Jeremy Pruitt is back in Knoxville. And he addressed the media on Wednesday following his national championship as Alabama’s defensive coordinator on Monday night.
“It’s been a long time coming for me,” Pruitt said to open the presser. “Since the opening press conference, it’s been a whirlwind for me.”
Pruitt highlighted the past 48 hours — from winning a national title to getting on a plane with defensive coordinator Kevin Sherrer and heading to Tennessee.
“Most of the time after the game, it’s hard to go to sleep,” he said. “That was a late game as it was, and I was waiting on this moment. I was excited.
“I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep. It’s been exciting.”
Balancing Both Jobs
“If you ain’t recruiting 365 days a year, someone else is.”
That’s Pruitt’s mantra when it came to balancing his schedule in both Tuscaloosa and Knoxville. Throughout the entire process, Pruitt stayed in Alabama to finish what he started there. But his head has been in Knoxville for months.
Following Alabama’s win on Monday, he was thankful for a chance to say goodbye.
When asked about the moment this transition really set in, his answer pointed to an immediate shift hours after securing a championship.
“After the game, when the game’s over with, we got back to the hotel and you see everybody for the last time,” Pruitt stated. “I went to school at Alabama, coached there and have a lot of friends there. To see everybody off was good…but I’ve been ready to get here.”
Pruitt echoed his comments back in December — he stayed to coach Bama’s playoff run for the kids.
“The whole reason I stayed and coached in that game was I felt like I needed to do it for those kids,” Pruitt added. “Most of the time, my mind was thinking in Knoxville, I can tell you that.”
Tennessee Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer played a huge part in the transitional period. Based on Pruitt’s comments on Wednesday, his help was vital.
“First of all, I knew that anytime I had any questions, or needed advice, that was as good a guy in the business that I could lean on,” Pruitt said of Fulmer. “I’m excited about the guys we’ve hired. They’ve done a fantastic job, along with Coach Fulmer…I’m thankful that those guys finished how we wanted to at the end.”
There still hasn’t been an official announcement about Pruitt’s first staff. But he ran through the names that have been finalized at this point. These are the names he mentioned:
- Tyson Helton — Offensive Coordinator/QBs
- Robert Gillespie — Running Backs
- Will Friend — Offensive Line
- Tracy Rocker — Defensive Line
- Chris Rumph — Outside Linebackers
- Terry Fair — Cornerbacks
- Charles Kelly — Safeties/Special Teams
One word stuck out about his staff — family.
“I want a place where my kids can come up here,” he said. “Not only these guys can learn about football, but these guys can watch us be fathers and husbands.”
Gillespie is the only coach who stays from Butch Jones’ last staff in Knoxville. Pruitt said that he was on his radar throughout the entire process.
“Robert Gillespie was obviously on the previous staff. He’s the one guy that I’ve not worked with, but it’s kind of interesting, when you get a chance to interview for jobs you think about guys who you’re going to hire, he was on my radar,” Pruitt said.
The first step for Pruitt is not only to get that staff in place, but also learn the staff that’s already here.
He said the biggest challenge is simply learning everybody’s names.
“The first thing is to learn everybody’s name in this building. Just getting to know everybody and getting to know our players, that’s the most important thing,” he said.
Recruiting In…and Out of Knoxville
One of Tennessee’s biggest recruits for this year may already be on campus.
Jauan Jennings was dismissed by interim coach Brady Hoke back in December. But Pruitt said that the door hasn’t been shut on Jennings’ future.
“I really had no control over that,” he said. “I know you guys have to write about things. I know Jauan met with Coach Fulmer, and I reached out to him. There may be a time in the next couple of days where I met with him and see where things are at.”
In the meantime, Pruitt’s focused solely on recruiting. But he doesn’t quite have an identical role has he had in previous stops.
He’s in charge now.
According to his assistants, he actually scheduled too many recruiting visits for this week because he was used to doing all that as a coordinator. As a head coach, he’s only allowed to visit a recruit once a year, not once a week like assistants can.
“The first day that we can go out, I’m planning my recruiting for the week,” Pruitt said. “We got done and Coach Helton looked at me and told me ‘You do realize you’re the head football coach, right?’ I don’t like that part. I’m used to visiting everyone one time a week.”
Pruitt will host a large group of blue chip talent this weekend in his first full weekend in Knoxville. We’ll have full coverage of that recruiting weekend with updates on any possible commitments in the near future.