Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt didn’t mince words when asked what he thought about those who might be concerned about Phillip Fulmer meddling with Tennessee’s football team.
“They need to worry about something else,” Pruitt said flatly during an interview on WGOW.
Perhaps, but the concern does have merit.
Fulmer is one of the most successful coaches in the history of the SEC and second all-time in total wins at Tennessee. He won a national title and two SEC Championships while he was the head coach of the Vols from 1993 to 2008. Now, Fulmer is UT’s athletic director in charge of turning around a football program that has languished for a decade.
Fulmer’s first move in doing so was hiring Pruitt, who was formerly the defensive coordinator at Alabama and has never been a head coach. Pruitt doesn’t see the relationship as being problematic. To the contrary, he sees the working relationship as a positive aspect of the job.
“I’m excited to have an opportunity to work with Coach Fulmer,” Pruitt said. “He really has been a benefit for me to lean on in some decision making. There are lots of things besides the X’s and O’s that you have to do as a head football coach so it’s good to have somebody that’s done it before and they’ve actually done it at the job you hold. I’m excited to work with him.”
It would be naive to think Fulmer won’t be more involved with football than other sports. It would also be naive to think he wouldn’t be willing to offer advice to Pruitt. Fulmer’s success as an athletic director will ultimately depend on what UT’s football program is able to accomplish. Apparently, he’s been keeping some pretty close tabs on the Vols lately.
“A lot of work to be done,” Fulmer said on WSKZ. “I’ll say we’ve learned how to practice better during the course of the spring. It’s obvious we’ve had deficiencies in some areas that we’re going to have to continue to address with recruiting.
“We’ve just got to be one of those teams that plays great on defense, not give up a lot of big plays, make people earn what they get, take care of the football on offense and score more points than the other guy. That’s the kind of team we’re going to be.”
Certainly, Fulmer hasn’t had any reason to publicly second-guess Pruitt to this point. Like many who have worked with or coached against Pruitt have stated publicly, Fulmer feels confident Pruitt can get the Vols turned around.
“It was a no-brainer,” Fulmer said of the hire. “His energy. His focus. His matter of factness just appealed to me greatly. I think we’ve got us a good one.”
That should give Tennessee fans less reason to be concerned. At least Pruitt believes so.
(You can follow Dave Hooker on Twitter @TheDaveHooker)
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