It’s no secret that the Tennessee Vols were a complete mess in late 2017.

A disastrous coaching search that saw a botched hire, a fired athletic director and seemingly limitless rumors put the Vols’ incompetency in the national spotlight.

But somehow, the Vols were in even worse shape than everyone realized.

Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer, who was hired in the midst of the infamous 2017 coaching search, was asked on Thursday during a recruiting celebration in Nashville if Jeremy Pruitt understood what a mess the roster was when he agreed to become the Vols’ head coach.

Fulmer responded that he didn’t realize how far back the Vols were at that point, saying “we were in quite a mess”.

Fulmer isn’t sugar coating it — Butch Jones left Tennessee in horrible shape. Much worse shape than when he inherited it.

This makes the job that Pruitt has done over the last two years even more remarkable. The Vols haven’t been playing with a full deck, yet they managed to beat a good Auburn team on the road in 2018 and finish with a winning record in the SEC in 2019.

I know Fulmer wasn’t the athletic director during Jones’ tenure, but he still made some occasional comments about the state of Tennessee’s program.

And at no point did Fulmer ever ooze excitement over Jones like he has with Pruitt the last couple of months.

It’s probably best to trust Fulmer on this one. He’s seen Tennessee at its best and at its worst. And he believes Pruitt is the guy that can get the Vols back to an elite level.

Featured image via Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports
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