Tennessee’s coaching search is finally over.
Jeremy Pruitt met with the media for the first time as Tennessee’s new head football coach on Thursday afternoon.
And he’s ready to win right away.
“Your expectations aren’t what mine are,” Pruitt said as he addressed the media for the first time as Tennessee’s head football coach. “My expectation is to win every game I play.”
Even though Tennessee was passed up by plenty of candidates, Pruitt was sold. And in his opening comments as UT’s head coach, he gave a sales pitch of his own.
“I want to challenge everybody associated with the University of Tennessee,” Pruitt stated. “They didn’t draft me, I chose to be here. Where we want to go, instead of talking about what we want, let’s get there. It’s going to take everybody in this administration.”
Pruitt has a pedigree of winning championships. At Alabama, he won three championships coaching under Nick Saban. He also won a national title with Jimbo Fisher at Florida State.
He’s done so with elite recruiting. And that was a major point of emphasis in his first remarks as Tennessee’s head coach.
“Recruiting is the lifeblood of any organization,” he said. “We’re going to start right here in this state. We’re going to start in Knoxville and work our way out. We’re going to own this state….I’m probably going to be short (in the press conference) because I’m ready to get to work.”
Staying at Alabama
Pruitt confirmed that he will stay with his current job coaching Alabama’s defense for the Tide’s playoff run.
He said that he’s committed to recruiting for the Vols until the recruiting dead period starts in a couple weeks.
“The first thing is, I’m going to go back to why I got in this business,” Pruitt stated. “I’m all in at the University of Tennessee. Until the dead period, I’m going to recruit.”
But after that, he’s heading back to Tuscaloosa to get the Tide ready to take on Clemson. He said it’s important to follow through on his commitment to the kids he recruited years ago.
“I’ve also got a commitment to the kids who I sat in their home and recruited them to the University of Alabama. I’m going to go back, once the dead period ends, to coach those kids,” he said.
Tennessee’s new athletics director Phillip Fulmer doesn’t see Pruitt’s commitment to the Tide as a negative. He sees it as a huge positive, especially in recruiting.
“I think it’s a plus for the University for Tennessee to have a coach involved in a national semifinal game,” Fulmer said. “We know what leadership looks like here and now we’ve got it again.”
“I’ve spent five exciting days interviewing outstanding men to be our next football coach. My charge from the chancellor, my obligation from alumni and great fans…was to go find the best coach to get our proud football program back to the level of its championship tradition. Jeremy has been a part of four national championships at two different schools. He’s coached some of the best and brightest players in college football. As I got to know Jeremy, his energy and his personality was infectious.”
When asked if Pruitt was on his radar as soon as he took over as AD, Fulmer didn’t directly answer the question. But he still spoke highly of Pruitt regardless.
“Jeremy has been on a lot of radars,” Fulmer said. “You go through the process and trying to check all the boxes. He passed on all accounts. His timeline is now…you’ve got to define ‘doing well.'”
Building a Staff
Pruitt has never been a head coach. But he’s coached with some of the nation’s top assistants.
Fulmer thinks he’s prepared to step into a new challenge alongside an elite staff.
“He’s not going to have any problem walking into an offensive staff room understanding what they’re trying to do,” Fulmer said. “We’re going to put together a staff. The thing I’m looking forward to, number one, is good people. There’s no substitute for good people.”
Despite being hired late in the game for recruiting purposes, Pruitt is in no hurry.
“The first thing we’re going to do is take our time and find the right fit for the University of Tennessee,” he said. “I don’t think it matters if you’re from Tennessee, Alaska or California. The name brand at the University of Tennessee sells itself.”
As far as the people already on staff, Pruitt is excited to work with both Fulmer and Chancellor Davenport.
Specifically, he had glowing remarks on how excited he is to work with Davenport.
“Obviously as you can see, one of the first things I thought is not only can you recruit to her, but she can recruit for you,” he said. “Hopefully we can talk her into being a recruiter for us, because I think she’ll sign a whole bunch of them.”
Despite his inexperience as a head coach, Pruitt said he’ll lean on the advice of Fulmer. He’s just thankful that the last coach to win a title at Tennessee is right down the hallway.
“Coach Fulmer’s office isn’t very far from mine,” he said. “My dad has been a head coach I don’t know how long, and still is. I’ve worked eight years for Nick Saban, two years for Mark Richt and one year for Jimbo Fisher. I’ve worked for the men who will prepare me for the day-to-day operations.”