Jeremy Pruitt and Kirby Smart both come from the Nick Saban coaching tree. While Smart has clearly led Georgia to new heights, as has Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, other former Saban assistants such as Derek Dooley, Will Muschamp, and Jim McElwain have all failed to capture success anywhere close to that of their former boss.
So which side of the coin will Pruitt land on as he is set to embark on his first head coaching job on Rocky Top?
During a recent ESPN conference call, Kirk Herbstreit stated his belief that Pruitt will at the very least take the approach that Saban and Smart have done with their respective programs. Considering Pruitt was on Saban’s Alabama staff from the beginning, and left to run the defenses on his own at Florida State and Georgia too much success before returning to Tuscaloosa, his background suggests he knows what he’s doing.
That sentiment on Pruitt was echoed by Herbstreit on the call when asked how Smart has managed to successful copy Saban’s program. In his response, the ESPN analyst brought the conversation around to Pruitt.
“Kirby stayed for a long time, waited to be very selective with where he went. He happened to go back to his alma mater, and he happened to pick a roster that had not only talent but experience. And I think that probably as much as anything, he is, of all the coaches that have left, he’s probably the most similar, in my opinion anyway, to Nick as any of them, as far as his approach.
“When you go to practice and watch him coach, it’s crazy how similar and how demanding he is on the defensive side of the ball. I think Jeremy Pruitt, I don’t know if he’ll have the roster that Kirby inherited in Athens. But he’ll have the same kind of approach in Knoxville. Wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him be successful.
“So I think it’s a demanding approach never, literally never taking your foot off the accelerator. As far as when they’re in the weight room or when they’re on the practice field. I think they do a good job of loving on the guys when it’s the training table or you’re in the locker room or whatever.”