No, that headline isn’t some sort of misquote or quote taken out of context; Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said on Wednesday evening that he does, in fact, hate the Florida Gators.
During the weekly Vol Calls call-in radio show on Wednesday night, one caller decided to ask the Vols’ second-year head coach if he hated one of Tennessee’s most heated rivals as much as he did.
The caller began by saying he was excited to talk to Pruitt and that he would “have to tell my dad” about talking to the Tennessee head coach. After that, he got down to business.
“I hate Florida. I’ve always hated Florida,” the caller said. “I hated Steve Spurrier at Florida. I hated everything about Urban (Meyer) being in Florida. So I’ve got two questions. The first one is this: Do you hate Florida? And the second one is, we stole one from Auburn last year, how do you get Jarrett (Guarantano) going early in this one so we can steal one in The Swamp?”
Pruitt addressed the second question first, spouting off a typical coach response about UT’s offense.
“I think our offense definitely has to work ahead of the sticks a little bit,” Pruitt said. “We’ve gotta be able to create some explosive pass plays down the field. We’ve gotta be able to throw the football. To do that, you’ve gotta kinda create an identity running the ball at the same time. We’ve gotta convert some third downs. And when we get in the red area, we’ve gotta score touchdowns.”
But Pruitt didn’t forget the first question he was asked.
“And yes, I hate Florida.”
Pruitt has only coached against the Gators once as Tennessee’s head coach, and it wasn’t a game Vol fans will ever want to remember. The Vols’ match-up with Florida in Neyland Stadium last season resulted in a 47-21 beat down at the hands of the Gators. Tennessee turned the ball over six times, and Florida took advantage of those mistakes. The Gators jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter and led 26-3 at halftime.
After a fumbled kick return gave the Gators the ball back to start the second half, Jordan Scarlett wasted no time in getting Florida back on the board, scoring on a 19-yard run to push Florida’s lead to 33-3. After a 38-yard touchdown pas from Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland to start the fourth quarter, the Gators led 40-13 and finally called off the dogs and the starters.
Last year might’ve been the first time Pruitt faced-off with Florida as Tennessee’s head coach, but it wasn’t the first time he’s coached against Florida head coach Dan Mullen, and it wasn’t the first time he’s coached against Florida, either.
As defensive coordinator at Alabama, Pruitt helped the Tide defeat Mississippi State — where Dan Mullen was head coach from 2009-17 — in both 2016 and 2017. Pruitt and Alabama also faced Florida in 2016, and they demolished the Gators by a score of 54-16. Pruitt coached against the Gators as Georgia’s defensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015 as well, but Florida won both of those contests. Pruitt was also the defensive coordinator at Florida State when they took on Florida in 2013, and he helped the Seminoles defeat the Gators 37-7.
Pruitt may not have much experience in the Tennessee-Florida rivalry, but he has plenty of experience going up against the Gators as a coach. Enough so that he truly does hate the team in blue and orange.
Tennessee and Florida will kick-off at noon Eastern in Gainesville on Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN.