What separates Jeremy Pruitt from Nick Saban? Tennessee's coach has better relationships with his players, claims new UT staffer
The Alabama influence on Rocky Top was already pretty heavy entering spring football but Jeremy Pruitt recently added another former member of Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide army to his Tennessee staff with the addition of Kerry Stevenson.
Stevenson, Alabama’s former director of player development, is now working in Knoxville as Pruitt’s right-hand man after Tennessee’s coach got the former Vigor High School head coach to join the Volunteers this offseason. Why would Stevenson make the move from arguably the nation’s best program to a rebuilding Tennessee program? Stevenson’s decision had everything to do with his relationship with Pruitt.
“It felt like the thing to do,” Stevenson said during a recent appearance on WNSP-FM 105.5 in Mobile, according to Mark Heim of AL.com. “I have a great relationship with Coach Pruitt. He’s a great guy, and I want to help him be successful.”
The former high school head coach knows Saban’s program very well, having been on Alabama’s staff dating back to 2013. He also knows Pruitt well dating back to their time together in Tuscaloosa and the relationship the two have shared even after Pruitt left Alabama the first time to become defensive coordinator at Florida State. The way Stevenson sees it, despite the separation between the Tide and the Vols being wide at the moment, Pruitt will close the talent gap that exists between Tennessee and Alabama.
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“I know at Alabama, we definitely had some bigger kids, but, as far as talent, I know coach Pruitt did a heck of a job recruiting. The longer he’s here, the gap is going to close,” he added during his appearance on the show.
Stevenson went on to share the story of not having a place to stay during his time at Alabama. Once Pruitt found out, he offered his home to Stevenson free of charge. Stevenson stayed for two years while Pruitt was coaching in Tallahassee and Athens.
In addition to the relationships Pruitt had with his coaching peers, Stevenson says he witnessed an incredible display during his first day at Alabama. Every single Crimson Tide player that entered the cafeteria came over to talk with Pruitt. According to Stevenson, that was the difference between Saban and Pruitt.
“He knows everyone’s name,” Stevenson recalls about that experience. “He asked how their mothers were doing. He knows their mothers’ names. He’s more personable.”
It should be noted during the interview, Stevenson refused to share any Saban stories, out of respect for the Alabama head coach.