Will Jeremy Pruitt have ‘chicken skin’ when leading Vols into Neyland for debut?

Jeremy Pruitt

Jeremy Pruitt was asked Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference about the presence of “chicken skin” for his debut game inside Neyland Stadium as Tennessee’s head coach.

Normally slowing for nothing, Pruitt needed a moment to gather his thoughts.

“I ain’t got no idea,” Pruitt said before the questioner called it “goosebumps.” “I’ll tell you what, for me before any game, it’s really why you put in all your work in the offseason, what you work for is the games.

“For me, definitely running out on Neyland Stadium. I get goose bumps running out on the practice field, I love to compete. … We have a lot to improve on and a lot to prove.”

Calling the challenge of restoring the Vols’ once-proud program back to a respectable level as the best thing about being Tennessee’s head man, Pruitt also delved into his relationship with former colleague and current ETSU head coach Randy Sanders.

Tennessee is a prohibitive favorite to get its first win of the Pruitt era Saturday when the Vols host Sanders’ Bucs at 4 p.m. inside Neyland Stadium.

“I’ve known Randy since 2013, known of him for a very long time,” Pruitt said. “Working with him in 2013, he’s a great team guy for the staff. Very knowledgeable when it comes to football, very organized, he’s a good recruiter, works his tail off.

“His teams play with toughness, very competitive just like he is.”

Pruitt said Sanders always had a patient ear for Pruitt’s inquiries as Sanders was a veteran coach and Pruitt a first-time defensive coordinator when they worked together on Jimbo Fisher’s staff that guided the Seminoles to the 2013 national championship.

“One thing that I did a lot, I asked Randy a lot of questions,” Pruitt said. “Randy’s been doing this a long time and had a lot of success. When we talked about how to do things structurally or situations that come up in a game, he helped me grow as a coach. It was my first time.

“He really helped me out a lot in different areas. If I had questions about two minutes, two-minute (situations) before the half. Me and him spent time together during the summer; I stayed in contact with him throughout the years. I have tremendous respect for Randy as a person, as a coach, for how his teams play. He’s done a fantastic job wherever he’s been.”

Fisher has respect for both of his former assistants.

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