Opinion: Pruitt is a Good Recruiter of Coaches, Not Just Players

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    RTI contributor Spencer Morrell is the author of this article 

    When Jeremy Pruitt was chosen to be Tennessee’s new head football coach back in December of 2017, nobody doubted his recruiting ability. At his previous coaching stops at Alabama, Florida State, and Georgia, Pruitt had shown exceptional prowess when it came to pulling in highly touted college football prospects. His abilities even earned him the 247Sports “Recruiter of the Year” award after his work during the 2012 recruiting cycle.

    However, there were questions about how Pruitt would fare when hiring and managing a coaching staff, as Tennessee would be his first head coaching job in his career. But after two years as Tennessee’s head man, Pruitt appears to have answered those questions with a resounding “A’ight.”

    Pruitt has assembled a coaching staff that rivals not only the best in the SEC, but the best in the nation. Even after just two seasons, Pruitt and his staff have shown to be more than apt at developing talent and raising their players’ competitive ceilings.

    Where this staff has undoubtedly shined is on the recruiting trail.

    If Pruitt is the tree of Tennessee’s coaching staff, then his assistants are the apples, and they certainly do not fall far from that tree. Pruitt’s assistants have shown to be just as tenacious as their head coach when identifying and recruiting big-time prospects.

    The Vols are on a hot streak on the recruiting trail because Pruitt made hiring decisions that prioritized recruiting ability. Those decisions are now paying huge dividends for Pruitt and Tennessee as assistant coaches Brian Niedermeyer, Derrick Ansley, Tee Martin, Joe Osovet, and Jay Graham have fueled the Vols’ scorching streak on the recruiting trail. Their efforts have launched Tennessee to the top of the Southeastern Conference in the 2021 recruiting cycle.

    Brian Niedermeyer is a name that most Vol fans recognize. He has been on Pruitt’s staff at Tennessee since Day 1. Pruitt hired Niedermeyer to be his tight ends coach, and he knew that Niedermeyer had a knack for recruiting from seeing his work as Assistant Director of Recruiting Operations at Alabama in 2017.

    Niedermeyer has not disappointed.

    The young assistant is known for swaying four-star linebacker Henry To’o To’o away from Alabama and pulling five-star offensive tackle Darnell Wright out of West Virginia. Both played meaningful minutes last year as freshmen, and they will certainly continue to do so in the years to come. Niedermeyer, just as Pruitt did before him, was awarded the 247Sports “Recruiter of the Year” for his efforts on the recruiting trail in 2019.

    However, his work did not stop there. Niedermeyer moved to inside linebackers coach after the 2019 season, and he’s continued to recruit at a high level when it comes to the 2021 class. He is the primary recruiter for current Tennessee commit and five-star linebacker Terrence Lewis, currently the highest-rated recruit in the Vols’ 2021 class. He is also a secondary recruiter for current 2021 commits such as four-star running back Cody Brown, four-star linebacker Aaron Willis, four-star wide receiver Julian Nixon, and three-star athlete Trinity Bell.

    According to 247Sports, Niedermeyer is currently the 10th-ranked recruiter in the SEC for the 2021 recruiting cycle.

    But it’s not just Niedermeyer who has been tearing it up on the recruiting trail lately for Tennessee.

    Derrick Ansley, who was previously the defensive backs coach at Tennessee back in 2012, was hired by Pruitt to serve as defensive coordinator before the 2019 season. Before Pruitt brought Ansley back to Knoxville, the defensive-minded coach had made stops coaching defensive backs at Kentucky, Alabama, and in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders. Ansley took over as defensive coordinator for Tennessee in 2019 with impressive results, as his defense finished the season ranked in the top 25 nationally in total defense, pass defense, and interceptions.

    Ansley has shown to be just as impressive on the recruiting trail during his time at UT, too. He was the primary recruiter for four-star safety and top in-state recruit Keshawn Lawrence in the Vols’ 2020 class. So far in the 2021 recruiting cycle, Ansley has shown no signs of slowing down. He’s the primary recruiter for current Vol commit Dylan Brooks, who is the No. 1 weak-side defensive end in the class and the top player from the state of Alabama. Ansley is also the primary recruiter for current Vol commit and four-star safety Kamar Wilcoxson, three-star strong-side defensive end Darrell Jackson, three-star safety De’Shawn Rucker, and three-star cornerback Jay Jones. Ansley is also a secondary recruiter for current Vol commits Elijah Howard, safety Edwin White, and defensive tackle Isaac Washington.

    Needless to say, Ansley has been an extremely busy man this offseason, and the numbers reflect that as he is currently the No. 1 ranked recruiter in the SEC for the 2021 recruiting cycle according to 247Sports.

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    Tee Martin needs no introduction to Vol fans. The former Vol QB and national champion returned to Tennessee in 2019, and fans could not be happier to have him back in Knoxville. After brief coaching stops at New Mexico and Kentucky, Martin settled in on the coaching staff at the University of Southern California in 2012. He eventually became the offensive coordinator at USC and was awarded the 247Sports “Recruiter of the Year” award in 2016.

    Pruitt brought the offensive-minded Martin on as wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator in 2019, and Martin wasted no time in recruiting talent to that position. The former Vol standout is the primary recruiter for current several Vol commits, including four-star wide receivers Julian Nixon and Jordan Mosley. He is also the primary recruiter for three-star Vol commits Walker Merrill, Roc Taylor, and Edwin White.

    It appears that Tee Martin has settled right back into his “home sweet home” as an elite recruiter and offensive coach. According to 247Sports, Martin is currently the fifth-ranked recruiter in the SEC for the 2021 recruiting cycle.

    Joe Osovet is a fairly new face on the Tennessee coaching staff, at least for most Tennessee fans. While he had an off-field role on Pruitt’s staff for the first two years of Pruitt’s tenure, Osovet was promoted to the on-field position of tight ends coach in February of this year.

    For the 20 years prior to arriving on Rocky Top, Osovet had a remarkable career coaching in the junior college ranks. The New York native has also gained a reputation as an ace recruiter since being promoted in February. His ties to the northeast helped Tennessee land commitments from two Baltimore prospects, as he was the primary recruiter for both four-star linebacker Aaron Willis and four-star defensive tackle KaTron Evans. His experience in the junior college ranks also helped Tennessee land a commitment from Tiyon Evans, the No. 1 JUCO running back prospect in the 2021 class. He’s the primary recruiter for tight end commits Miles Campbell and Trinity Bell, and he is a secondary recruiter for four-star tight end commit Hudson Wolfe, Tennessee’s most recent addition to the 2021 class.

    While Osovet may be a new face on Tennessee’s on-field staff, he is making his presence known on the recruiting trail early and often. Osovet is currently the No. 3 recruiter in the SEC for the 2021 recruiting cycle based on 247Sports rankings.

    Lastly, there’s another former Vol player who deserves attention for his efforts so far in the 2021 class.

    Many Vol fans remember Jay Graham for running through SEC defenses in the mid-1990s, and he has now returned to his alma mater to coach running backs at UT. In the last decade, Graham has coached running backs at South Carolina, Florida State, and Texas A&M. He even held the post of running backs coach at Tennessee back in 2012. Pruitt hired the former Vol running back to that same position in January of this year.

    While Graham has yet to coach the Vols on the field, he’s made an immediate impact on the recruiting trail.

    Graham is the primary recruiter for four-star running back commit Cody Brown and four-star athlete commit Kaemen Marley. He is also the primary recruiter for No. 1 JUCO running back commit Tiyon Evans and three-star running back commit Jaylen Wright. Graham is also a secondary recruiter for three-star offensive tackle commit Colby Smith.

    Tennessee’s new running backs coach has been working swiftly and effectively in bolstering UT’s talent and depth at the running back position by recruiting 2021 prospects at a high level. According to 247Sports, Graham is the No. 2 recruiter in the SEC for the 2021 recruiting cycle.

    Jeremy Pruitt has assembled a topflight recruiting staff going into his third year as the head coach of the Vols. Tennessee’s 2021 recruiting class is ranked among the best nationally by most recruiting services and No. 1 in the SEC. The momentum, skill, and tenacity of UT’s coaches on the recruiting trail are undeniable.

    Everyone knew that Pruitt could recruit players, but nobody knew that he could recruit coaches quite like this. Pruitt has recruited coaches to his staff who can recruit just as well as he can. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the SEC, but it’s great news for Tennessee.