Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt has a reputation for being a no-nonsense, tough head coach that demands the best from his players in practice and on game days.

That reputation is accurate. Pruitt is absolutely a demanding head coach that always feels his team could play/practice better.

But Pruitt is also a players’ coach, and he proved it in Jacksonville this week.

On Wednesday, Pruitt and various UT players met with the media ahead of their Gator Bowl matchup with Indiana on Thursday night.

Redshirt senior wide receiver Jauan Jennings was one of the players who was available to the media.

As expected, Jennings was asked about the actions that led to his suspension in the first half of the Gator Bowl.

(If you somehow missed it, Jennings was suspended for stepping on a Vanderbilt player’s head in the final game of the regular season.)

Jennings called the incident an “accident” that was unfortunate, before saying he just wanted to focus on preparing for the Gator Bowl.

Pruitt, however, quickly stepped in to defend Jennings’ character, saying “Jauan Jennings has done nothing but do everything exactly the way we wanted him to since I’ve been the head coach at Tennessee.”

Tennessee’s second year head coach added “The guy’s graduated, he’s competed, he’s been a great leader…..Jauan plays the right way”.

Pruitt stopped short of disagreeing publicly with the SEC’s decision to suspend Jennings, which was probably smart since that would be a losing battle that would only hurt Tennessee in the future.

But I think it’s clear from Pruitt’s comments that he’s siding with his player here.

Pruitt didn’t have to stand up for Jennings the way he did. He made those comments because he felt it was necessary so people won’t get the wrong impression of Jennings.

It’s obvious that Pruitt cares deeply for his players. And he has their backs — in the good and the bad.

Featured image via Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

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