Vol fans need no reminder on how ridiculous Tennessee’s search for a head football coach was. It took the Vols nearly a month to find a replacement for Butch Jones once he was fired on November 12th, Vol fans revolted at the potential hiring of Greg Schiano, and Tennessee switched athletic directors in the middle of the search as well.
But once the dust settled, Tennessee hired Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as their new head coach. And Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer said Pruitt’s energy and experience winning championships are what separated him from the pack.
“It was his energy,” Fulmer said during a recent appearance on the Paul Finebaum Show when asked about what made Pruitt stand out in the interview process. “When we talked about the administrative things, everything that a head coach needs to have done as an assistant coach, he had done it, starting at the very bottom.”
Pruitt served as an assistant coach for Alabama from 2007-12 before being hired on as Florida State’s defensive coordinator. He was with the Seminoles for one season before Georgia hired him as their defensive coordinator. He then returned to Alabama in 2016 to become the Tide’s defensive coordinator, and that’s where he was when Fulmer interviewed him.
But it’s not just Pruitt’s experiences as an assistant and being on successful staffs that stood out to Fulmer. It was his passion for recruiting too.
“We all know (recruiting) is the life blood of any program, and getting the kind of players that Tennessee is accustomed to having back in the flow (is important),” Fulmer stated. “We have some here, and you have to give Butch Jones some credit because he got us out of a ditch.
“But to take us to the next level, we needed somebody that had been there and done that.”
Butch Jones brought in some highly-rated classes at Tennessee. The five classes he was responsible for (2013-17) averaged a national ranking of 13.4 according to the 247Sports annual rankings. But Pruitt saw a whole different caliber of recruiting at his other stops at Alabama, Georgia, and Florida State. Those three programs rarely finish outside the top 10 in recruiting classes, and Pruitt saw repeated No. 1 overall classes while at Alabama.
The Vols’ current roster has some talented players left on it, but the overall talent still doesn’t match up to Tennessee’s biggest competitors in the SEC. But Fulmer is confident that Pruitt is the right coach to bring Tennessee back to consistent relevancy.
“I think we came down in the right place and with the right guy,” Fulmer said. “I think it will take some time to get to where we want to be. But internally right now, we are in a good place.”