Jeremy Pruitt is learning a lot about his team this spring. He’s also learning a lot about himself as a head coach.
The first-year head coach has worked primarily with the Vols’ defensive backs so far this spring. In the back left corner of the practice field, away from all the cameras, he’s back in his element. But in his most candid interview yet after practice on Tuesday afternoon, Pruitt opened up about what his first two weeks have been like on the practice field.
The biggest takeaway? He has to be more neutral. Pruitt has an offense to worry about now too. He’s not just a defensive coordinator any longer.
“Everybody asks me what’s the difference in being the head football coach? I’m used to just pulling for one side. I think I’ve got to realize that sometimes the other side’s got to win too,” Pruitt said after Tuesday’s practice.
In terms of yards between him and offensive coordinator Tyson Helton, Pruitt couldn’t get much further away from Tennessee’s offense on the practice field. But he still keeps tabs on the offense and makes sure he knows what’s going on.
From the work he has seen, Pruitt is pleased. There’s no bias. He thinks the offense and defense have been rather even through a week and a half.
“On both sides of the ball we’re doing a lot of things,” Pruitt stated. “We’ve got to get all 11 guys to do what they’re supposed to do on both sides of the ball. Then, it’s a lot easier to evaluate who can play and who can’t.”
Pruitt isn’t a micromanager. He told reporters that he doesn’t want to walk into an offensive meeting room and ask a hundred questions. At the same time, nothing will happen in this program without his approval.
He has very high trust in his coaching staff. And it shows on the practice field.
When asked if running backs coach Chris Weinke will help with the quarterbacks, he said no. But he also said that his staff will work as one unit.
“You’re always looking for ideas,” he said. “Nobody has all of the answers…we take things from some high school teams. There are good football coaches at all levels. That’s what everybody does, that’s how you grow as a coach.”
One thing that really stands out about Pruitt is that he loves high school football. It’s the foundation of what he does. And it’s where he got his start.
That love and respect for the high school game also shows in his practices. There’s usually a crowd of area prep coaches at UT’s practices now. And it all goes back to his cohesive, open philosophy.
“There’s seven of us who started as high school coaches,” Pruitt said on Tuesday. “We’ve already had lots of high school coaches come to our practice, and it’s going to be an open door to high school coaches all the time. It helped me as a high school coach, people were good to me and gave me an opportunity…and we want to do the same thing here.
“We want to be the most accessible program to high school coaches in the United States.”
Tennessee just got rid of a coach who was notoriously stubborn. This regime seems much different. And Vol fans should be very excited about that.