Jeremy Pruitt brings a lot to the table as the Tennessee Vols’ head coach.

His background as a defensive guru is what will ultimately turn Tennessee into a relevant program again. But relevancy won’t come without elite players.

Unfortunately for the Vols, the wins have to start piling up before most elite players will start signing.

That means Pruitt has to find some “under-the-radar” recruits that are overlooked by other programs.

Pruitt has always been a strong talent evaluator. It’s easily one of his biggest strengths.

But for now, it’s a strength that Pruitt can’t fully use.

Every time Pruitt (or someone on his staff) finds a solid “under-the-radar” recruit, other programs instantly take notice. We received an example of this on Saturday when 2020 three-star running back Ebony Jackson decommitted from UT just six weeks after pledging to play for the Vols.

Jackson, 6-foot-1/205 lbs, committed to Tennessee in early April. His only other reported offers at the time of his commitment were from Ole Miss and East Carolina.

Since committing to the Vols, however, other programs have started taking notice of the Georgia native. And those other programs include Alabama, who offered Jackson on May 10.

Essentially, one of Pruitt’s biggest strengths has been neutralized by other programs because of the state of Tennessee football. It’s hard for coaches to convince a high school player to go to UT when Alabama is also showing interest.

At this point, every time Pruitt finds a “hidden gem”, other programs instantly start offering because they assume the player is better than their recruiting rating.

It’s a tough spot for Pruitt. Coaches obviously want to offer a player as early as possible (to build a relationship), but in Tennessee’s case it means “exposing” that player to other programs.

While it’s unfortunate for the Vols, it’s also a good sign that the program will have an abundance of future success, albeit incremental success. Tennessee is going to start playing better under Pruitt. Which means the recruiting classes will slowly start to get better. And more of those hidden gems will stick with UT.

Until then, Pruitt just has to out-grind the rest of the coaches in the SEC. Which is why his paintball course on Saturday was a brilliant idea. Pruitt has to use every trick in the book to get an edge over his competitors.

And he appears to be doing just that.

Featured image via Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

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