Jeremy Pruitt’s first season as the Tennessee Vols’ head coach included plenty of highs and lows.

Wins against Auburn and Kentucky were the high points of the season, while a stumbling 0-2 finish that included disastrous losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt were the low points of a 5-7 season.

Moving forward, it’s clear that Pruitt has a lot of work to do if he plans to turn Tennessee into a serious contender in the near future.

And it’s understandable if fans are questioning whether or not it will be possible for Pruitt to turn things around.

While I certainly understand the frustration of fans who feel the mountain is too high to climb, I think there’s a reason for folks to feel confident that the Vols can right the ship under Pruitt.

That reason?

Butch Jones.

Yes. You read that right.

Fans should feel encouraged that Pruitt will do great things because of what Jones nearly did at Tennessee.

Most folks would probably agree that Pruitt and Jones are in two different classes as football coaches. Pruitt is universally respected by fellow coaches and recruits as a “football guy”. He’s spent most of his college coaching career in the SEC coaching some of the best football players in the nation. Pruitt is head and shoulders above Jones when it comes to coaching.

But despite Jones’ deficiencies, he was close to doing some great things at Tennessee. And his tenure started in a similar manner.

Jones went 5-7 in his first season on Rocky Top, including a loss to Vanderbilt that knocked the Volunteers out of contention for a bowl game.

After Jones’ initial season, recruiting picked up. Tennessee landed the No. 7 class in the nation in 2014 and the No. 4 class in the nation in 2015.

Tennessee Vols

Tennessee’s 2015 and 2016 teams were loaded with future NFL talent. If Pruitt had been the coach of those teams, the Vols would have certainly won more than nine games a season.

If the Vols were that close to turning the corner under a head coach who proved to be more than inadequate, then I think they’ll be just fine under Pruitt.

Unlike Jones, Pruitt knows what goes into building championship programs. He was there at the beginning when Nick Saban quickly rebuilt Alabama into a national powerhouse. Pruitt’s been a part of a blueprint that works.

Jones, on the other hand, never was. That’s why he failed to get the most out of Tennessee’s surplus of talent in 2015 and 2016; and ultimately why he was fired at UT.

Pruitt’s a better coach and recruiter than Jones. Pruitt is going to attract better talent than Jones and he’s going to know how to best utilize that talent.

Tennessee’s going to have a chance under Pruitt to do great things. It’s up to Pruitt to prove he’s deserving of his reputation.

Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports/Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

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