Why is the O.C. hire so important?
It seems like it has been an eternity since the departure of former offensive coordinator Tyson Helton. Helton's departure comes on the heels of his debut season for the Volunteers. After a season full of offensive disappointments for Tennessee, Helton made his way back to Bowling Green, KY, where he flourished in his two seasons with the Hilltoppers in 2014 and 2015. Under Jeff Brohm, Helton led the Hilltoppers to one of the nation's top five offenses in back to back seasons, in multiple statistical categories. In Helton's two seasons as offensive coordinator, quarterback Brandon Doughty threw for 97 touchdowns to only 17 interceptions and almost 10,000 yards. Yes, you read that correctly, two seasons. So, why wasn't Helton as successful at Tennessee? Tennessee has had plenty of issues on the offensive line this season, and in seasons prior. However, under Helton and no games missed due to injury this season, Guarantano's numbers did increase significantly. In 2017, Guarantano threw for 997 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions; in 2018, he threw for 1,907 yards, 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions. But, sadly, Helton couldn't live up to the expectations that preceded him.
The Tennessee offensive coordinator position has been vacant for what seems like an eternity to an already heated fan base. After falling to Vanderbilt to end the season, and missing bowl eligibility for the second straight year, it appeared Coach Pruitt, the fans, and Helton himself were ready to make a change. But, why is it taking so long to hire someone? There have been head coaching, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator positions filled in seemingly no time. Is it the administration? Unlikely. Does no one want the job? Again, unlikely. So, what's the hold up?! Short answer: Jeremy Pruitt. Why would Jeremy Pruitt stall on hiring someone? Because he understands that this could very well be the biggest hire of his tenure at Tennessee. If the hire turns out to be a flop, Coach Pruitt's tenure at Tennessee could be short lived, like a few of his predecessors.
If Jeremy Pruitt were to be fired as Tennessee's head coach, the Volunteers would once again find themselves at rock bottom. Wins and losses are all that matter in Knoxville, and Pruitt is aware of that. If the Vols fail to produce results on offense this season, it will reflect directly on Pruitt, especially after another whacky, rumor-filled, highly-criticized coaching search. He would land solely on the hot seat after season number two, if the Volunteers fail to become bowl eligible for the second straight year under his leadership. So, as it turns out, it appears as though the future of the entire program is hinging on this hire. Picture yourself in charge of it. How serious are you taking it? Are you rushing it? Are you going to make an impulsive hire? Or are you going to take your time, vet as many possible candidates as possible and make a well-informed hire?