One name that Volunteer fans would be ecstatic to have is TE Arik Gilbert, who isn’t officially in the portal but is rumored to be considering it heavily. Gilbert played with current Volunteer QB Harrison Bailey at Marietta High School in Georgia.
Some other positions that Tennessee could look to add from the portal are Defensive Back, Defensive Line, and Linebacker. One name to watch there is safety Jammie Robinson from South Carolina who was warm on Tennessee in his initial recruitment out of high school. There could be others as well that may receive interest in the offseason from Tennessee.
If Jeremy Pruitt does indeed return next season, these changes could have a big effect on the future of Tennessee football. Consistent play could really spring this team into success and it should be an exciting season for Vol fans if they can find consistency. However, Tennessee must sort through a compliance investigation, coaching turnover, and new additions to get to that point. If the right coaches and players at needed positions are brought in, this offseason for Tennessee could be incredibly helpful. Otherwise, we could be looking at another coaching search and a bleak future.
Thank you for reading my article on some of the changes to expect from this Tennessee Vols offseason and how it impacts the future. As always, make sure to check out my Twitter @Vedpat1810 for more great Tennessee Volunteers content and follow us @OT_Heroics for more sports content and information.