I say it a lot, but it’s only because I truly believe it.
College football is the wildest sport in America.
(If you don’t believe me, just check out the ending of the Ole Miss/Mississippi State game on Thursday night.)
Just two weeks into the 2019 season, there was a massive debate about whether or not Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt was on the hot seat.
Tennessee inexplicably lost to Georgia State to open the 2019 season. The following week, the Volunteers lost to BYU in overtime because of a busted defense in the final moments of regulation.
Now, less than three months later, not only is Pruitt no longer on the hot seat, I believe he’s deserving of a raise and an extension.
(Like I said, it’s a wild sport.)
That’s not to say that I think Pruitt is suddenly on the verge of leading Tennessee to the College Football Playoff in the near future. That would be silly to suggest (the Vols still have a lot of work to do before they can even get in that conversation).
But I think Pruitt has displayed this season that he’s the right coach for the Vols.
— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) November 28, 2019
It’s been a long time since I watched a UT game and thought “that looks like Tennessee football”.
I get that feeling when I watch Pruitt’s Vols.
The physicality of the offensive line. The energy of the defense. And the explosiveness of the offense (that we’ve started seeing in recent weeks).
Those are all traits that have become synonymous with Tennessee football over the years. But they’ve been lost since Phillip Fulmer was forced out in late 2008.
Butch Jones relied heavily on gimmicky offenses and smaller offensive lines that specialized in zone blocking schemes. Pruitt, however, is determined to field a team that lines up and dominates one on one situations.
No gimmicks, no shortcuts. Just football.
Everything about Pruitt seems right for Tennessee. He played and coached in the SEC. He has a southern accent (this might seem frivolous, but being a cultural fit is important in college football). And he knows how to recruit elite talent.
Perhaps most importantly, though, Pruitt has brought a family atmosphere to Rocky Top that is based on trust.
A lot of trust was lost during the Butch era. Pruitt, however, has rebuilt that trust.
When a recruit steps on campus in Knoxville, they’re going to immediately feel that trusting family atmosphere that Pruitt has built.
The Vols still have a long way to go under Pruitt. And I don’t know if he’ll ever get Tennessee to a championship level. None of us can tell the future.
That’s why athletic directors have to make decisions based on the information in front of them. Right now, I think Pruitt is the right guy for Tennessee. And I think UT should invest in Pruitt. The program needs to continue to build and enrich the relationship between Pruitt and Tennessee.
Because if Pruitt continues on this trajectory, other programs will come calling (not just Alabama).
The Vols don’t want to get into a situation where they lose the coach they’ve essentially been searching for since 2008.
Extending Pruitt isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
Featured image via Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports