The 2017 college football season saw a lot of change happen across the country. Nearly two dozen schools made changes at head coach this offseason, and 13 of the 21 FBS schools who hired new head coaches were at the Power Five level. And six of those 13 Power Five schools were in the SEC.
Tennessee was one of the six SEC schools who made a change after the 2017 season, and after a lengthy and controversial search that took nearly a full month after Butch Jones was fired from the position, the university tabbed Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to lead the program.
Pruitt is a first-time head coach at the collegiate level. He’s been a successful defensive coordinator at Alabama, Georgia, and Florida State, but he’s yet to show what he can do as a head coach. But despite that mystery, Bill Bender of Sporting News likes Tennessee’s decision to bring Pruitt on board.
Bender ranked the FBS head coaching hires this offseason, and of the 21 hires that were made, he ranked Pruitt as the 7th-best hire and the third-best in the SEC.
“After arguably the wildest coaching search of all time, Tennessee landed Alabama’s defensive coordinator. Pruitt is an energetic recruiter and might end up being the perfect hire for new athletic director Phillip Fulmer,” Bender wrote. “It’s the Vols’ turn to follow the model. Georgia and Florida did that, too, with very different results.”
The hiring of Pruitt marked the first time since Phillip Fulmer was named permanent head coach back in 1993 that Tennessee hired a coordinator with no head coaching experience as their head coach. Even the case with Fulmer was different than Pruitt’s situation, as Fulmer was already on Johnny Majors’ staff and was promoted within after health complications caused Majors to step aside.
Bender ranks Texas A&M’s hiring of Jimbo Fisher as the best move this offseason. Florida’s hire of Dan Mullen comes in fourth, and Pruitt is just ahead of two more SEC hires. Chad Morris being hired at Arkansas comes in at No. 8, and Joe Moorhead coming on at Mississippi State ranks No. 9. Ole Miss retaining Matt Luke after he served as an interim head coach last season ranks No. 12 and is second-to-last among the Power Five hires. Only Herm Edwards at Arizona State ranks lower.
Though Pruitt has yet to coach a game for the Vols as their head coach, he and his staff have already earned a lot of success on the recruiting trail. Tennessee picked up two commitments in their 2019 class over the weekend, and their 2019 class is now the No. 15 class in the country according to 247Sports.
In fact, since Pruitt took over on December 7th, the Vols have added 14 players who are rated as four-stars or better according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Seven of those prospects were in the 2018 class (players who weren’t already committed to Tennessee when Pruitt took over), six are in the 2019 class, and one is in the 2020 class.
Hopes aren’t too high for Pruitt’s first year on the job at Tennessee, but Vol fans are expecting Tennessee to finally get back on track under Pruitt in the near future.