Jeremy Pruitt inherited a complete mess when he took over for Butch Jones as the head coach of the Tennessee Vols in late 2017.
And no one understands that better than athletic director Phillip Fulmer.
That’s because Fulmer spent 17 seasons as Tennessee’s head coach. He knows what the program looks like in the best of times (1998 national championship) and he knows what it looks like when things aren’t going well (2008, his final season as UT’s head coach).
Fulmer’s experience is why he didn’t panic when the Vols started 0-2 in 2019. He saw what was going on behind the scenes at Tennessee and he had faith in Pruitt’s approach.
That faith was eventually rewarded with a six-game winning streak to close the season.
So where does the program stand moving forward in Fulmer’s eyes?
Well, there’s a lot of optimism. In fact, Fulmer thinks Pruitt is actually a little ahead of schedule.
“You have to go back to the beginning. Coach Pruitt inherited a mess here, and I actually think in some ways, he’s a bit ahead of schedule,” explained Fulmer to the Knoxville News Sentinel this week.
The legendary former Vols head coach added “The system – a system – is much better in place than it was two years ago”.
“People are looking at the Tennessee brand much more like they used to look at it. So, I think there’s a lot of real positive momentum for this team and this staff and for our Tennessee people.”
It’s clear that Fulmer believes the Vols are on the right track under Pruitt. And if he’s correct that Pruitt is ahead of schedule, perhaps it will mean a College Football Playoff appearance sooner rather than later for Tennessee.
Crazier things have happened.
Featured image via Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports