SEC Network analyst Gene Chizik has been one of the biggest believers in Tennessee since Jeremy Pruitt took over. Even during the Vols early struggles in 2019 — lost 4 out of the first 5 games, Chizik was of the impression that it was all fixable.

He proved to be right, because the Vols ended the season on a hot streak with 6 straight wins.

The former Auburn head coach joined WNML-FM in Knoxville Monday to discuss the Vols.

“I was probably one of the few guys that, at the beginning of the season after the BYU game and the Georgia State game. I watched the film and I felt like, I even said it on the air, I felt like everything was correctable, I really did,” Chizik said.

“I think Jeremy Pruitt is a heck of a football coach,” Chizik said. “I think he understands not just the game, he understands players, putting them in a position to succeed and win. They were one of the hottest teams in the league, if not the hottest team, at the end of the year.”

Chizik knows that recruiting is the lifeblood of college football, and he understands that Pruitt and his staff gets it, as evidenced by their dynamic recruiting.

“Recruiting is definitely on the upswing, and if there’s one thing Jeremy can do, he can recruit,” Chizik said. “He has great rapport with high school coaches in a lot of states, starting in Alabama where he was one. Obviously, being under Nick (Saban) for so many years and understanding the importance what it takes to recruit, I think Tennessee is on the up-swing.”

“I think good things are going to happen. Obviously, recruiting is the name of the game. It’s the lifeblood of every team in this league. You can be the greatest X and O guy, you can have all the bells and whistles that you need to run blitzes and have fancy offenses and all those things. You better have dudes that can execute it. And I think they’re headed in that direction.”

The SEC Network analyst likes the direction that Pruitt and company are headed in ahead of 2020.

“I like the mentality of the team, I like the physicality that I saw,” he said. “This is still a culture shift. In Year 3, you’re still in a culture shift. By the end of Year 3, you’re going to really see things start to swing, and they’re really going to grab some people’s attention by the end of Year 3 for Jeremy Pruitt.”

Tennessee is scheduled to kick off the season on September 5 at Neyland Stadium against Charlotte.