Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt isn’t among the elite head coaches in college football quite yet, but he’s well on his way to being in that conversation.

The Vols’ improvement on the field is one of the reasons I think Pruitt is on his way to being elite. But that’s not the main reason.

There’s never been any doubt that Pruitt knows the X’s and O’s as well as anyone. Pruitt is a football lifer that put in an extensive amount of time at the high school level (nearly 10 years as an assistant) before getting a shot as the director of player development at Alabama in 2007.

You don’t submit yourself to that kind of grind if you don’t absolutely love football.

Tennessee Vols

But it’s not just the X’s and O’s and scheming against opposing offenses that Pruitt loves. It’s the relationship with players and their families, too.

Pruitt truly cares about the players he’s recruiting. The players aren’t just a tool for Pruitt to win more games. He’s invested in their lives. He’s invested in their families.

That’s part of the reason that Pruitt has excelled in recruiting while in-person visits have been shut down.

Pruitt feels like the video calls with players have actually enabled him to get to know the recruits and their families better.

Here’s what Pruitt had to say during a virtual media session on Tuesday.

“The other part is, because of unlimited phone calls for this class, I feel like out of the guys we’ve recruited – some that are committed to us, some that are not, some that are not committed anywhere – I feel like I know their families. It’s been lots of phone conversations, Zoom calls. I’ve really enjoyed it, getting to know a lot of people. It’s kind of the ups and downs that have happened over the last six months. You get a chance to experience it. We’ve all had them. Everybody on this call, whether it’s in your immediate family or your extended family. I’ve enjoyed sharing that process with the people that we’re recruiting and really getting a chance to get to know a lot of folks on the phone.”

When a coach is that invested in their players, it’s usually going to translate to success.

Combining Pruitt’s football acumen with his ability to build meaningful relationships is what’s going to make him an elite head football coach.

Maybe it doesn’t happen this year. Maybe it’s not next year. But it’s going to happen. Pruitt has all the necessary ingredients.

Featured image via Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports/Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

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