Jeremy Pruitt arrived in Knoxville with a ton of hype as one of college football’s best assistant coaches and recruiters the Southeast has to offer. That’s a reputation he’s earned following a decade of hard work at the college level in the SEC footprint but if he can’t translate that success into becoming great a head coach, he wouldn’t be the first to fail to successfully transition to running his own program.
Thankfully for Pruitt, he’s got one of the best coaches in Tennessee history to help him make that adjustment in Athletic Director Phillip Fulmer. While that’s certainly reason for optimism, some could argue that Fulmer’s presence could be a distraction to the first-year Volunteer coach.
During a recent appearance on Birmingham-based WJOX 94.5 FM radio program 3 Man Front, Tommy Tuberville was asked his thoughts on the unique dynamic that’s currently in place in Knoxville. Could Fulmer’s position within the athletic department cause any issues for Pruitt?
According to Tuberville, the answer is no.
“No, I think (Fulmer) was a great hire by Tennessee,” the former SEC coach said on the air. Tuberville then went into why he believes Fulmer will do nothing but help Pruitt find success on Rocky Top.
“When they hired Phillip Fulmer, he knows how to win in the conference. He brought a young coach in that’s never been a head coach,” Tuberville said. “It’s going to take him a while, but Phillip is going to mentor him. He’s going to teach him the ins and outs of Tennessee, the ins and outs of SEC football, and if he’ll listen to him, I think Tennessee is going to be a very good football team in three or four years. It’s going to take awhile.”
Tuberville reiterated those thoughts during the conversation after noting the difficulties he faced running some of his programs with outside interference meddling in his affairs. Tuberville doesn’t believe that will be an issue that the Volunteers will have with Fulmer and Pruitt leading Tennessee’s rebuilding job.
“I think the combination of Phillip Fulmer being athletic director and Jeremy Pruitt being the head coach in training, so to speak, is a huge boost for this Tennessee football program,” he added.
The former SEC head coach then offered up an interesting comparison for what Tennessee could potentially build with Fulmer running the athletics department in Knoxville.
“I know Phillip, he’s a smart guy, he understands it. He’s not going to push Jeremy Pruitt around, he’s going to mentor him. He wants Tennessee to win as much as anybody,” Tuberville continued. “And so I think it’s going to be a scenario a lot like Wisconsin. Barry Alvarez is the best athletic director in college — they win in almost every sport, and Phillip Fulmer will do the same thing. He understands coaches, and the No. 1 thing about an athletic director is hiring them and managing your coaches. Everything else will take care of itself.”
Considering Wisconsin has been one of the nation’s most consistent programs over the last decade-plus under Alvarez, that’s got to be music to the ears of all Tennessee fans out there dying for their program to at least match the enthusiasm and support the football program annually receives from its passionate fan base.