It came at the cost of one athletic director and a lot of red faces in Knoxville. A lot of Volunteers fans were the butt of jokes about the social media. And then Tennessee hired a former head coach as an AD, and within a few days, the school had installed a new coach from hated rival Alabama – defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

While details on Pruitt’s contract are not known, Pruitt was hired over Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. All three had done fantastic jobs at their respective schools this season.

Of course, the hiring of Pruitt did not come without its controversy. Apparently Jimmy Haslem, the school’s powerhouse booster, wanted Tucker for the job, but Philip Fulmer – who was driven out in 2008 for not taking the Vols to the heights he took them in 1998 when he won Knoxville a National Championship – would have none of it. He plumped for Pruitt.

It’s hard to argue with Pruitt when it comes to his defensive numbers. Pruitt’s one of the best – if not the best – defensive coordinator in college football.

Working under Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher at Alabama and at Florida State before that (with a trip under Mark Richt at Georgia in between), Pruitt’s defenses were always in the top five in their respective seasons. The amount of defensive players who have left Alabama and Florida State after playing for him is staggering.

Pruitt is also seen as a fantastic recruiter, and with the name Alabama, Florida State and Georgia carried he was able to get talent from all over the country.

What’s interesting about Pruitt’s resume is that he’s never stayed anywhere for very long. He’s had five jobs at big schools (Alabama/Florida State/Georgia/back to Alabama) in 10 years. We don’t know whether that was his own hot feet or whether it was created by Jimmy Sexton, his agent who is renowned for placing his head coaches and their assistants in well-paying jobs.

It’ll be interesting if he’s loyal to Tennessee – or the people in Knoxville are that loyal to him.

This season he’s got quite the turnaround to do, with home games against Alabama as well as Florida (who will almost certainly be revitalised under head coach Dan Mullen), and evil road games at Auburn and Georgia. He also opens his Tennessee career with a tricky opening game against West Virginia in Charlotte. He’ll be happy it wasn’t Morgantown.

BOTTOM LINE: Despite all the stumbling around, Tennessee has made a fantastic hire on paper in Jeremy Pruitt. He knows the area, he’s a fantastic career, and he also knows the SEC as well as anyone in college football. Having said that, Tennessee’s schedule is hardly easy, so a bowl game would be a success for the Vols in 2018.

 

 

 

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