Tennessee saw plenty of highlights in Jeremy Pruitt’s first season, and his athletics director, Phillip Fulmer, said the program is moving in the right direction.
Fulmer made an appearance on “The Paul Finebaum Show” from Atlanta on Friday afternoon, after after Tennessee’s 5-7 season, which ended last week in a 38-13 loss to Vanderbilt. The Vols won’t make a bowl game for the second consecutive season.
Tennessee had a bit of a rollercoaster season, with six losses by 25 points or more, but wins over then-No. 21 Auburn and then-No. 11 Kentucky.
“I’m looking forward to bringing a football team back here with Coach Pruitt in the near future,” Fulmer said.
Fulmer explained how the end of the season unfolded.
“That last game, I think we just ran out of gas, ran out of people, ran out of gas,” he said. “Missouri’s a very fine team, and they beat us up pretty good. Vanderbilt, we didn’t meet the challenge.”
The to-do list is long, but largely clear at Tennessee. Fulmer said he believes Pruitt and his staff this season set the foundation for the program’s future, and recruiting is especially key to upgrade the roster.
“Jeremy’s done wonderfully,” he said. “We’ve got this great relationship that he says what he needs to, to me, and I’m not afraid to say anything to him. As a former coach, it could be uncomfortable, and for him, too, but he has confidence in what he wants to do and seeing what it wants to look like, and if I can help along the way, that’s been a real plus.”
Some of those improvements aren’t seen on Saturdays, but could show up down the line as the program is transformed and reset under Pruitt.
“He’s brought a toughness back to Tennessee, a discipline,” Fulmer said. “It doesn’t always show up on the field, but it’s showed up in the classroom, it shows up on who misses what and where they’re supposed to be. The little things, the foundation, really — I say little things — (the) foundation for what’s going to allow you to have a good program. Now we’ve got to go recruit, and certainly, certainly there’s opportunity there at Tennessee.”