For Vol fans wanting closure in Tennessee’s search for a new head coach, that time may soon be at hand. But it’s still not here as of now.
According to John Brice of Gridiron Now, Tennessee and Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt have made progress on a deal for Pruitt to be named the Vols’ next head football coach. But no official deal has been reached as of yet.
“Per sources with direct knowledge, UT moved forward in talks with Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to the point that both potential salary and projected coaching staff assignments entered into the discussions,” Brice writes. “While progress was made, the post remains officially open.”
Brice also notes that Pruitt did not leave with Phillip Fulmer and the rest of the Tennessee contingent as they flew out of New York on Wednesday. Instead, Pruitt departed to continue his recruiting efforts with the Tide.
According to Brice, one of the last hurdles between Tennessee and Pruitt has to do with him coaching in the College Football Playoff with Alabama. Kirby Smart was allowed to coach with Alabama as they made their run through the playoff back in 2015 even after he took the head coaching position at Georgia. He began recruiting for the Bulldogs even while on Alabama’s staff.
But there’s one big difference between this year and that year: The early signing period.
This year is the first time in college football that an early signing period in recruiting will be allowed. Recruits can sign their National Letters of Intent a month and a half earlier than normal thanks to the new rule, and the early signing period begins on December 20th and runs through the 22nd.
Tennessee wants a head coach in place well before that date if possible. The sooner the better for the Vols. So if something falls through with Pruitt, expect Tennessee to move quickly on naming another coach in his stead. Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele are the two other coaches who are expected to be “finalists” for Tennessee’s job.