Will Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt return to Knoxville in 2021?

That’s the big question surrounding UT football right now and I don’t think anyone knows the answer.

(If you think the bowl game statement from Phillip Fulmer means that Pruitt is for sure returning in 2021, then I’d advise you to check out what happened at Texas over the last few weeks.)

And that’s bad for the Vols.

If Pruitt is going to return in 2021 (my gut feeling is that he will), then he needs to be allowed to make hires and proceed as normal.

Right now, however, Pruitt isn’t allowed to make hires (according to a report from Football Scoop’s John Brice).

Tennessee currently has a vacancy at offensive line coach and defensive line coach. There could be more openings in the near future, too. Inside linebackers coach Brian Niedermeyer and wide receivers coach Tee Martin both have contracts that expire later this month. There’s also plenty of speculation that quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke could be out the door.

While it’s not unusual to see staff hires made in late January/February, it’s still not ideal for Pruitt to be in a situation where he can’t hire anyone. Assistants are being scooped up at other programs — specifically at Texas by former Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian — and Pruitt needs to be able to make a pitch to those coaches and/or extend an offer.

It’s been reported that Sarkisian could be interested in former Alabama defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi as his defensive line coach at Texas. Lupoi is currently the defensive line coach with the Atlanta Falcons. He’d be an obvious fit as Pruitt’s defensive line coach at Tennessee. But because of Pruitt being in limbo, it seems unlikely that Lupoi would choose the Vols over the Longhorns.

If Tennessee is going to stick with Pruitt in 2021, then they need to make it clear ASAP. Football is a year-round sport these days. And Pruitt is losing precious time by sitting around and waiting for the UT to make up its mind.

And if the Vols don’t want Pruitt back in 2021 (which at this point if he didn’t return it would likely be because of the internal investigation that’s still ongoing at Tennessee), then why waste time on hiring a new coach/staff?

Signing day is just around the corner. There are also transfer players that UT would like to add. And spring practice starts in just a couple of months. Time is of the essence.

I shouldn’t be surprised that Tennessee isn’t handling this well. The program hasn’t handled any coaching situations very well since 2008 when Philip Fulmer was forced out.

The Vols need to get off the sidelines this week and make some decisions. Otherwise, we will continue to see rival programs pass by Tennessee.

Featured image via Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

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