The annual preseason SEC media predictions have the Tennessee Vols finishing fifth in the SEC East in 2019.

That’s a completely fair assessment by the media, but it’s not going to happen.

Tennessee will finish at least fourth or better in the East in 2019. The days of the Vols routinely finishing near the bottom of the division are over. And it’s all because of Jeremy Pruitt and the potential he brings to Rocky Top.

There are a lot of great football coaches in the college game. Pruitt, however, has the potential to be an elite head coach. His ability to recruit at a high level, combined with his exceptional knowledge of the game, is a unique combination that not many coaches possess.

Basically, I think Pruitt has Nick Saban/Dabo Swinney potential.

Now, I’m not saying Tennessee is going to turn into a college football powerhouse overnight. That’s not how it works. Saban had years of experience before he turned Alabama into a juggernaut. And it took Swinney several years to find his footing at Clemson.

It could take Pruitt a while before he has the Vols competing for national championships.

But lackluster seasons that result in only two conference wins are absolutely a thing of the past. Pruitt learned a lot last year in his first season as a head coach. While learning how to run a football program, Pruitt was able to lead a team coming off its worst season ever to a road win against Auburn and a win against the best Kentucky team ever.

The 2018 season obviously ended on a down note with losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt, but I think it would be foolish to gloss over UT’s two conference wins.

Pruitt took a program that was at rock bottom and made positive strides with it, despite never previously being a head coach and not recruiting the majority of the players on the roster.

I think we’re going to see the Vols take a major step forward in 2019. The stain of the Butch Jones era will be gone. Tennessee will look more like a “Pruitt team” and less like a team that regularly misses bowl games.

The Vols are about to become relevant again. Get ready for it.

Featured image via Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

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