Wiedmer: Pruitt sounds like he'll win more than the UT news conference [videos]

Wiedmer: Pruitt sounds like he'll win more than the UT news conference [videos]

December 8th, 2017 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

New Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt speaks at his introductory news conference Thursday in Knoxville.

Photo by Caitie McMekin

POLL: Are you happy with UT's new football coach?

KNOXVILLE — Never let it be said that new Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt wasn't formally warned about the Big Orange Nation's expectation level for outsized success.

Even before Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer officially introduced him as the 26th head coach in Volunteers history, first-year chancellor Beverly Davenport reminded Pruitt of a conversation the two of them shared during the interview process.

"Jeremy told me, 'Make no bones about it, I expect to win championships,'" Davenport recalled. "I replied, 'Make no bones about it, Tennessee expects you to.'"

So much for lowering expectations following the worst season in the school's 121 years of football. Not that Pruitt exactly shied away from the chancellor's bold remarks.

The man who also will remain Alabama's defensive coordinator for as long as the Crimson Tide stay alive in the four-team national playoff said he expects his Vols program pretty quickly to be a "big, fast, physical, dominating, aggressive, relentless football team that nobody in the SEC wants to play."

To help make that a swift reality, Pruitt added, "That starts with recruiting, and we started today."

Related Article

Coach Jeremy Pruitt's vision for Tennessee includes dominating line of scrimmage [videos]

Read more

Related Article

New Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt: 'I'm all in' [videos]

Read more

Related Article

Local UT football fans are pleased with coaching search results [videos]

Read more

If Pruitt goes on to win games as easily as he won the news conference, the Vols might reach the SEC title game in his first season.

It won't be that easy, of course. Though no one in the SEC East except South Carolina may be noticeably better a year from now than this season, the Vols must visit Georgia, LSU and those Gamecocks next season, as well as Vanderbilt. That also means big, bad Bama comes to Neyland Stadium, which means it probably will be a stretch for Pruitt to go better than 3-5 within the league in 2018.

But this hire, like most hires due to the firing of the previous coach, isn't so much about next season as the season after that, and the season after that. It's about, to use a phrase of the day uttered by both Fulmer and Pruitt, "changing the culture."

There's little doubt after this season just past that the culture on the field needs changing. You just don't lose eight games for the first time in school history, as well as losing all of your SEC games for the first time ever, without major changes needing to be made.

So there was understandable football talk from both Fulmer and Pruitt regarding "controlling the line of scrimmage" and "dominating up front." Pruitt, having already coached three previous defenses that led the nation in fewest points allowed (2017 and 2016 at Alabama, 2013 at Florida State), also talked about his defense wanting to "dictate what the offense does."

But he also spent at least a fair bit of time talking about something that needs to be talked about much more in most programs: academics.

Pruitt, whose father Dale is a highly regarded high school coach who's worked in both Alabama and Tennessee, said of his recruiting philosophy, "I want guys who want a degree."

He also said of the current players, "We're going to coach them how to go to class. We're going to coach them how to introduce themselves to their professors, because I think that's important. And where to sit in class."

Pruitt said he even talked to them about the first semester final exams they're about to take.

"Let's learn how to finish," he said. "If you've got a 65 (average), let's try to get a 70. If you've got an 88, let's try for a 91."

Not that he was necessarily as robotic and process-driven as his Bama boss, Nick Saban, sometimes seems.

Asked what coaches he may lean on for advice in his first-ever season as a head coach at any level, Pruitt grinned and then deftly observed, "Coach Fulmer's office isn't far from mine."

And when discussing his time as a kindergarten-through-third-grade teacher in the school system in Fort Payne, Ala., Pruitt said, "I taught everybody in the city of Fort Payne how to tie their shoes. After a while, I started to suggest Velcro."

No one will know for sure how all this will turn out until two or three seasons from now. After all, Butch Jones also was hired on Pearl Harbor Day in 2012. But Fulmer deserves high marks for not only embracing a non-head coach such as Pruitt but also turning to a defensive coach to run the Vols for the first time since General Neyland, and that turned out pretty well for UT.

"Eight (SEC) schools beat us last year," Fulmer said, "and six of those coaches were defensive coordinators before they were head coaches."

Sounding like an athletic director more than a coach, Fulmer also said, "We all know that football is the engine that drives the train, and I like my chances with this coach."

A few hours into his tenure, Pruitt seemed to like his chances going forward.

"My expectation," he said, "is to win every game we play."

Make no bones about it, if Pruitt succeeds in that expectation, he'll never hear a single negative word or read a terse tweet from the Big Orange Nation.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

Vols head football coach search

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315
Email: webeditor@timesfreepress.com


Loading...