About Pruitt to Tennessee…

Events may prove me wrong about this — it certainly wouldn’t be the first time for that — but assuming it goes through, I think Fulmer’s decision to hire Jeremy Pruitt as UT’s next head coach will be the most fascinating decision to play out in the conference next season.  Not for Fulmer’s supposed wish to hire a disciplinarian, either.

No, start with this.

I don’t know that fitting is the word I’d use there.  More like making the best of a bad situation, as Vols beat writer Wes Rucker lays out.

There are three ways to attack coaching searches at places like Tennessee. You hire a proven, power-five-conference head coach, an up-and-coming head coach or a proven power-five coordinator.

Option No. 1 didn’t seem to be an option for Tennessee this time. Maybe the Vols didn’t have the financial firepower or the backbone to do that. Maybe they had both of those things, but they couldn’t find anyone willing to take the plunge — which is totally understandable, given the turmoil of the past 25 days in this beautiful mountain town. Even the biggest Tennessee fans should be able to look at those circumstances and understand why a proven, power-five heavy-hitter politely would say, “Thanks but no thanks.”

In reality, the Vols were left with two options. They could take a proven, smaller-conference head coach or a up-and-coming, power-five coordinator.

They went with the former the past two times, and it didn’t work.

So now they’re going with the latter.

All the bravado about how Fulmer was reaching out to head coaches and getting good feedback was nonsense.  After the public reaction to the Schiano offer that led to Currie’s abrupt withdrawal, along with Fulmer’s sabotaging of Currie’s handshake deal with Mike Leach, no proven P5 coach was going to risk taking a deal with Tennessee.  Like it or not if you’re a Vol fan, Jeremy Pruitt ain’t Jon Gruden.  Not even close.

That per se doesn’t make it a bad hire, of course.  Pruitt does bring some very attractive features to the table.  He’s a relentless recruiter, an excellent evaluator of talent and a top-notch defensive coach, among other things.  As we learned at Georgia, though, he’s got a problem with patience when it comes to dealing with administration.  How that plays out with an athletic director who’s already made it clear he intends to be hands on with the football program remains to be seen, but I think that Pruitt’s embarking on his fourth job in five years is a clear indication of both his skills and his volatility.

Besides dealing with Fulmer on a daily basis, there are other reasons to think Tennessee will be a more trying venue for Pruitt than any of his other recent stops.  For one thing, recruiting at Tennessee is a far more challenging affair than it is at Alabama, where Saban has built a machine, or Georgia and Florida State, where both schools have large pools of local based talent to draw upon.  Indeed, Pruitt walked into loaded situations at Alabama and FSU, something that will not be the case in Knoxville.

The other reality Pruitt will be dealing with is the obvious comparison to Kirby Smart, his predecessor at Alabama.  Smart won the conference in his second season, and, fair or not, if Pruitt doesn’t strike the same mark, there will be disappointment.  It’s going to be a harder job for Pruitt than for Smart.  When Smart took over in Athens, the East didn’t have a powerhouse program.  Pruitt also doesn’t have the same level of talent walking in that Smart did when he started.

He does have one advantage over Smart, in that he’s not stepping in after a coach popular with much of the fan base was fired.  On the other hand, Pruitt has no previous ties to Tennessee, so absent winning, there isn’t a pool of good will for him to draw on if it takes a little time to gain traction.

None of this is to say that Pruitt isn’t talented enough to overcome these challenges.  But these are unique pressures escalated by the process that led to Fulmer’s ascendance.  There’s a lot of uncharted territory for somebody who’s never run a program before, which, again, is why I think this will be a fascinating exercise to follow.

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77 Comments

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77 responses to “About Pruitt to Tennessee…

  1. heyberto

    I’m just glad they didn’t hire Mel Tucker…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. TN Dawg

    I foresee a lot of physical wars with Rocky Top in the next five years.

    It’s gonna get pretty sporty.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. WF Dawg

    Any word yet on whether Pruitt would finish out the playoffs at Alabama like Kirby did?

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    • Dolly Llama

      According to what I’ve seen elsewhere, yes, he’s going to do a Kirby: Try to coach through the playoffs and balance it with trying to salvage/build a class. Kirby was able to do it; Kiffin wasn’t. If I had to bet, I’d say Pruitt will be more successful than the Laner, but less successful than Kirby.

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  4. Normaltown Mike

    Glad they didn’t get Tucker but disappointed that they didn’t shit the bed completely and hire Hal Mumme or Sam Wyche.

    He may not meet all their dreams and he certainly has some maturity problems, but I’d expect him to be a better HC than Booch and his teams will play really good D.

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    • gastr1

      Or Mike Leach. I know the Sen. loves him, but he’s offense-only and will never, in my estimation, get enough around his beautiful system to make a top-10 program. (He’s great at taking a weak sister and making them competitive, obviously.) I’d have liked having the Pirate in the SEC, though; it would have been entertaining and we’d have beat their asses every year with little problem.

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      • Or Mike Leach. I know the Sen. loves him, but he’s offense-only and will never, in my estimation, get enough around his beautiful system to make a top-10 program.

        He took two programs in the toilet and got both into the Top 10.

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        • Not at the end of the season he didn’t. That’s what should count.

          If somebody thinks you can be pass first, offense first and then run the ball and play defense as an after thought in the SEC I’d like to see that example.

          This league is about big boys up front pushing people around. It always has and always will. The reason the south is better at football is because we have a inordinate number of large, fast, athletic kids.

          You can’t beat the teams you have to beat in this league going in another direction. You’ll get fired and your qb will get killed.

          If you’re vandy or Kentucky or a have not and you do that you’ll get some wins because teams over look you and they have to prepare differently. You do that at a blue blood school and you’re asking for major trouble.

          I wish Mike Leach was going to be the coach at UF or UT. We’d kick the shit out his teams like Chris Petersen does to Leach every single year.

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          • Those programs were/are way more relevant with Leach than without. You can count whatever you like, though.

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            • If you want to call him the Jerry Glanville of college football I won’t argue. Jerry took Houston and Atlanta from dregs to relevance but no farther. That’s Leach. The problem is that UT isn’t irrelevant (yet) and it’s to early to start acting like it.

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              • SemperFiDawg

                If 0-8 in conference isn’t irrelevant, I guess I have to ask “What is?”.

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                • When auburn pulled the same trick in 2012 did you think they were done as a program? All I’m saying is UT isn’t Washington State or Texas Tech yet. They’re still a blue blood program, for now. Even after 0-8 they are arguably the 6th best program in the sec. Doesnt mean they fielded the 6th best team:

                  My pecking order of the moment would be:

                  Bama
                  Georgia
                  Auburn, LSU tie
                  Florida
                  UT or possible A&M due to Jimbo.

                  That still puts you around top 15 nationally as a program. Leach has been at places in the 40’s nationally.

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              • I think at this point Leach has eight or nine former players or coaches who are now head coaches. How big was Glanville’s coaching tree?

                Look, you’ve made it clear you think Leach is overrated. How about you just ignore my discussion about him, since you’re not going to change my mind with your brilliant insights?

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                • I’m not trying to effect opinion. If it was about that I’d probably have stayed out of it. I responded primarily due to the factual assertion that leach led top 10 teams. If those rankings in September or October count that’s right. If you look at the end of the year rankings he hasn’t done that.

                  As for his tree, everybody is looking at how to score points and should. In that capacity he’s been influential. However, I think that sec football is a different animal in the sense that successful programs start up front on both sides of the ball. They ain’t trying to trick you. They’re trying to beat your ass. There’s never been and will never be IMHO a finesse football team win a conference title.

                  There’s just too much size and speed on defenses in this conference to get that done. I wish they’d have tried. CPJ is going to be much harder to compete against.

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                • gastr1

                  I know your response was for Derek, but I want to offer this: I don’t think Leach is overrated, in general. I think he’s widely understood to be an innovative, influential coach who is also a unique personality. He’s also never been a head coach anywhere other than an outpost despite all of his successes and influences, and appears to rarely even be considered for top-line jobs when they come open.

                  Seems to me the rest of the CFB world rates him pretty much spot on.

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          • Get Smarter

            “If somebody thinks you can be pass first, offense first and then run the ball and play defense as an after thought in the SEC I’d like to see that example.”

            I seem to recall a school due south of us winning a National Championship and a few SEC titles throwing for 300-400 yards a game.

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            • Careful, or Derek will start calling you expletives.

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            • If you don’t know how well UF ran the ball and played defense you need to ck your moniker and look into that.

              SOS always ran the damn ball.

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              • I’m down the middle on this argument. Mike Leach’s system could probably top out around what Hugh Freeze did at Ole Miss…….both are fairly similar offensive philosophies but Freeze had a better defense except towards the end of his tenure. So, 2 NY6 Bowls…….that’s pretty good. But I do agree with Derek in the sense that, if you think you can get the horses to a certain program you really need to be a defense and run-first program–whether you do it like Auburn or like Georgia is above my pay grade.

                I’d say that’s the million dollar question……..If Pruitt wants to run the updated pro-style offenses he saw his colleagues run at FSU, UGA (sans Schotty) and Bama, then he’s gonna need to be hitting on all cylinders pretty quick up in Knoxville in order to bring some buzz back to that program and get the necessary out of state talent.

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                • The difficulty in having the discussion/argument is that it is so nuanced its difficult to really bring home the crux of the debate, but “once more into the breach” I’ll try.

                  The initial question is what do you want your football team to be? Is your goal to have an efficient offense that beats teams using the width of the field, that can run just enough to keep the rushers honest and rely upon the decision making abilities and accuracy of your QB?

                  Or do you want a team that blows people off the ball and doesn’t really care if the qb is the least talented player on the offense?

                  There is obviously a continuum and a spectrum here as you can try and be somewhere in between and be very successful. UF under SOS was great at being both. UGA under CMR was great sometimes at both and other times not so much, usually struggling against good defenses with a qb of marginal talent.

                  The second question is what does your offensive ambition do to your defense? Both in its mentality and in its ability to deal with the vast array of offenses it will see over the course of a season?

                  I would suggest that when a defense is practicing against a finesse/unique style of offense during the week that its ability to be a championship defense becomes more difficult. And if you want to be the first kind of team and have that sort of sharp high scoring offense, you have to rep it and rep it to get good at it.

                  In my view the defense that practices against a downhill/vertical/physical offense will have a better chance at dealing with whatever gets thrown at them over the course of a year. Leach style offenses may be mentally challenging but they aren’t going to beat you up and take you out of your game.

                  The extreme examples I use as illustrations are the UF/Nebraska game in 1996 and the more recent Alabama/ND game.

                  I would suggest that the starting 22 of those teams were not that far apart in terms of talent. However, the more physical team DOMINATED the other team. You can’t learn to be physical during bowl season. Its something that starts in January and builds upon itself through out the season.

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  5. TnDawg

    Radio talk show in Nashville has it 50-50 in favor/upset. Can’t believe the fans calling in upset because he is from Alabama. Report is he will stay with Bama through the playoffs.
    This will be interesting for the points the Senator stated. Looking forward to this.

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    • Bulldog Joe

      Would love to face Alabama in the title game.

      After accepting the Georgia job, Kirby’s defense gave up 40 points in the title game and Richt’s offense got shut out.

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      • WF Dawg

        Good call. Also, the chance to avenge the 2012 SECCG. What if we beat them on a last-second play from 5 yards out? In Atlanta. Aaron Murray and I would shed a tear.

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  6. Bulldog Joe

    I give him three years in that powder keg, tops.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Spike

    What was he ? Choice number 10?

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  8. AthensHomerDawg

    Tennessee has a lot they can offer a good coach!

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  9. Scott Satterfield would have made more sense, but UT just couldn’t swallow their pride.

    Pruitt might kill it there, or he might burn the house down. Either way, Tennessee went into this with open eyes: the book on Pruitt in coaching circles is out there. You know what you’re getting.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. DvilDawg

    One downside for UT, assuming he is successful, is that he will bolt for Tuscaloosa whenever Saban retires if “mama calls.”

    At this point, I don’t see Kirby or Dabo leaving their respective programs, so he would be the logical choice.

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    • The Truth

      Yeah, if Dabo were to win it all again this year why would he want to take a step down.

      But Mama has called Kirby and it will still be interesting to see if Dabo can resist that call.

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  11. Bill June

    They have to play Florida, Alabama and UGA every single year, and they will consistently have less talent.

    UT was good for one brief moment in the mid to late 1990s when UGA, Alabama, Clemson and SC were in coaching transitions and not very good. UT poached top talent from GA, SC, NC, AL (Tee Martin) and Ohio. How is Pruitt going to out-recruit Meyer, Saban, Dabo, Muschamp and Smart for top players in those states? Moreover, in their heyday, TN had a national following and recruiting base. Their reputation, thanks to the coaching search, is in tatters. Add to that the late start this year, and I just don’t see how Pruitt is going to get back to the glory days using the same coaching style and program philosophy as his competitors.

    I’ve heard that UT is going to try to bring in Hugh Freeze as OC and try to steal his Ole Miss players to Rocky Top. We’ll see how if the moral outrage of the anti-Schiano folks rears its head. I’m not holding my breath.

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    • Biggus Rickus

      That’s a bit of an overstatement. 1995 to 1999 might be the high point of their recent success, but they’re tied with Georgia for the second most SEC titles all time and won the East in 2004 and 2007 before the Kiffin hire sent them on their current tailspin. I don’t think Pruitt is going to flourish in the current situation, but once things calm down, and if they hire the right coach, there’s no reason they can’t win in the future.

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      • Bill June

        If you consider winning the East, but losing the SEC championship success, then that’s your perogative. They fired Fulmer in 2008, so I would think there are some people in Knoxville who would disagree with those expectations.

        I’m not saying they can’t win some games. I am saying it is highly unlikely they will win SEC championship in this environment.

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        • Biggus Rickus

          I’m pretty sure in an objective person would normally consider winning the East to be a successful season. They were also competitive in both of those title games. I think as things stand at this particularly moment they won’t win the SEC. The idea that they have some kind of in-built inability is wishful thinking, though.

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    • Debby Balce

      High Freeze has a show cause order against him.

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    • McBain

      “One brief moment?” C’mon man, let’s give credit where it’s due. Look at UT’s record from 1989 through 2001. They were an elite program for more than a decade. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

      There are question marks with Pruitt. But I think he has a pretty significant upside. I wish the ‘ernge had ended up with Doeren or someone like that.

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  12. The other Doug

    He will take on their establishment, and I can’t see those good old boys giving up their perks so easily.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. He might have some success but I can see it not ending well. A little rough around the edges and I think the woman that runs TN will hate him.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. JP

    I think Pruitt will eventually have what it takes to be a good head coach in the current climate since he is such a voracious recruiter. That being said, I think Pruitt would have been better served starting off at Mississippi State. You can’t blame the guy for taking the bigger job, but with Knoxville being such volatile place, it’s going to take a remarkable effort to be successful there.

    It is remarkable, looking at this situation, it really could go either way. Should be fun. Mullen, Smart, and Pruitt could end up being the SEC East power players for the next decade.

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    • Bill June

      I don’t see how all 3 can be power players at the same time in the same division. Splitting wins among them will not sit well in Athens or Gainesville.

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  15. dawgfan

    From Gruden happy talk to Pruitt with Fulmer as the puppet master is a bitch slap of reality. USCe may be moving up the east pecking order.

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  16. TN Dawg

    Radio reaction in Knoxville is mixed.

    A lot of orange had their hearts set on Tee Martin. I wish they had gotten their Christmas wish.

    Pruitt is a good coach.

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  17. barneydawg

    This may be two coup plotters going at it, Et tu Brutus Fulmer vs Pruitt. A VOLatile situation, what could go wrong? I will wait for the post game-Sunday morning fist fight in the Krispy Kreme parking lot. As far as playing them goes, can we see if Treon Harris is eligible for grad transfer?

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  18. Uglydawg

    We’ve got a piece of furniture in out house…an heirloom piece that my wife can’t let go of because it was her grandmother’s. We’ve had fights over it. It’s ugly. It’s out of place, it doesn’t match the rest of the furnishings. It should have been out the door many years ago. I’m naming it “Phil”.
    My money is on CJP putting fatso out on the street. Even the dummies in Tennessee will see the need for it.
    Until that happens, the dumpster fire ain’t out..it’s still smoldering

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  19. Pruitt seems to be a guy who is an excellent DC … not sure I would trust him with the full program with or without Rush Propst.

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  20. Satowndawg

    Kevin Sherrer as DC?

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  21. old dawg

    geez…I didn’t realize Pruitt’s ambition would over rule his common sense…I wouldn’t advise anybody to take the UT job…for love or money…what a train wreck coming at you…

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  22. SemperFiDawg

    Not sure Pruitt has the personality to overcome his talent. I see it every day: People with a ton of talent, whose personality is their own worst enemy. Throw Fulmer, with his penchant for undermining into the mix, and….. well, gasoline and lit matches.

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  23. Atticus

    TN only wins when Bama and Georgia are down.Look at their schedule next year. They play WVU, Auburn, Bama, UGA, Florida and then still have to beat SC, Mizz, KY and Vandy. That is 7-5 at best. More likely 6-6. 3 years tops and they will not be able to handle that abrasive personality when things get tough.

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  24. 3rdandGrantham

    As I’ve been stating throughout in regard to Pruitt, this has the Peter Principle written all over it. Sure, I could be totally wrong, but I suspect in three years UT will be starting all over. Again.

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  25. Pruitt is going to be banging co-eds, running off DB’s and punching out other coaches…and that is just what’s on the slate for year one.

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  26. doofusdawg

    Fulmer has two goals with everything he does. How can I improve ut while at the same time hurt my rivals. I imagine he wanted to make sure that what ever he did would cause the max amount of disruption at uga and bama. Shianno never had a chance once Fulmer got going.

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  27. CB

    How do we know Fulmer is going to be hands on? Looking for a source to throw at my UT friend who keeps telling me that Fulmer doesn’t micromanage.

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  28. Stoopnagle

    “…he’s got a problem with patience when it comes to dealing with administration. How that plays out with an athletic director who’s already made it clear he intends to be hands on with the football program remains to be seen, but I think that Pruitt’s embarking on his fourth job in five years is a clear indication of both his skills and his volatility.”

    This, exactly, this. The dysfunction at UT is just about to get going!

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    • Macallanlover

      Oh yes, I think this is one of the worst hires for HC they could have done. Destined to be an explosion as the tension builds every month he is there. But they will embrace him, despite the issues. Heck, they even gave Junior shade while he was dismantling the traditions and cavorting with coeds. Betting odds were be strongly against a win for them.

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  29. TMC DAWG

    He will take that 340million and try to implode that shit hole stadium!

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  30. Very interesting hire. As a Bama fan, I don’t feel nearly as threatened as when y’all hired Kirby, so we’ll have to see how things pan out with UT on the schedule every year.

    Yes, Pruitt isn’t Jon Gruden, but surely no one really thought that was happening. There’s always blather about the field of candidates when a sear starts, but Fulmer came in and got the deal done, so that’s a good start. We’ll see how good of a hire it was in a year or so.

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  31. baitstand

    No matter what the over and under is on how long Pruitt stays, I’ll take the under.

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  32. 69Dawg

    Let’s be truthful, CJP can coach some defense so he will be hands on with the D like Kirby has been. His biggest hire will be his OC. Now will Phil let him hire his own staff or will he have a veto power? Will he go for a proven OC and then act like both Muschamp and Kirby and make his motto be “first do no harm”? I have no doubts he will be a heck of a recruiter but will the rest of the staff be the same. I’ve ordered more popcorn because this is still going to be interesting. Oh yea, no bowl no practice. If Nick learned anything the last few years losing his coordinators for the championship cuts both ways.

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  33. Reinmart

    This can’t be Pruitt’s 4th job in 5 years.
    FSU 2013
    UGA 2014-2015
    Bama 2016-2017

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    • Biggus Rickus

      I can’t believe you’re quibbling over this, but yes, it is his fourth job in five years. He was the FSU DC until January 2014.

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  34. aladawg

    Does Tennessee have an indoor practice facility?………I bet if they don’t they will in 2 years…………..but they may have a ne HC for calling out the brass………..He may be a great coach, but he better win first and complain later……….

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  35. Squatchdawg

    What a glorious year. Not only will the “good luck winning 10 games a year” fans be silenced but the Pruitt fanboys will see first hand how unprepared this guy is for the HC position. He’ll be fist fighting Fulmer within 8 months.

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  36. Time will tell, like it does in all things. Bring a lot of pop corn.

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