The Tennessee Vols will eventually hire a new offensive coordinator.
When the hire is made is irrelevant. If it takes Jeremy Pruitt two months to make the hire (which we’re approaching), it won’t have any effect on the success of Tennessee’s offense next season.
In fact, an argument could be made that waiting until January has opened up a few options for Pruitt and the Vols. Names like Jim Chaney, Steve Sarkisian and some NFL options are now in the conversation. A month ago, Tennessee was limited to a hail mary with Hugh Freeze or trying to persuade Mike Yurcich to leave Stillwater for Knoxville. Freeze was eventually hired as the head coach at Liberty and Yurcich went to Ohio State.
Finding the right person for the job is the most important part of Tennessee’s search for a new offensive coordinator. Rushing to make a hire, only to realize a few months later that a mistake was made, would be detrimental to the Vols in 2019.
And let’s be frank — Pruitt can’t afford to make a mistake with this hire. It’s not like the clock has started on Pruitt’s seat, that’s just silly. But college programs are expected to turn around quickly with a new head coach. A bad offensive coordinator hire could set that process back a year or more.
Recruiting comes first
Pruitt put the offensive coordinator search on the back burner in mid to late December because of the early signing period. That was a wise move by Pruitt because signing great players is the only way a new offensive coordinator will find success at Tennessee.
In the midst of the early signing period, Pruitt caught some heat when he said offensive coordinator hires could be “overrated”.
Jeremy Pruitt on Tennessee’s search for an offensive coordinator…
“I’d rather talk about recruiting right now. Sometimes this OC stuff is overrated anyways. Some of these teams out there, it doesn’t matter who’s running those offenses.”
— Jesse Simonton (@JesseReSimonton) December 19, 2018
He’s not wrong, though. Hiring a smart, innovative offensive coordinator is only half the battle. If the players on the field don’t do their job, or if they’re not capable of playing to the talent level of the competition, then it’s going to be awfully tough for any offensive coordinator to do a good job.
Essentially, Pruitt is trying to balance finding a coach who fits his philosophy and can recruit well, with trying to put the finishing touches on the Vols’ 2019 recruiting class.
Let’s not forget that National Signing Day is less than a month away. It’s not like the end of the early signing period signaled the end of a heavy recruiting period. Pruitt is still juggling this search with recruiting (whether it’s texting recruits or watching film).
The right fit
The list of coaches who will fit well at Tennessee is incredibly short at this point. Basically, I think it should be down to Chaney or Steve Sarkisian. Both coaches run systems similar to what Pruitt wants to run. And both coaches have had success in Power-5 conferences. In Chaney’s case, he should be able to help recruiting because potential recruiting targets can look to his success at Georgia, and his past stops, as a reason to head to Rocky Top.
And regardless of Chaney’s situation in Athens, if he’s hired by Pruitt it will be viewed as though Tennessee poached him from Georgia.
That would certainly provide Pruitt with some ammunition during recruiting.
As far as Sarkisian goes, he’s known as an elite recruiter, though he doesn’t have a lot of connections in the south. But let’s be honest, telling 16 and 17 year old kids about his NFL experience will be an added bonus for Sarkisian in recruiting.
Offensively, Sarkisian knows how to be successful in the college game. He’s certainly more than capable of running an efficient offense in the SEC.
I expect that a hire will be made soon, so Pruitt can fully focus on the last few weeks of recruiting before National Signing Day.
But who it will be is truly anyone’s guess at this point. Pruitt is doing his best to keep this search as quiet as possible.
And I must say, much to my dismay, he’s done a pretty good job of it.
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