Atlanta, GA — After a week of criticism from analysts, we asked a pair of Vols players at SEC Media Days about how new Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt fulfills his role as a head coach instead of simply being a defensive coordinator.
“We feel like we got a steal in Coach Pruitt” said senior defensive lineman Kyle Phillips, who was one of the three Vols in attendance with Pruitt at SEC Media Days in Atlanta.
According to the former five-star prospect from the state of Tennessee, Pruitt is already an effective head coach because of “the confidence and the mindset he gives his players.”
“When he got hired, a lot of former players that he had told me how great he is, what a great person he is,” Phillips added.
When asked about Pruitt as a head coach, redshirt junior tight end Eli Wolf said, “I’m excited to have Coach Pruitt, and I think he’s already done some great things for us. He came in and established a good culture for us. A tough culture and a disciplined culture.”
As for Pruitt — who is a widely renowned defensive mind — getting involved on the offensive side of the ball, Wolf said that Pruitt “gets as involved as he needs to.”
“He obviously has a great defensive mind, but he understands the offensive side of the ball just as well,” Wolf said of his head coach.
When Tennessee Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer announced that Pruitt, then Alabama’s defensive coordinator, would be the hire for UT’s next head coach, fans initially were taken aback by an “Alabama guy” heading up the Vols. But when asked about the initial fan response to the Pruitt hire, Wolf was all business. “I came here to play football,” he stated. “I don’t really care what anyone thinks.”
Phillips, who originally came to Tennessee to play as a 4-3 defensive end and has bulked up at Pruitt’s request, continued about Pruitt in the head role, saying, “I think it helps when you know somebody really cares about you. It helps players want to play their hearts out, because they know the coach has their back.”
Pruitt and his staff have helped produce a lot of NFL talent at their various stops, and Phillips and the rest of Tennessee’s current players hope he’ll help them get into the league as well. And that all starts with winning on the field, something Tennessee didn’t do much of last year.