To this point, Phillip Fulmer and Tennessee are doing everything in their power to give Jeremy Pruitt everything he needs to build the football team in Knoxville back into an elite SEC program. That’s something Fulmer pledged he would do when he introduced Pruitt as the new face of Tennessee football back in December and he’s been true to his word to this point.

Whether it’s elevating the salary pool for Tennessee assistants, expanding the recruiting and off-the-field football staff in Knoxville, to allowing Pruitt to surround himself with the people he feels most comfortable with heading into his first season as a head football coach, at any level, the school has done everything necessary to correct the issues surrounding the football program.

In addition to all the allowances Tennessee has afforded Pruitt, perhaps the direst need for the program was hiring the right strength coach and allowing him to do things his way. The Vols appear to have done both of those things in luring former Houston Texans strength coach Craig Fitzgerald to Knoxville. Fitzgerald also has valuable college experience at Penn State, helping the program survive sanctions under Bill O’Brien, and at South Carolina under Steve Spurrier.

Tennessee managed to get Fitzgerald by handing the strength coach a three-year deal worth $625,000 annually. The spending didn’t stop there, however, as Tennessee recently spent just over $659,000 to renovate the weight room to Fitzgerald’s exact specifications. The information regarding the cost of the renovations come from Blake Toppmeyer of the Knoxville News Sentinel via an open-records request.

That means Tennessee will spend over $1.2 million on Fitzgerald and his weights this year — and that doesn’t even get into the salaries paid to his weight training staff in Knoxville — to help elevate the injury and lack of physical development issues experienced on Rocky Top in recent seasons. If Fitzgerald helps fix those issues, the hefty price tag will be well worth it for the Vols, as the program will need all the healthy bodies it can get if a quick turnaround on the field is going to happen.

The early returns following Fitzgerald’s hire have been overwhelmingly positive, as the team did not suffer any significant injuries during spring practice. In year’s past, that type of news seemed like a weekly, if not daily occurrence on Rocky Top. Now it’s on Fitzgerald to get the summer enrollees ready for the grind of the upcoming season. With the new redshirt rule coming to college football, expect Tennessee to use nearly every player signed this offseason on the field in some capacity in the fall — but only if Fitzgerald can get those players adequately prepared for the rigors of major college football in the short time he has with them before the fall.

Tennessee shared this preview of the renovations of the weight room back in late April:

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Sports betting in Tennessee officially launched on November 1, 2020, and many of the largest sportsbooks are live and operating in the volunteer state. Tennessee is only one of a handful of SEC football states with legalized sports betting.