Three stories make Vols’ situation more puzzling
Jeremy Pruitt, Derrick Ansley and Henry To’o To’o further complicate the Tennessee football Volunteers’ situation.
It all started with a Friday morning story that implied Tennessee football was going to keep Jeremy Pruitt. Two more followed, however, that suggested UT is closer to firing him than ever. And this all came a day after Pruitt was questions regarding the investigation into the program.
Austin Price of VolQuest reported that Pruitt, defensive coordinator Derrick Ansley, Tennessee Player Development Assistant Kevin Simon and new defensive assistant Kevin Steele were all on their way to California to meet with rising junior linebacker Henry To’o To’o and his family. The goal was reportedly to settle To’o To’o and his family’s concerns over the investigation.
On that front, it would seem like Pruitt and Ansley are pretty confident they’ll be okay, right? After all, why would the administration even let so many coaches fly out to speak with To’o To’o if Tennessee football were in trouble otherwise? You’d think, given the hiring freeze, coaches wouldn’t be allowed to make such moves.
Well, alongside that report, another report by John Brice of Football Scoop dropped Friday. Brice reported that numerous members of UT’s staff met with the university’s general counsel and the school’s own compliance staff, and Pruitt met with them Thursday. Don’t forget, by the way, that they inked their contract with Steele on Tuesday, which rose its own questions given the freeze.
Brice reported Pruitt has his own attorney, that at least five on-field coaches have been questioned by the probe and that the probe made fellow SEC schools concerned to hire UT staff members, even slowing up the hire of Will Friend by the South Carolina Gamecocks and then the Auburn Tigers. Brice wondered allowed if Pruitt’s days were numbered.
All of that, however, would seem to contradict Pruitt and co. meeting with To’o To’o to assure everything was okay. To be fair, maybe we truly don’t know how this will all play out, and Tennessee football just wants to avoid another rising star entering the transfer portal the way Wanya Morris did earlier in the week.
However, then came a third report. Bruce Feldman of The Athletic tweeted out that Ansley was being considered as a candidate for defensive coordinator with the Oregon Ducks. He was reportedly on of many names.
#Oregon D-Coordinator search is heating up: #Seahawks asst HC Clint Hurtt; ex-Texas DC Chris Ash; #Vols DC Derrick Ansley; #Falcons run game coordinator Tosh Lupoi; #MissSt DC Zach Arnett; #UGA co-DC Glenn Schumann; #Army DC Nate Woody, are among those are in the mix, per source.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) January 15, 2021
This report would only come up if Ansley were entertaining the idea. Why would he be entertaining the idea, though, if on the same day, he was speaking to To’o To’o and trying to keep him on Rocky Top? None of this adds up.
We should note that all of these stories broke a day after Robert Holder of WATE reported that UT self-reported NCAA violations with an illegal flag football game. These violations are so minor nobody would make a public spectacle of them, so it’s likely the Vols are trying to provide cover for something deeper, although anything is possible.
Also, Josh Pate said on his 247Sports Podcast The Late Kick Thursday that it appears to be a matter of “when” and not “if” Pruitt gets fired. That adds fuel to this fire that simply will not be put out by anybody with the administration.
Taking all this into account, fans will continue to have to wait and see what happens to Tennessee football’s program. This may be far from over, but all the stories do when combined together is leave everybody confused, just as they did earlier in the week when UT hired Steele less than five days after instituting the hiring freeze. None of this makes sense.