Tennessee on its way back to power? Paul Finebaum believes so based on the response from SEC rivals
Thanks to an outstanding week on the recruiting trail, with more good news expected in the days to come, Tennessee has captured the national spotlight in recent days.
Landing several elite prospects in recruiting in quick fashion isn’t that unheard of in SEC recruiting but given the fact that there’s simply no other sports to entertain us at the moment, Tennessee’s splash on the recruiting trail has been causing waves.
It’s not just Paul Finebaum that’s taken notice, either. Since Tennessee’s rise in the recruiting rankings began a Florida staffer mocked one of Tennessee’s commits, an Oklahoma staffer called out the hype created by the Vols’ momentum and Georgia has subtweeted Tennessee with a highlight video as Jeremy Pruitt’s program has surged passed them all on the recruiting rankings.
Tennessee’s recruiting class currently ranks No. 1 in the SEC and is on the cusp of overtaking North Carolina for the No. 2 ranking nationally.
During his weekly appearance on Birmingham-based WJOX 94.5 FM radio program “The Roundtable,” Finebaum shared his thoughts on Tennessee’s recent success and noted that the best sign that Pruitt’s program is on the rise comes from all the other rivals calling out the Vols.
“He’s getting players that Tennessee has not gotten in a long time so he’s learned from others, especially his old boss in Tuscaloosa,” Finebaum said on the show. “I think he feels and senses the momentum, so he’s playing to it and no matter how you slice it, Jeremy Pruitt’s recruiting has been the story of this spring. And the reason why I’m convinced that Tennessee is on the cusp of returning to power is I am hearing criticism from other schools, competing schools – from rivals, that he’s not doing that great.
“I haven’t heard anybody mentioned Tennessee recruiting in so long, I mean you have to go back almost to me outside of a brief moment with Butch Jones and Lane Kiffin for about 20 minutes, you have to go back to the heyday of Phil Fulmer. It is amazing — the perception out there right now. There’s nothing going on so if you create a perception, it is going to carry you and I think they’re building off of it.”
Pruitt, of course, has a long history of coaching in the state of Alabama and around the South, so Finebaum is no stranger to the former Crimson Tide assistant coach.
The way the SEC Network host views things, the key to Tennessee’s success in recruiting rests on Pruitt’s ability to identify prospects early on during the recruiting process. That’s something that gives Tennessee an edge few SEC programs have at this time, according to Finebaum.
“I’m not really that surprised when you know Jeremy Pruitt, and all of us on this program know him,” Finebaum added. “He’s always been a really good recruiter — he may be even a better evaluator, I mean he is in the Nick Saban class, in terms of Nick Saban protegees, I think he may be the best evaluator. And that really makes a big difference in recruiting and Tennessee fans have been hungry and thirsty, and they’ve had a voracious attitude appetite for a long time and I think they’re finally getting a return.”
Following up those comments, Finebaum was then asked which program has more momentum heading into the 2020 season, Florida or Tennessee?
“I think it’s Tennessee, because they’re coming from so far back,” Finebaum answered. “And I don’t mean to diminish Dan Mullen, I mean his program is already there. His program right now is right behind Georgia nipping at Georgia’s heels trying to take over, so momentum is an interesting word to use.”
Finebaum just won himself some new fans on Rocky Top with that comment.