When spring football was shut down in March, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it was especially hurtful for four Tennessee Vols players.

Harrison Bailey, Dominic Bailey, Cooper Mays and Jimmy Holiday.

Those four true freshmen were early enrollees at UT and were set to go through spring practice, giving them an advantage (as far as winning a position battle) over the other true freshmen that will arrive in Knoxville later this summer.

But thanks to the shutdown, they were only able to go through a couple of practices. Helpful, sure. But far from the advantage they were hoping to gain.

The shutdown has probably been the most hurtful for Harrison Bailey, a five-star quarterback that has a legitimate shot to unseat Jarrett Guarantano as Tennessee’s starter.

The prevailing thought has been that the lack of spring practice all but guarantees that Guarantano will begin the season as Tennessee’s starting quarterback (barring a JT Daniels transfer from USC, which is picking up some steam).

Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt, however, isn’t ready to go that far.

Pruitt was recently asked by 104.5 the Zone in Nashville if the shutdown favors returning players.

Here’s what he had to say:

“I think it all depends on how hard each person works between now and then, whenever that is, you know? With the resources that we have now, with technology, there’s all sorts of ways that you are able to learn and access film and playbooks, things of that nature. So over the years I’ve had lots of guys — this was before people started being midyear enrollees — that came in and started the first game as true freshmen.

It certainly sounds like Pruitt is leaving the door open to some true freshmen starting for Tennessee in 2020.

Now, does that mean I think Bailey wins the starting job for the Vols’ season opener?

Not necessarily. I still think it will be Guarantano under center when Tennessee opens the season.

But it’s clear from Pruitt’s comments that there will still be a competition. JG won’t just be handed the job again because of the shutdown.

That’s good news for the Vols, because competition breeds greatness. And Tennessee will still have some stiff competition this fall.

Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports