By Steve Williams
This may be the busiest sports week of the year.
Coming on the heels of Sunday’s NASCAR race at Bristol and the NCAA women’s basketball finals will be the men’s title game Monday night.
The Tennessee Smokies also wrap up their first home baseball series of the season Monday.
Of course, major league baseball is now in full swing and the NBA is going strong. And in addition to those professional sports, the Masters tees off Thursday.
UT will have its annual Orange and White football game Saturday night starting at 6 and there also will be action on The Hill Thursday through the weekend involving the baseball, softball, track and women’s tennis teams. In fact, UT is billing it an “All-Vol Weekend.”
Jeremy Pruitt has been campaigning for a sell-out crowd at the O&W game and who can blame him. A lot of recruits will be watching at Neyland Stadium and would be impressed by a big turnout of Vol fans.
Incidentally, I’ve been hearing some good things going on in the Tennessee football program during spring practice. There’s been competitiveness on both sides of the line and seniors are taking a leadership role, particularly the veteran wide receivers.
Fifth-year senior Jauan Jennings spoke out last week and praised the play of red-shirt junior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.
The addition of former Vol great Tee Martin as the team’s new wide receiver coach also is paying off. His experience as a quarterback gives the receivers insight as to what the quarterback is seeing and looking for from them in the passing game.
“We (receivers) are getting there, they are getting older and more mature,” Jennings said. “They are getting used to playing more physical and seeing how that plays into us winning more football games.”
Pruitt has turned over the offense to his new coordinator, Jim Chaney, a 34-year veteran coach who has seen it all and knows what it takes to win big.
Fans just need to stay patient and supportive. Pruitt deserves at least four years to rebuild a program that has been down for over a decade.
I squirm when I hear so-called experts complain about Pruitt going 5-7 last season. That’s simply not fair.
MY CHOICE: I saw a photo of Kellie Jolly Harper on line the other day that bears a striking resemblance to Pat Summitt. There will never be another Pat, but Kellie I’m sure learned a lot from her college coach and I believe she would be the best fit to take over the Lady Vols’ basketball program.
Harper is a Tennessee girl from Sparta. She was a point guard and played on three national championship teams (1996, ’97 and ’98). I still remember that season she worked hard to come back from a knee injury and how the crowd roared when she was finally able to take the floor.
Now 42 with 15 years of experience as a head coach, she is coming off her finest season ever, having led Missouri State to a 25-10 overall record, 16-2 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference and a Sweet Sixteen berth in the NCAA tournament.
I believe Pat would want another one of her girls to fill the post and continue the tradition.