Vol Nation received a much-needed win Thursday as Jeremy Pruitt was officially named Tennessee’s 24th full-time head coach.
Pruitt’s hiring concludes a 25-day coaching search that brought public humiliation to the athletic department and led to athletic director John Currie’s dismissal (though, he has not officially been fired yet). The hiring follows a season where Tennessee went 0-8 in SEC play under former head coach Butch Jones.
Will Pruitt, 43, be able to lead the Vols to multiple division championships, a pair of SEC championships and a national championship like new athletic director Phil Fulmer did during his tenure (1992-2008) as the program’s head coach? That remains to be seen.
This is Pruitt’s first head coaching job at any level.
But, what he has done as a defensive coordinator and recruiter over the last five years should excite Tennessee fans and inspire confidence in what he is capable of.
In 2013, Jimbo Fisher hired the then-Alabama secondary coach away from Tuscaloosa and made him Florida State’s defensive coordinator. The Seminoles returned just four starters from a Mark Stoops-led defense that was second nationally in total defense and sixth in scoring defense.
That year, Pruitt showed he could develop top-notch talent. FSU ranked first in scoring defense and third in total defense en route to a 14-0 national championship season.
The first-year coordinator changed the Seminoles’ entire defensive scheme, bringing far more blitzes and putting players in positions to make big plays – something they hadn’t done well under Stoops.
The Seminoles’ defense ranked second nationally in turnovers forced (35) in 2013, up from 66th in 2012 (21).
Eleven players from that FSU defense would later be drafted into the NFL, with nine being selected in the first three rounds.
After only one year in Tallahassee, Pruitt left to take the same job at Georgia. But the challenge was much different.
The Bulldogs’ defense was a mess and while it had good players, the overall talent level was inferior to the FSU defense he walked away from.
During his two years in Athens, Pruitt showed that he could rebuild.
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