Tennessee landed an excellent coach today and I am not sure they deserve him following a 25 day coaching search debacle. I worked for Jeremy Pruitt at Georgia for a year and a half. Tennessee is getting a coach that can rebuild and redefine the program in quick fashion. The juxtaposition of Jeremy Pruitt vs Butch Jones is honestly laughable. Here are some of the good and bad I think Pruitt brings to Tennessee.
Pruitt came to UGA in 2014 and quickly rocked our world. Under Todd Grantham, we had grown accustomed to a consistent schedule and an occasional ass chewing. Pruitt quickly made it evident that things were going to be done his way no matter how late the support staff had to stay up. I heard every cuss word in the book, strung together in ways I had never experienced. But he made us better and he did it quickly. We played faster, smarter and more aggressively. I feared him but I also respected him and wanted to work extremely hard for him. It was a weird deal.
At that time, I would say half the players on our roster were very good athletes and the other half were straight up stealing. By stealing, I mean getting an education, food and housing for free without having a shot to see SEC minutes. Pruitt was fully aware of this and this increased his intensity tenfold. He basically made half the players so uncomfortable that they really had no other choice but to transfer. He needed more room for his players. Guys like Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Trent Thompson, Natrez Patrick, D’andre Baker and D’andre Walker.
Recruiting in the SEC east just got a lot more difficult for the Dawgs. Pruitt used to constantly say “X’s and O’s are easy, getting athletes is hard.” When Pruitt came to Athens, I finally understood how coaches recruit at an elite level; they never ever stop. Pruitt can relate to any player and is relentless in his pursuit. Johnathan Ledbetter was an Alabama lock when Pruitt arrived in Athens. He chipped away and chipped away until Ledbetter finally flipped to Georgia. If he evaluates a player he thinks will be an all-SEC type athlete, he stops at nothing to win them over. Pruitt is huge on relationships. The most important figure in an athlete’s life will become his main focus. Whether that is mom, dad, uncle, teammate, or high school coach, Pruitt is invested in creating relationships. Tennessee has not been a consistent threat to Georgia in recruiting in some time. I am worried that that time has now arrived. Butch Jones did not recruit Georgia hard enough. He instead recruited Tennessee and Ohio. It’s great that Pruitt said in his initial press conference that they would start in Knoxville and move out but I have a feeling that Georgia will be a heavy focus. That is not good news for Georgia. But I’m not sure there is a recruiter I trust more in the country than Kirby Smart.
One thing I always respected about Pruitt was the ability to evaluate talent and potential. He never relied on recruiting services but on his own evaluation alone. He analyzed very specific characteristics when watching film or watching a prospect at summer camp. He saw things others did not. Pruitt is huge on loose hips, ankles and knees. He covets the ability to bend. He is huge on track stars. I spent half my recruiting focus looking up prospects 100M times or other track accomplishments. Pruitt was the first to identify Dante Jackson as an elite CB based on his 100M dash time. Jackson eventually stayed home at LSU and has become a 3 year starter and one of the SEC’s best.
Obviously, this is Pruitt’s first stop as a head coach. He has been solely focused on defense his entire career. He will need an OC he can trust and rely on to independently lead that side of the ball. Pruitt’s rise is really crazy if you think about it. He told us a story about when he was applying for a spot under Rush Propst at Hoover high school. Propst told Pruitt that he had chosen another candidate and he wished him luck. Pruitt showed up at Propst’s house to convince him that he was the right man for the job. That was only 13 years ago. Since then, he’s learned under some of college football’s best coaches. It was a quick ascent and he has earned it. But is he ready for an undertaking as large as Tennessee? He won’t have long to make his case
Pruitt will have to be patient in his first few years as he transitions his own recruits into place. I can tell you from personal experience that patience is not his number one virtue. Early in the summer in my first year under him, we presented Pruitt with the initial Clemson game plan. He read through it, hated it and wanted a new version the very next morning. We stayed up the entire night, literally cut and pasted paper squares to maintain the formatting he wanted and then coached UGA kids camp the next day. It was a dark time. He knows what he needs and he wants it immediately. Tennessee administration better give it to him or it will be a very strained relationship. The #1 person that could get in the way of Jeremy Pruitt being a success is Phillip Fulmer.
Pruitt is not a polished coaching figure. He is a southern country boy. His press conferences won’t always be pretty but he will have a hungry group that goes and gets it in the weight room. Really interested in who Pruitt hires as his strength and conditioning coordinator. Watch Mark Hocke. Pruitt brought Hocke to UGA in 2015 and after serving at Texas A&M last season, who knows what his future looks like.
Recruits likely to reconsider Tennessee
OL Cade Mays
· Cade Mays is born and bred as a Tennessee Volunteer. He wants to go to Tennessee and the only thing that has been keeping him uncommitted is the Butch Jones circus
· He will be Pruitt’s first call. These two country boys will get along immediately and the addition of Will Friend as OL coach will help. Trey Smith + Cade Mays= a very good Tennessee OL in the next few years
WR Alontae Taylor
· I really like Pruitt’s pickup of Tyson Helton as new Tennessee OC and I think Taylor will as well
· Taylor would be a great playmaker to go along with Marquez Callaway
· Will be a huge battle between the new Tennessee staff and James Coley. I think Coley wins
CB Jaycee Horn
· Was committed to Tennessee and highly recruited by Pruitt at Alabama
· I imagine it will be a fight between Tennessee and South Carolina. Pruitt should reel him in
Recruits the Dawgs are now in a Better Spot for
OLB/DE Brenton Cox
· After decommitting from Ohio state earlier this week, Alabama was considered to be in the lead
· The departure of Pruitt should give the Dawgs a window and it could be a huge get
· Watch the visits
OLB Quay Walker
· Another impressive OLB who likely had Bama in the lead prior to Pruitt’s departure
· Bama and Auburn likely still in decent shape
OLB JJ Peterson
· Colquitt County product was very close with Pruitt and considered a near Bama lock
· Interesting to see if Peterson entertains Tennessee
· Keep an eye on his head coach Rush Propst. Could be a spot for him at Tennessee
· Do the Dawgs pursue?
I will see y’all next week with an SEC championship game recap and my thoughts on the Rose Bowl.