Jeremy Pruitt only has 13 wins in two seasons as Tennessee’s head football coach. To one college football analyst, however, Pruitt is one of the 25 best head coaches in the country.
Barton Simmons of 247Sports recently put together a list ranking the top 25 coaches in all of college football. Pruitt, despite a limited amount of success on the field to this point, was ranked as the 21st-best coach in Simmons’ rankings.
“We’re currently in the midst of a Tennessee recruiting flurry but I’m not letting that cloud my judgment on the guy with 13 career wins as a head coach,” Simmons explained. “What has me more optimistic is the way he’s come to those wins.
“It looks like Pruitt is building Tennessee to last. He’s recruiting at a high level, in the right places. He seems to be building a team with the foundation to win at the highest level with consistency. When success comes, it won’t just be a flash in the pan given the disciplined approach to roster building and the on-field product.”
Simmons’ rankings place Pruitt eighth in the SEC. Nick Saban (No. 1), Ed Orgeron (No. 3), Kirby Smart (No. 4), Dan Mullen (No. 8), Jimbo Fisher (No. 9), Gus Malzahn (No. 13), and Mark Stoops (No. 15) all rank ahead of Pruitt.
During Pruitt’s first season on Rocky Top, Tennessee was the only team in the Power Five without at least one start from a senior on offense. On defense, the Vols had only five senior starters. Yet the Vols still came within a game of making a bowl game despite being projected to win as little as three games that year.
Pruitt’s biggest wins to date came during his rookie season. He was named the National Coach of the Week by the Dodd Trophy following The Vols’ 24-7 win over the No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats in Knoxville. The month prior, the Vols upset No. 21 Auburn 30-24 on the road. It was UT’s first upset victory over a ranked team on the road in 12 years.
The start to year two for Pruitt was miserable. The Vols began the season 1-4 with losses to Georgia State, BYU, Florida, and Georgia. Tennessee’s only win in their first five contests was against FCS opponent Chattanooga. Yet the Vols still managed to win eight games and finish on a six-game winning streak, capped off by a comeback victory over Indiana in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. Tennessee finished 8-5 on the season and third in the SEC East despite being picked to finish fifth in the division during the preseason.
Pruitt has parlayed the second-longest active winning streak in the country to quite the success in recruiting off the field this offseason.
Tennessee finished with the No. 10 overall 2020 recruiting class in February and has since catapulted to No. 2 overall in the class of 2021 following a slew of commitments over the last two weeks. The Vols received eight commitments from elite recruits in the span of nine days. Five-star edge rusher Dylan Brooks, five-star linebacker Terrence Lewis, and four-star running back Cody Brown were the highlights of the bunch that included seven prospects rated as at least four-stars on 247Sports.
The recent success on the recruiting trail paired with the improvement from last season’s team has many, such as Simmons, believing in the program that Pruitt is building in Knoxville.