There have been some rumblings lately that Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt could be interested in bringing Kevin Steele to Rocky Top.
On the surface, it makes plenty of sense.
Steele, who most recently served as Auburn’s defensive coordinator, played at Tennessee and had a couple of different stints coaching with the Vols. He obviously knows Phillip Fulmer quite well, plus he’s friends with Pruitt.
In fact, Steele actually helped Pruitt land his first job with Alabama over a decade ago.
“He (Steele) called me one night and he asked me if I’d be interested in talking to Coach Saban,” said Pruitt in late 2018. “I did. From there, I went to work.”
The Vols have a defensive coordinator at the moment (Derrick Ansley), but they also have a couple of defensive staff openings. Tennessee is currently in need of a defensive line coach and a linebackers coach (Steele has mostly coached linebackers over the years).
When a coach with Steele’s experience becomes available, you find a way to make it work.
Though Pruitt might want to think twice about making this situation work.
Pruitt and Steel might be friends, but this is still college football we’re talking about. It’s a business. And business can override friendships at times.
If Pruitt returns to Tennessee in 2021, he’s going to be squarely on the hot seat.
I’m not sure being on the hot seat with Steele on staff would be a great position for Pruitt to be in.
For starters, Steele nearly got the Tennessee job in 2017 when Pruitt was hired. I think it’s safe to say that Steele would probably still like to have the job.
And after what just went down at Auburn (the boosters rallying to fire Gus Malzahn and attempting to promote Steele to permanent head coach), I certainly wouldn’t rule out a situation where Steele helps ease Pruitt out the door so he can get the job on an interim basis (with the hope of getting the full-time gig).
Now, is it possible that none of this happens?
But I don’t think there’s any denying that this is a situation that could potentially get awkward for Tennessee and Pruitt.
That’s why Pruitt needs to be careful. He doesn’t want to be the guy that hires his own replacement.
Featured image via Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports