Hey a lot of stuff happened over just the last month or so, so pardon us if we just got to this, but: Tennessee hired someone? Tennessee definitely hired someone to coach their football team.
DID THEY HIRE A NICK SABAN ASSISTANT?
Yes, because no one has new ideas or any semblance of doing anything remotely interesting in the SEC, and especially so in the SEC East. Jeremy Pruitt is the third Saban assistant currently holding a job in the division. Had Jim McElwain not tanked his 2017 so badly he got fired after winning the division two years in a row, there would have been four. A Nick Saban assistant is the SEC East’s equivalent of most men’s khaki pants and blue button down ensemble. It’s not what we’d wear in a perfect world, but it seemed safe and mostly clean when we opened up the closet this morning.
The one with the shaved head, a.k.a. THE STONE COLD variation. Jeremy Pruitt marks a definite transition in the history of Nick Saban Assistantdom: Someone comfortable enough to cross the line culturally into Steve Austin, style-wise, and away from the moptop Rowdy Roddy Piper look Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp embrace. All southern assistants born between 1970 and 1990 take their fashion cues from some form or another of professional wrestling, but everyone already knew this.
The one with the shaved head is Jeremy Pruitt. He was Alabama’s defensive coordinator following Kirby Smart’s departure for the Georgia job, worked as DC at Florida State and Georgia, and was featured on the show Two-a-Days. That was the aughts-era show with Rush Propst, the Hoover, Alabama high school coach who was fired for “Basically Everything” and then some. (No really, it was one of those things where the school board just had to draw a line and go “yeah that’s all fireable as hell.”)
IS HE GOOD, I.E. DID TENNESSEE MAKE A COMPETENT HIRE?
Maybe? And probably by accident, because Phil Fulmer was in charge of the hiring, and clearly hired the coach who most looked like him? As in, the one who looked most like a talking ham leg? Pruitt was a very, very good defensive coordinator for Florida State and for Alabama, put together a pretty good staff, and hasn’t done anything to get fired yet. That, for the moment, is a pretty good hire for Tennessee.
DOES THAT MEAN MUCH, THO?
Being good at Florida State it probably means a bit more than being good at Alabama. At Alabama Nick Saban is always there to scream at someone if they’re less than 98% excellent, and at Florida State there was no Nick Saban. This is not to say that Jimbo Fisher would tolerate anything less than 99% perfect—it’s just to say that he’s not Nick Saban, and probably wouldn’t be personally messing with a Cover 2 press scheme in meetings as much as the Alabama coach would.
He one year at Georgia where he didn’t quite fit in was weird, but you get those from time to time. The one knock on Pruitt is that he didn’t really stay anywhere too long, hasn’t actually been a college head coach before, and will be learning on the job in the SEC East against at least three or possibly four programs on better footing than the Vols right now. (And that’s really just the division we’re talking about.)
A respectable 16th ranked class by 247 composite after coming in late. That’s plenty good for hustling on late entry, and Pruitt’s recruiting was more than solid at FSU and at Bama. The staff’s got Tracy Rocker and other vets on there. There is the whole matter of closing the deal as an assistant and managing an entire recruiting campaign, mind you, and that’s something Pruitt will learn on the job. Among other things like being a head coach. Among other things like being a head coach.
THAT’S REPEATING SOMETHING FOR EFFECT.
That is definitely repeating something for effect. Hiring Jeremy Pruitt was the least imaginative thing in the world Tennessee could have done and that might be fine.
Politically speaking, this was from the jump just a big ol’ bag of bad meat hanging. The first hire AD John Currie would have to make in his new job overseeing Tennessee athletics was a kind of test flight for how he’d handle the truculent web of donors, politicos, alumni, and other parties making up the Vols program. That test flight ended up impacting a mountain somewhere east of Knoxville at 500 miles per hour, and Currie did not survive.
The sole survivor of the flight was a familiar one: Phil Fulmer. Pruitt is Fulmer’s hire, a paint-by-numbers selection with all the audacity of a beige sectional couch. That is not a dig at beige sectional couches. They are functional, abundant, and don’t show stains very easily. They are the Phil Fulmer of hires in that they probably won’t embarrass you, perform reasonably well, and hell, might spike a few seasons above the mean and catch a national championship.
Also like a beige sectional couch, Jeremy Pruitt has never been a college football head coach before. That can be a risk sometimes, and sometimes going with experience gets you Derek Dooley. There’s really no end to the ways you can get this kind of decision wrong, and only so many ways to get it 100% right.
WASN’T THAT THE CASE WITH FULMER, TOO?
Yes, and that worked out for a while, just like Kirby Smart seemed to work out sort of well-ish for Georgia this year. There are no absolutes in this life except for a.) Phil Fulmer waiting ten years to execute a power play revenge and retake the Tennessee football program and b.) Getting too many chicken fingers in your order at Popeyes. The rest is indefinite and unknown.
IS THIS AN UPGRADE FROM BUTCH JONES?
Yeah, that’s not really up for debate barring some kind of unforeseen incompetence or personal history nightmare Tennessee somehow missed during the hiring process. Like he’d have to do something insane like have an affair with a subordinate, crash a motorcycle, and then lie about the whole thing to his boss to be anything but an upgrade to Butch.
COULD THAT RUIN YOUR CAREER, ACTUALLY?
Now that you mention it: No, in college football that would probably get you rehired, based on the case files we have here. Twice, in fact.
SO IS THERE ANYTHING REMOTELY INTERESTING HERE, AT ALL?
Pruitt hired Sam Darnold’s QB coach from USC, Tyson Helton, to be the Vols’ offensive coordinator. So the offense won’t be that uninteresting, if Pruitt wants it to be. That and what should be a really well-coached defense could make Tennessee a less-than-boring watch for the average viewership.
DOES HE REALLY NOT KNOW WHAT ASPARAGUS IS?
At one point in his life, somewhere around the Two-a-Days period in Hoover, no: No he did not know what asparagus is.
THIS IS WHY FULMER HIRED HIM RIGHT
No, but man, to a big ol’ bland bubba like Phil, this couldn’t have done anything but sealed the deal. FOOTBALL GUYS DON’T KNOW VEGETABLES AND THE SALAD IS ICEBERG WEDGE WITH RANCH ALL THE TIME.