Does Jeremy Pruitt have what it takes to be the head coach of a college football program?
That was the question that was asked about Pruitt by analysts after the Tennessee Vols hired the former Alabama defensive coordinator in late 2017 to replace Butch Jones.
It was a question that received a lot of attention during the week of SEC media days in 2018, thanks to former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (who was never coached by Pruitt).
Former Georgia QB Aaron Murray with some legitimate questions regarding Jeremy Pruitt’s inexperience as a head coach heading into 2018 on @1025TheGame. These are unknowns but have to think Fulmer’s presence should be a big help for Pruitt in this regard pic.twitter.com/ZatrbItWFf
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) July 17, 2018
Pruitt immediately took a CEO like approach in his response to Murray.
— WBIR Sports (@WBIRSports) July 18, 2018
It’s been nearly two years since the Murray comments. And we know a lot more about Pruitt as a head coach now than we did back then.
So far, Pruitt has been able to make some great staff additions (Jim Chaney, Tee Martin and Derrick Ansley to name a few), showed a willingness to delegate (handing the defense to Ansley in year two) and he’s absolutely tearing up the recruiting trail.
More impressive than those feats, however, was Pruitt’s ability to keep a sinking ship afloat in the early part of the 2019 season. When the Vols started last season with back-to-back losses to Georgia State and BYU, there were plenty of folks who thought he was on the verge of being done at Tennessee.
I didn’t necessarily think he was toast, but I wasn’t feeling very positive about the future of Vol football at the time.
Somehow, though, Pruitt kept the team focused on their goal. Despite the rough start, he still managed to change the culture on Rocky Top.
That only happens for two reasons — having the trust of the players and knowing how to coach football. The X’s and O’s, the techniques. The not-so-glamorous part of the job.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) May 25, 2020
Teaching the X’s and O’s and technique.
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There aren’t many coaches in college football who I view as complete coaches.
Nick Saban is obviously one. Ed Orgeron is another (say what you will, but he knows X’s and O’s and he’s finally learned how to lead a program). Lincoln Riley as well.
(Urban Meyer and Bob Stoops would be on the list as well if they were active.)
There are others, but they aren’t as prevalent as you think.
Dabo Swinney, for example, isn’t quite there because I believe his X’s and O’s knowledge is limited, but he’s surrounded himself with great people.
Pruitt, however, has the Saban/Orgeron/Stoops factor.
That’s why he’s so well suited to lead Tennessee.
And it’s why I truly believe the Vols will eventually be knocking on the College Football Playoff’s door.
Featured image via Randy Sartin/USA Today