KNOXVILLE - After being around the game of football his entire life, Jeremy Pruitt will run his first practice as a head coach Tuesday.
Tennessee opens its spring session with an afternoon workout at Haslam Field, marking another milestone moment in a new era in Volunteers football.
To compete in the ever-challenging Southeastern Conference after the program's first-ever eight-loss season, the Vols need to have a productive spring session. Here are some questions that need to be or will be answered:
Who will leave?
Pruitt means business, and he knows that coddling players is not the way to get the Vols competing for championships. His take-it-or-leave attitude may not jibe with all the players he is inheriting from former coach Butch Jones.
Tennessee's roster has stayed mostly intact through the transition so far, but after 15 spring practices it's likely that at least a few players will decide to depart. This creates a delicate balancing act for the new coaching staff, because the Vols can ill afford to lose much depth. It would be especially taxing to the 2018 roster if any scholarship offensive linemen decide to leave.
Can Guarantano separate himself from the other QBs?
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has an opportunity to make a positive impression on the new coaching staff and establish himself as the front-runner in the quarterback competition.
If Guarantano and sophomore Will McBride emerge from next month's spring game on even ground, it will be a good indication that McBride or Stanford graduate Keller Chryst has a legitimate chance to win the job. Chryst arrives in Knoxville this summer.
What will the Vols spring game look like?
Pruitt would prefer the April 21 Orange and White Game at Neyland Stadium to have the format of a standard football game. Ideally, that would mean the first-team offense and second-team defense playing against the second-team offense and first-team defense.
However, the game's format will depend on the number of healthy and available players. The coaching staff may be forced to deviate from the desired script.
Will position changes stick?
Carlin Fils-aime is moving from running back to cornerback, while Tyler Byrd is moving from wide receiver to defensive back. Both players showed glimpses of promise on offense under Jones, so if they stick on defense it probably will be an indication that they are good enough to play there.
Redshirt sophomore Ja'Quain Blakely, previously a reserve defensive lineman, will begin spring practices at tight end. Could more position changes be in the works?
Can Pruitt find a coaching groove?
Pruitt has made it clear that he won't just be a CEO who oversees practices from afar. He wants to be on the field and actively involved in teaching football as his players go through drills and team periods.
For a longtime assistant coach and defensive coordinator, the practice field is Pruitt's oasis. But with a heap of additional off-field duties and a responsibility for everything that occurs on the field, it might take him some time to find his groove as a head coach. Or it might not.
Contact David Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DavidWCobb and on Facebook at facebook.com/volsupdate.
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