Tennessee football, Jeremy Pruitt finalize deal to make him Vols coach

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University of Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt speaks about who he sees as the Vols’ opponents during his introduction ceremony in the Neyland Stadium Peyton Manning Locker Room Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017.

Jeremy Pruitt is an Alabama native who played two seasons with the Crimson Tide, but he grew up close enough to Tennessee to feel the reach of Volunteer football.

“There was a time and place where this university was feared among SEC teams,” Pruitt said. “My goal as the head football coach of the University of Tennessee is to get us back to that point.”

More: UT Vols: Jeremy Pruitt will have these 4 tasks to tackle in short order

Pruitt delivered a passionate first address as Tennessee’s new coach on Thursday evening. At times, he sounded like a preacher at the pulpit.

Tennessee and Pruitt finalized a six-year deal Thursday that will pay Pruitt $3.8 million annually.

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Pruitt is in the midst of his second season as Alabama’s defensive coordinator, and he’ll continue to coach the Crimson Tide throughout the College Football Playoff.

“I think it’s a plus for the University of Tennessee to have a coach in a semifinal game and a national championship game, possibly, the exposure that will come from that,” Vols athletic director Phillip Fulmer said.

In the meantime, Pruitt will recruit for Tennessee. The recruiting contact period will continue through Dec. 16, ahead of the new signing period for high school players, which is Dec. 20-22.

More: UT Vols: 5 things to know about Jeremy Pruitt

Pruitt’s hiring capped Tennessee’s chaotic coaching search that spanned 26 days. The search became such a black eye that it cost athletic director John Currie his job on Dec. 1.

Fulmer, the former Vols coaching legend, hired Pruitt six days after officially seizing the reins of the coaching search.

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Pruitt emerged from a crop of finalists that included Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.

“His energy and his enthusiasm and his background and his intensity appealed to me greatly,” Fulmer said of Pruitt.

Pruitt’s résumé is appealing, too.

Nick Saban tapped Pruitt to be his defensive coordinator after Georgia hired Kirby Smart off Saban’s staff in December 2015.

“There was no doubt who I was going to hire,” Saban said of Pruitt then, according to Al.com. “Didn’t interview anybody. Didn’t talk to anybody. Just hired the guy.”

During Fulmer’s coaching days, he was known for loathing Alabama, one of the Vols’ top rivals.

“I’ve got respect for Alabama and what they’ve accomplished, particularly recently,” Fulmer said when asked about hiring an Alabama native, alumnus and coach. “

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Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has been hired as the next coach at Tennessee. Wochit

Before Pruitt’s most recent return to his alma mater, he was Georgia’s defensive coordinator for two years after one season as Florida State’s defensive coordinator.

With Pruitt leading FSU’s defense in 2013, the Seminoles led the nation in scoring defense en route to a national championship. Pruitt was named a finalist for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant, that year and also in 2016.

He’s never presided over a defense that ranked lower than 16th nationally in scoring defense. Alabama is ranked No. 1 in scoring defense this year after also leading the nation last season.

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Watch a time lapse of University of Tennessee sophomore Kate Luffman painting The Rock to welcome UT Vols new coach Jeremy Pruitt. Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel

Pruitt is in in the midst of his third stint working as an assistant at Alabama. He has national title rings from the 2009, 2011 and 2012 seasons.

“He told me he wanted to win championships, and I told him, ‘Make no bones about it. Tennessee expects you to,’” UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport said.

The son of a high school football coach, Pruitt grew up wanting to be a coach like his father, Dale. Pruitt spent several years as an assistant at the high school ranks, including five seasons working for his father. His résumé includes a three-year stint as an elementary school physical education teacher, where his tasks included teaching his students how to tie their shoes.

“I started suggesting Velcro,” Pruitt joked.

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Pruitt has never been a head coach before.

He’s built a reputation for being an ace recruiter.

“I just think he’s a genuine guy. I really do,” said former NFL quarterback Kelly Holcomb, who was Pruitt’s teammate for two seasons at Middle Tennessee State before Pruitt transferred to Alabama. “I don’t think there’s any false bravado to him.”

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The Tennessee coaching search has gone through a tumultuous week. Angela Gosnell/News Sentinel

Pruitt will be tasked with uniting and energizing a fan base left frustrated by the first eight-loss season in program history and a coaching search that morphed into a national punchline.

Tennessee was close to hiring Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano on Nov. 26 before public backlash caused the deal to unravel. In the days that followed, several coaches turned away overtures from the Vols, and Currie’s ouster capped a wild week.

“I’m a firm believer you don’t look in the rearview mirror,” Pruitt said, speaking only to the Vols’ 2017 season and not to the coaching search.

He’s eager to get Vols back to the Tennessee he remembers.

“Your expectations aren’t near what mine are,” Pruitt said. “Because I’ll tell you right now, my expectation is to win every game we play.”

 

Source : http://www.knoxnews.com/story/sports/college/university-of-tennessee/football/2017/12/07/jeremy-pruitt-ut-vols-coach-tennessee-volunteers-tn-football-coach-phillip-fulmer-alabama/867005001/

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