Tennessee AD Phillip Fulmer on Vols’ recruiting efforts: ‘We finished really good from where we were’

Tennessee’s 2018 recruiting class ranked 20th in the nation. That’s admirable for Jeremy Pruitt who had only a week to address the inaugural early signing period. But it’s certainly reasonable to think it could have been better had Pruitt had more time to recruit for the Vols.

In a recent interview with WGOW in Chattanooga, UT athletic director Phillip Fulmer admitted as much while complimenting his first major hire at the same time. Fulmer recalled the text he sent Pruitt after Alabama beat Clemson to advance to the national title game, which meant Pruitt would still be coaching the Crimson Tide for another week.

“Congratulations . . . damnit,” it read.

RELATED: In retrospect, Jeremy Pruitt should’ve left Alabama immediately when he was hired at Tennessee

When Pruitt was hired, Fulmer and Pruitt agreed that he would remain as Alabama’s defensive coordinator as long as the Crimson Tide was in the College Football Playoff. That’s not uncommon. Georgia coach Kirby Smart did the same when he was hired by the Bulldogs while he was Alabama’s defensive coordinator. But this was a different situation because of the early signing period.

“When you only have seven days like we had, it kicked us in the teeth pretty good for his first class,” Fulmer said. “To his credit, we did have some good kids. We actually finished that part pretty well and I think we got a few really good players in that second part before National Signing Day.”

In UT’s defense, no one knew such a vast majority of top prospects would sign early. About 70 percent of the nation’s FBS prospects took advantage of the early signing period. That made it tough on first-year coaches anyway, not to mention first-year coaches who weren’t with their team.

Fulmer said he was surprised by the number of prospects who signed early.

“I wish he would have been here, but we got a lot of exposure from it (Pruitt being in the national title game). That part was good for us,” Fulmer said. “The early signing, I guess it’s going to be OK. I can see where if you’ve got a staff in place and you’re working toward it and you get the guys off the table that you know are going to go to the school … but if they don’t commit, you’re spending time and money on those guys. That’s never good.”

Oddly enough, UT almost struggled more in the second signing period. The Vols missed out on at least two highly rated prospects, and the pool simply wasn’t as big anyway because of the early signing period.

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