Atlanta, GA — Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt only had good things to say about former former quarterback Aaron Murray at SEC Media Days on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Murray assessed that Pruitt “can’t do it” in regards to running a whole program of his own and questioned how successful he can be as a head coach.
“Aaron is a great player and a great competitor,” said the first-year Tennessee coach. Pruitt never coached on the same Georgia team as Murray, but he took over as Georgia’s defensive coordinator the year after Murray graduated. But he did have to scheme against him as a secondary coach for Alabama from 2010-12.
But that’s not all Pruitt had to say in regards to Murray. He also spoke about Murray’s criticisms about his ability to be a head coach.
In a session with local media, Pruitt responded to those remarks. “15 years ago, I was a kindergarten teacher. Now I’m the head coach at Tennessee,” Pruitt said as relayed by The Athletic’s David Ubben. “I don’t think you can make that kind of ascension if you don’t know how to treat people.”
Later, speaking in the electronic media room, Pruitt was asked again about Murray (and since, David Pollack and Greg McElroy’s) criticisms about his ability to run an entire program. Pruitt first cited the fact that he “has a man 30 feet down the hall that he can go lean on” in Tennessee AD and former National Champion UT Coach Phillip Fulmer.
Pruitt went on to list all the examples he’s had to learn from, from Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher and Alabama head coach Nick Saban, all the way down to being the son of a high school football coach.
He even referenced being a child on the sideline of his dad’s team.
“When you’re 2-8, even in Rainesville Alabama, folks in the stands aren’t too happy,” Pruitt added. “But my dad said that the people in the stands paid to be there and can say whatever they want. I’m going to worry about what I can control.”
Pruitt received his share of pointed doubt from several ex-players turned analysts this week, but he was staunchly defended and supported as well.
Jimbo Fisher, the longtime coach of the Florida State Seminoles, said that Pruitt has been ready to be a head coach for a while. Pruitt served as Fisher’s defensive coordinator in 2013. Kirby Smart drew comparisons to himself when describing Pruitt’s football experience and approach as well. Smart and Pruitt coached together at Alabama for several years.
SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum gave the sharpest rebukes of Aaron Murray’s criticisms, however.
The SEC Network analyst and radio host replied to the former Georgia signal caller by saying, “(Pruitt) rubbed everyone the wrong way because the culture at Georgia was laissez-faire.” He added that Murray’s opinion “is not relevant when it comes to Jeremy Pruitt.” Finebaum said many credit Pruitt with being a driving force for the Georgia football program toughening and turning the corner.
Tennessee will face Georgia in Athens this season on September 29th. The kickoff time has yet to be set for the annual rivalry game.