It’s June, which means it’s officially list season for college football. And Athlon Sports came out with their list ranking all 14 SEC head coaches heading into the 2018 college football season. And the Vols’ new head coach came in near the bottom.
Athlon’s editorial staff voted on the rankings of all 14 SEC head coaches, and new Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt came in at No. 13 on the list just ahead of Matt Luke at Ole Miss.
Now, just because Athlon put Pruitt so far down on the list doesn’t mean they don’t think he’s a good coach. Their reasoning is actually quite sound: Pruitt just doesn’t have the head coaching experience necessary to rank him much higher. He’s simply a mystery right now.
The article points out that Pruitt has had massive success as a defensive coordinator at Alabama, Georgia, and Florida State, but this will be his first time as a head coach. And without having any sort of track record to fall back on, he ends up near the bottom of the list for right now.
“Pruitt has assembled a strong resume from three different stops at the FBS level, is regarded as one of college football’s top defensive minds, and has worked under three of the nation’s best coaches — Saban, Richt and Jimbo Fisher,” the article states. “Pruitt is also regarded as a good recruiter and has extensive ties to the high school ranks in Alabama. Pruitt doesn’t have any previous head coaching experience, but his ability to recruit and develop talent should help Tennessee take a step forward.”
It would be difficult for Pruitt and his staff to take a step backward compared to where the Vols were when he took over. Tennessee had their worst season in program history last year, going 4-8 overall and 0-8 in SEC play. Both of those marks had never happened at Tennessee before last season.
Whether Pruitt and Tennessee take a small or large step forward this year could go a long way in determining just how quickly the Vols can get rebuilt under Pruitt. But right now, he’s simply an unknown as a head coach.
The other new head coaches in the SEC all had head coaching experience previously. Joe Moorhead had been a head coach at Fordham, Chad Morris came from SMU to coach at Arkansas, Jimbo Fisher left Florida State to coach at Texas A&M, and Dan Mullen joined Florida from Mississippi State. Moorhead ranked No. 9, Morris at No. 8, Mullen at No. 4, and Fisher at No. 2.
The No. 1 coach in the SEC according to Athlon is, of course, Nick Saban. Kirby Smart made the leap up to No. 3 on the list, and Gus Malzahn at Auburn came in just behind Mullen to round out the top five.