Two big wins, a study in contrasts…
Somebody needs to enjoy themselves a little more.
Two big wins, a study in contrasts…
Somebody needs to enjoy themselves a little more.
Jeremy Pruitt may not be the football genius Gus Malzahn is, but the gap is certainly narrowed when he knows what’s coming.
The Gus Bus is definitely not a stealth vehicle.
It’s to be expected with Tennessee coming to town that there’d be a retrospective or two about Jeremy Pruitt’s time in Athens. We get a couple of good examples of that from Seth Emerson ($$) and Marc Weiszer.
I won’t say there are any surprises about the picture that emerges from those two pieces. The kids who played for Pruitt respect him deeply. He’s favorably portrayed as someone who brought the Process to Athens and cleared the path for Kirby Smart to elevate the program.
There’s the baggage, too. Pruitt was a polarizing figure because he lacked the skills or the patience, or maybe both, to deal with the higher-ups in a productive way. This quote from Greg McGarity speaks volumes about that.
Asked about Pruitt, athletic director Greg McGarity said: “I’ll just say what Mark Richt said. Jeremy is at Tennessee now. We’re here at Georgia and we’ll just leave it at that.”
How that mix plays out in Knoxville remains to be seen. One advantage Pruitt has there over Athens is that he’s got an athletic director who’s invested in him. It remains to be seen how far that goes.
I was going to post something about Dean Legge’s post on what went wrong during Georgia’s 2015 season tomorrow — I’d say you “let it go” types can skip it, but we both know you won’t — but since I’ve gotten a few emails about it (and since it appears to be a multi-part story), I figure I’ll throw my two cents in now.
And two cents is probably all it’s worth, to be honest. I don’t know how much more he has to throw out and I don’t want to get into what I heard/know versus what he relates, but I will say that if you want to drill down to the real problem that season, this quote will do very nicely:
“The root of the problem was that Pruitt was running the show,” another player said. “Coach Richt is a non-confrontational guy. He didn’t check Pruitt, and it went from there…”
That was the essence of the frustration with the program going both up and down the chain of command and while there are plenty of folks to point the finger at, Richt and his management style deserve much of the blame. That is all… for now, at least.
Although I don’t dismiss the sources for Murray’s and Pollack’s takes on Jeremy Pruitt’s time in Athens, unlike them, Hutson Mason was actually there when Pruitt was. Here’s what he has to say about the former defensive coordinator:
A lot of people at Georgia saw how Pruitt handled certain situations,” said Mason, now a sports-talk radio host from noon to 3 p.m. daily on Atlanta Sports X (106.3-FM). “He had blow-ups and antics. Those are well-documented. Those happened. … I definitely agree with what (Murray and Pollack) said about being disrespectful.”
Mason confirmed that Pruitt had confrontations with Richt, fellow assistants and several members of the support staff while in Athens.
That’s not to say Mason agrees that Pruitt’s combative personality might contribute to his eventual demise at Tennessee. On the contrary, actually.
“The part I disagree with is I think some of those traits — (Pruitt) being straight-forward and blunt and cut-throat — I think those things might suit him well for having success in this conference,” said Mason, who coached some high school ball before getting into radio. “I think this conference and college football in general is a bottom-line business. Whether you’re talking about CEOs in the business world or head football coaches, you’ve got to be able to delegate and motivate and those things.”
Mason also said he can see why Pruitt sometimes lost his cool when it came to Richt’s leadership style and personality.
“I think part of it was the kind of lackadaisical, laissez-faire-type of environment (at Georgia),” Mason said. “Pruitt came from Florida State and Alabama, where everything was planned-out in detail and he won championships. It was just different under Mark Richt, and (Pruitt) didn’t like that difference.
“You’ve got Mark Richt, who is a very non-confrontational-type guy, and then you’ve got Pruitt, who is very my-way-or-the-highway. So part of it was Mark Richt not keeping him in his place. Because, you know what, (Pruitt) ain’t going to Alabama and doing that. He ain’t talking to Nick Saban like that. So I think part of it is at Alabama he knew where he stood; at Georgia, I don’t think so.”
There is a lot of stuff in there that comports with what I’ve heard. Pruitt was a prickly guy, to say the least. Richt didn’t take to the CEO role well. That was a recipe for a lot of staff friction, which indeed turned out to be the case. And Pruitt’s tendency to show his ass, even if in a good cause, wasn’t a positive even outside of staff relations.
That being said, what Mason says about Pruitt should cause Tennessee fans to be concerned, even more so that what Murray and Pollack mentioned.
If Pruitt needed the structure he got from Saban and a Saban disciple like Fisher to rein in his more obnoxious tendencies, tendencies that were given room to fester in Athens, how confident should anyone be that Phil Fulmer is going to be the kind of guy who’s going to play the Nick Saban role now?
The cynical answer to that is indicated in Mason’s feature not a bug observation — “… (Pruitt) being straight-forward and blunt and cut-throat — I think those things might suit him well for having success in this conference…”. If he wins, Fulmer’s either not going to care about the attitude, or, perhaps more accurately, not going to be allowed to care by boosters and the fan base. If he doesn’t win at a rate that mollifies the locals, hoo, boy, watch out.
Bottom line, there’s more than one reason Pruitt is with his fourth program in five seasons. Everyone agrees he can coach. It’s the rest of what everyone agrees on that has opened up this line of questions.
Aaron Murray isn’t a believer in Jeremy Pruitt.
Murray, the former Georgia quarterback who is now an analyst with the CBS Sports Network, offered a blistering critique of Tennessee’s first-year coach during an interview Tuesday on ESPN’s 102.5 The Game.
“I don’t know if his personality is fit to be a head coach. I don’t,” Murray told the radio station. “As a head coach, there’s so many things that go into it. It’s not just going out there and coaching. You have to deal with front office. You’ve got to go talk with the president of the university. You have to deal with boosters. You have to deal with the offense, the defense. It’s not just going in there and dealing with the kids and scheming up. There’s a lot that goes into it.
“I don’t think he’s the right guy to kind of be the CEO of a corporation. He’s really good managing just a defense and being a defensive coordinator. He needs to prove to me that he can handle the whole ship. For right now, I don’t think he can. We’ll see what happens this year. I don’t think it helps that he doesn’t have a lot of talent at Tennessee.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement there.
Now it’s true that their times didn’t overlap in Athens. But it’s hard to imagine that Murray didn’t hear from his former teammates and coaches about developments from 2014 and 2015. (Or, for that matter, read the paper and watch the Belk Bowl presser.)
“When he was at Georgia, the way he acted, the way he treated Coach Richt I thought was poor,” Murray told 102.5 The Game. “He wasn’t as respectful as I thought a defensive coordinator should be to a head coach. That’s my thing, with authority.
“When he’s dealing with the athletic director, when he’s dealing with the president, when he’s dealing with a booster who has given millions of dollars, you can’t go tell him to screw off. You have to take the meeting. You have to sit with them. Yeah, I know you want to be game planning and getting ready for the game, but you’re a head coach now. You have to do these other things.”
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: there’s one helluva book to be written about the twilight of the Mark Richt era in Athens.
UPDATE: Jeremy responds.
“Probably” is doing some heavy lifting there.
UPDATE #2: Ooh, it’s lit.
UPDATE #3: David Pollack weighed in, too.
“To address Aaron’s (Murray) comment — because I think it needs to be addressed a little bit — the stories that I have heard and some of y’all have heard that came out of Athens – that are true, (from) coaches that were on the staff, some of the things Jeremy Pruitt did to Mark Richt, some coaches would tell you are the most disrespectful, most crazy things they heard,” Pollack said on the set of “SEC Now.”
“So, I’ll be curious to watch Jeremy Pruitt as he evolves with this relationship with Phillip Fulmer because Jeremy Pruitt did a good job when he was with Nick Saban — because he knew where he stood. He did a good job with Jimbo Fisher — they let you know where you stand. The hierarchy was very clear. How does he evolve as a head coach?
“He put on a good show (at the main podium at SEC Media Days), he definitely showed you what he has. I want to see if he continues to treat people in the correct manner, if he respects authority, because to be honest, the stories we’ve heard — we’ve all heard the same stories, it was pretty bad. It was disrespectful, so that’s what I’m interested to see.”
Based on things I’ve heard, I’d disagree a little with his assessment of Pruitt’s time at FSU, but, still…
UPDATE #4: Richt sends regards.
“You can see why Coach Fulmer was a good recruiter when he was coaching,” Pruitt said at Southside Social in Chattanooga on Thursday night. “He’s easy to get to know. Me and him have a lot of the same things in common, and we see a lot of things the same way,”
One of the more curious early narratives within the Tennessee fan base related to how the 67-year-old Fulmer and Pruitt would get along, in terms of their football relationship.
Some were worried Fulmer might interfere, perhaps not realizing that he is Pruitt’s biggest advocate and would not have hired him if he didn’t have supreme confidence in his coaching abilities.
Pruitt has said he feels fortunate to have Fulmer as an athletic director, going so far as to say other coaches are “jealous” of his situation.
“I’ve only known him for a short time, but it seems I’ve known him for a very long time,” Pruitt said. “So I’m excited to continue to work with him and what he can help bring to our program.”
Fulmer was not known to be a harsh critic of his players during his College Football Hall of Fame coaching career, but he supports the hard-core approach Pruitt has used this spring.
“I’m gonna tell you this, he has challenged everybody in every way, and I love it,” Fulmer said.
That is so cute. Kinda reminds me of this budding romance.
Jeremy Pruitt has wanted to work at Georgia for a long time.
The former Florida State defensive coordinator first met Georgia head coach Mark Richt in 2003 as a high school coach in Fort Payne, Ala., when he brought two recruits to the university. Pruitt, who coached under his father Dale Pruitt at Fort Payne, was so impressed with the meeting 11 years ago that he promised himself something when exiting the room.
“When I walked out of that room 30 minutes later I was wowed,” Pruitt said. “My father looked at me and said ‘That’s what college football is all about.’ I said right then and there that if I ever had an opportunity to work for him that I would be a part of his staff.”
… After transferring from Middle Tennessee State to Alabama, Pruitt roomed with Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend. Pruitt said that the two have continued talking weekly for the past 15-20 years, and Friend called him this week with news about an opening at the defensive coordinator position.
“When the job came open in the small talk we had weekly, he asked me if I would be interested and this is the University of Georgia, and who wouldn’t be interested in this job,” Pruitt said.
“It’s one of the premier jobs in college football, and I had the opportunity to work with coach Richt and I just couldn’t turn down.”
Yeah, that ended well. This time will be different. Probably…
One of the faithful narratives of a certain segment of the Georgia fan base eager to see Mark Richt shown the exit door was that the man’s ability to recognize talent was overrated — this was, after all, a coach who pursued Cam Newton as a tight end, we were told repeatedly. Obviously, judgment like that was prima facie evidence that Richt was unqualified to run a football program.
Nah, you need someone whose eye for talent is unimpeachable. You know, somebody like Jeremy Pruitt, who could be counted on to identify the perfect future for a recruit. Like Lamar Jackson, for example.
Jackson has said that as a recruit he heard from at least one SEC football program recruiting him to play safety, though he hadn’t played safety in high school.
“Georgia said they wanted me at safety,” Jackson said in a 2016 interview prior to his Heisman Trophy-winning season. “They were out of the equation right after they said that. …
“I think it was the defensive coordinator. He called me and was like, ‘I like your speed. I think you’d be a great fit at safety.’ I was like, ‘Coach, I play quarterback.’ He was like, ‘Well, here’s the offensive coordinator.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not going there.'”
This would have been former coach Mark Richt’s staff at UGA, and the defensive coordinator – assuming that was the coach who called Jackson – would have likely been Jeremy Pruitt, who went on to become the head coach at Tennessee.
The point here isn’t to knock Pruitt’s judgment. After all, he was far from alone in recognizing Jackson’s ability to play the quarterback position in college. Nor is it to immunize Richt against all criticism. But, man, was that “Cam as a tight end” meme dumb.
Jeremy Pruitt, we know, has no problem calling people out. Fresh off Tennessee’s spring game, he chose an interesting target: the fan base.
The Vols did have a somewhat generously announced attendance of 65,098 — the fifth-largest crowd to take in a UT spring game — but Pruitt would have liked to have seen more.
“I thought the Vol Walk was spectacular,” he said. “I don’t know how many fans we had. What was it? You guys probably know. To me, it’s kind of like our football team for the fans. The ones that were here, I’m proud they were here. They’re fired up, they’re ready to get going, OK? And then there were some people that wasn’t here that had legitimate reasons they couldn’t be here, aight. Then there was some people that wasn’t here that, why wasn’t they here? It’s kind of like our football team. So, I think we all need to look in the mirror and see who we want to be.”
Nice use of “aight” there, by the way. But I digress.
Look, I’m more than happy to jab at Volnation when the opportunity arises, but when your team is coming off a 4-8 season that didn’t include a single win over an SEC opponent, and tens of thousands still show up for a meaningless scrimmage, perhaps a little more generosity would be in order.
You know, something like this.
Ordinarily I’d say there’s some terrific fodder for a dose of negative recruiting (“man, do you really want to go to a school where the head coach says the fans suck?”), but if Pruitt can’t do a better job of packaging his message, I’m not sure he’s gonna need any extra sales help.
Jeremy Pruitt has discontinued playing music during Tennessee practices, which, of course, is his business. This is some explanation as to why, though.
“I don’t think they play music during football games,” Pruitt said after Tuesday’s practice. “I’ve never heard it.”
He’s wrong about the first, but, somehow, I don’t doubt him on the second. That’s being dialed in to your job.
There are times I wish I could learn that trick.