The Tennessee Vols have made a lot of progress under second year head coach Jeremy Pruitt this season.
But they won’t have a shot at winning the SEC until they start consistently signing some of the nation’s top recruits.
In 2019, the Vols landed the nation’s No. 13 recruiting class. Their 2020 recruiting class is currently ranked No. 20 in the nation.
That’s not bad for a program that’s only won 14 games over the past three seasons, but it’s not good enough to compete with Alabama and Georgia.
Fortunately for Tennessee, however, Pruitt has put the program in a better position to land elite recruits moving forward.
And it’s not necessarily because of what the Vols have done on the field over the last month.
While it certainly helps that Tennessee has looked like a much better football team as the season has progressed, that’s the not the main way Pruitt has helped recruiting.
It’s all about relationships
Redshirt junior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano has been an extremely polarizing player this season. He was deemed the unquestioned starting quarterback well before the start of the 2019 season, but he wasn’t able to hold onto the job once the calendar flipped to October.
Guarantano has played poorly this season, changed plays he shouldn’t have changed, and dealt with a broken hand. Suffice it to say, it’s been a rough year for the New Jersey native.
The outside perception of Guarantano at one point this season was that the coaches — mainly Pruitt — were “done” with the fourth year quarterback.
— Marshall Hughes (@marshallhughes) November 10, 2019
But that was far from the case. Pruitt coached Guarantano hard, but he always had his quarterback’s back. Pruitt made it a point to tell reporters that Guarantano, despite his struggles, would help Tennessee win games in 2019.
And he was right.
Guarantano hasn’t started a game since the Vol’s loss to Georgia earlier this season. But he’s played an important role in Tennessee’s wins against Mississippi State, South Carolina, UAB and Kentucky.
It would’ve been incredibly easy for Pruitt to give up on Guarantano. I’m sure a lot of coaches probably would’ve. But he stuck by Guarantano. Pruitt made it a point to publicly state his belief in Guarantano every chance he got.
That’s something that recruits, and perhaps more importantly their parents, see. Players that are still deciding where to go to college are seeing how Pruitt treats his players in the worst of times.
Jeremy Pruitt is the type of coach that parents want their kid to play for. Playing college football is about a lot more than what happens on the field for three hours on 12 fall Saturdays. College athletes spend most of their college life around their football teammates and coaches. A coach that doesn’t care can create a miserable experience for a recruit.
Recruits are seeing if they commit to Tennessee, they’ll get coached hard, but they’ll also get love and loyalty.
I can’t think of a better recruiting pitch for a parent to hear.
Featured image via Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports