Given all that transpired during the 2017 season and subsequent coaching search, I think the Tennessee Vols hit a grand slam by hiring Jeremy Pruitt to replace Butch Jones.
So far during Pruitt’s seven months as the Vols’ head coach, he’s made Tennessee look brilliant for hiring him. He’s returning an old school feel to the Vols’ football program, making it more about what happens on the field, and less about the noise off it.
While I believe Pruitt will ultimately be responsible for some special achievements on Rocky Top, we saw this week that there’s still a lot of work to be done to get UT back to the top.
On Monday, Pruitt and the Vols missed on another one of the top in-state recruits — four-star linebacker Kane Patterson, who committed to Ohio State.
Patterson joins Lance Wilhoite, Shamar Nash and Woodi Washington as elite in-state players who have recently committed to play elsewhere.
If the Vols are going to compete for national championships, they can’t afford to let some of the state’s top talent get away.
Unfortunately for Pruitt, there’s not much he can do about it at the moment. It’s clear he’s made an impact on recruits — Tennessee was in the mix for high caliber talent as soon as Pruitt was hired — but while players likely believe Pruitt will do great things at UT, it’s hard to pass up a “sure thing” like Oklahoma or Ohio State.
Pruitt’s done as much as he can do to improve recruiting without actually coaching a game.
Moving forward, the only way Pruitt can make in-state recruiting (and recruiting in general) better is to win games on the football field.
Unfortunately for Tennessee, there’s still a little under two months to go until the first game of the season.
But there’s some good news.
If Tennessee can show significant improvement in the early parts of the 2018 season, it might be enough to sway some recruits to sign with the Vols during the early signing period in December and National Signing Day in February.
Pruitt is going to return Tennessee to national prominence — I have very few doubts about that. But there’s still a lot of work to be done before it actually happens.
Featured image via Times Free Press/Rocky Top Insider