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University of Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer, left, introduces Jeremy Pruitt during his introduction ceremony as Tennessee's next head NCAA college football coach in Knoxville, Tenn., Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017. (Calvin Mattheis/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

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University of Tennessee fans in Chattanooga say they are excited and optimistic about the future of the program after the hirings of Phillip Fulmer as the program's athletic director and Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as the team's head coach.

The hirings end a whirlwind of a month that brought national attention as the program fired its coachhired a new onebacked out of that deal, was reportedly turned down by several candidates, suspended its athletic director and brought back former head coach Fulmer to lead the department.

"I think it's almost a fantasy" to end up with Fulmer and Pruitt, local fan Chase Cole said outside his office in Warehouse Row. "I'm really excited now that that's in place, but I would have told you you were crazy if you would have told me that [before the process]."

There was frustration among fans about the leadership of former athletic director John Currie.

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Currie was the subject of a social media firestorm that ended when university chancellor Beverly Davenport called him home from the search to suspend him and name Fulmer his replacement.

"I wasn't too happy with the start of it, but since they've hired Phillip Fulmer, I think we're back in the right hands," local retiree Gary Thompson said.

"I think [Pruitt] is a good hire. He's has done a good job everywhere he's been, and he comes with a good pedigree."

Cole shared that optimism.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic," he said. "Honestly, I'm just glad to have a coach. I think Jeremy Pruitt is a good fit. I really do. I trust Phil Fulmer. I know most Vol fans do."

Fans pointed to Pruitt's success and experience in the Southeastern Conference as an indicator of what could be to come in Knoxville.

"I think with his experience in the SEC that he'll be a good addition," fan Ashley Snyder said as she waited outside during a fire alarm at Warehouse Row. "It seems like a whole coup d'etat has gone down in Knoxville. It's just been a disaster since the beginning. I'm just glad they finally got it together."

The hire once again takes a Crimson Tide defensive coordinator away from Alabama to lead an SEC school.

Pruitt followed Kirby Smart, who spent eight seasons as the Alabama defensive coordinator before becoming head coach at Georgia.

Two local Alabama fans were split on their feelings about Pruitt at Alabama, but they both believed it was a good hire for Tennessee.

"Our defense has been soft this year, anyway, so I'm not too biased on him. We'll be fine without him," said Zack Grabusky, a local freight broker. "I also think it's a good hire for Tennessee."

"The guy knows recruiting in the Southeast as well as anybody," Grabusky's colleague Lee Brittain said. "I hate to see him go, but I think it's a good hire for Tennessee."

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at mpace@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.

Vols head football coach search

This story was updated Dec. 7 at 11:10 p.m.

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