Jeremy Pruitt Knows How He’ll Be Judged at Tennessee

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    Photo Credit: Will Boling/RTI

    Phillip Fulmer knows what it means to be a Tennessee head coach. He coached the second-most games as a head coach in program history from 1992-2008, and he earned the second-most wins in school history as well. Fulmer, now UT’s Athletics Director, knows better than anyone currently alive what it takes to be a head football coach for the Vols.

    And he shared that knowledge with new head coach Jeremy Pruitt when he first hired him. And Pruitt already knew the main takeaways.

    Pruitt spoke in front of the Rotary Club in Knoxville on Tuesday, and he talked about a myriad of topics. One thing he discussed was the very first meeting he had with Fulmer after he took the Tennessee job. Pruitt said that Fulmer sat him down and told him his time at Tennessee will be boiled down to how he performs in just three games.

    “When I took the job, I sat down with Coach Fulmer and he looked me dead in the eye and he said the head coach at Tennessee is going to be judged on three games: Florida, Georgia and Alabama,” Pruitt said to the gathered crowd. “When you look at that, where are we at compared (to them)? That’s how hard we need to work.

    “And I knew that when I took this job. I didn’t have to take this job, but I wanted to come to Tennessee, I can tell you that. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

    Fulmer struggled against Florida for most of his head coaching tenure at Tennessee, but he more than held his own against Georgia and Alabama as a head coach. Tennessee was just 5-12 against Florida under Fulmer, but they were 10-6 against Georgia and 10-5-1 against Alabama while Fulmer led the team.

    Since then? The Vols have only won a combined four games against those three opponents in the nine seasons since Fulmer was fired. The Vols’ most recent head coach, Butch Jones, was just 1-4 against Florida, 2-3 versus Georgia, and winless against Alabama.

    Pruitt, meanwhile, has been on the other side of beatdowns between Tennessee and Alabama. Pruitt was the Tide’s defensive coordinator the past two seasons and served as an assistant from 2007-12 before that. He never lost to Tennessee while on staff at Alabama.

    But he knows the Vols’ losing streak to the Tide must end under his watch if Tennessee is ever going to truly be “back.” And he knows his Vol squads need to perform better against their other two main rivals too.

    Here’s the full clip of Pruitt’s speech at the Rotary Club:

    Nathanael Rutherford is the managing editor and social media manager for Rocky Top Insider. Nathanael graduated from the University of Tennessee and cultivated a passion for the Vols while growing up in Knoxville a mere 10 minutes from Neyland Stadium. He's been a part of the RTI team since November of 2015 and has been the editor of RTI since June of 2017. If he's not talking or writing about Tennessee athletics, he's probably talking about Star Wars.