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Jeremy Pruitt made his head coaching debut Saturday as Tennessee took on West Virginia in Charlotte, N.C.

Admittedly, two games is a ridiculously small sample size from which to judge a coaching hire.

Two months, maybe, though even that seems rash and harsh. Two years, possibly. But two games is dangerous at best, indefensible at worst.

Still, we live in an instant society, the Twitter generation demanding instant news, instant analysis, instant blame.

So after two football games coached and one victory won, how should we view Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt when matched against that army of folks who turned the Volunteers down last November and December?

Pretty well, it says here. Pretty well, indeed.

We're not going to compare Pruitt to Jon Gruden, because Gruden probably never was going to take the job to begin with, and comparing the success Coach Chucky might have with the Oakland Raiders to what he could have achieved in Knoxville always will be apples and oranges.

But what about the others? What about Arkansas coach Chad Morris, formerly at SMU? What about Purdue's Jeff Brohm, who many believe should have been handed the job while former UT athletic director John Currie was pursuing Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State and possibly Dan Mullen before Mullen left Mississippi State for Florida? What, too, of North Carolina State's Dave Doeren? And Washington State coach Mike Leach, who reportedly was the last guy Currie chased before Tennessee wisely chased Currie out the door?

Do any of these still look more appealing than Pruitt, whose down-home, no-nonsense, brutally honest style appears to be winning over giant chunks of the Big Orange Nation by the day, if not hour?

Let's start with Brohm, who was rumored to have accepted the UT job but also is believed to have never physically met with the school. After going 7-6 during his first season on the job last year, that record assuredly aided by the signing of five graduate transfers, the Boilermakers stand 0-2 this season, having lost to both Big Ten brother Northwestern and by a 20-19 score to Eastern Michigan despite being 15-point favorites.

Brohm, the supposed offensive wizard, couldn't get his team to put more than 20 on the board against Eastern Michigan? Advantage, Pruitt.

Then there's Doeren. Yes, his Wolfpack are 2-0. But their wins have come at home against James Madison (24-13) and Georgia State (41-7). They face West Virginia this weekend — assuming Hurricane Florence doesn't postpone the game — and that result, given UT's struggles against the Mountaineers, should give a better barometer of Doeren's coaching skills, though this is his sixth season at N.C. State and he's currently an underwhelming 15-25 against Atlantic Coast Conference foes.

Regarding Mullen, he worked wonders in his nine years at Mississippi State, but having been a Florida assistant under Urban Meyer, he probably always was a long shot to take the Tennessee job. The Sunshine State may produce more college football talent than any state in the country for its size, and Mullen knows the region well from his four years in Gainesville under Meyer.

No comparison between Mullen and Pruitt would be fair today, especially with the Gators set to visit Tennessee in two weeks, but if the Vols win that one, losing out on Mullen will feel like a victory in more ways than one.

As for Oklahoma State's Gundy, that always felt more like a publicity stunt by Coach Mullet to get a raise, which is exactly what happened.

The Cowboys are off to another raucous offensive start, mashing Missouri State 58-17 and South Alabama 55-13. It would certainly have been fun football to watch. But winning in the SEC has usually required a stout defense and Gundy's teams have never remotely displayed that.

Would Morris have been a better fit? The Razorbacks routed FCS member Eastern Illinois 55-20 in week one, but former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo ran out of eligibility with the Panthers in 2002. Arkansas lost at Colorado State this past week and the Rams were 0-2 before that 34-27 win, having surrendered 43 points to Hawaii and 45 to Colorado. Again, on defense only, advantage Pruitt, whose Vols gave up 40 to a ranked West Virginia squad that's better than either the Rainbow Warriors or Buffaloes.

Of course, all those folks had arguably better resumes than Pruitt last December, because they all already had been head coaches and he hadn't. But everyone has to start somewhere, and Pruitt's very brief body of work at a school that's on its fifth football coach in 11 years suggests new athletic director Phillip Fulmer made a strong choice.

Or as East Tennessee State coach and former UT player and assistant coach Randy Sanders noted before the Vols beat his Buccaneers 59-3 last Saturday: "Jeremy is a really good guy, a good football coach — a football guy. He loves the game."

Two games and one win along, it's hard to believe any of the other candidates UT whiffed on could have done better, and many might have done worse. Besides, had any of those folks taken the job, Currie would still be on the job, and his departure was a win-win for everyone who loves Big Orange football, basketball and every other sport the school plays.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com

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