It has taken several months but Tennessee has finally replaced strength coach Craig Fitzgerald.

Jeremy Pruitt suggested this offseason that Fitzgerald turned down an opportunity to leave Tennessee for Alabama but it wasn’t much longer before the former NFL strength coach returned to the game’s highest level, taking over as the New York Giants’ new head strength coach.

Now with the Volunteers back on campus, Pruitt has decided to stick with continuity and named A.J. Artis as his program’s director of football sports performance. Artis served under Fitzgerald during the former college coach’s time on Rocky Top.

Prior to his hire in Knoxville, Artis worked in the strength department for David Cutcliffe’s Duke program.

“A.J. understands the standard we expect in this role and will continue to push our strength and conditioning efforts to the forefront of college football,” Pruitt said in a released statement. “Since he first joined our staff in 2018, he has helped instill physical and mental toughness in our program through his contagious energy, hard work and innovation. Our players have tremendous respect for him, and I have no doubt they will continue to develop under his mentorship.”

Artis also offered up a statement following his promotion in Knoxville.

“I would like thank Coach Pruitt and Coach Fulmer for the opportunity to lead a great group of young men,” Artis said. “I will give my all to our student-athletes and the Tennessee football program. I am excited for this opportunity and look forward to helping Vol football continue its resurgence.”

Mike Farrell, Byron Jerideau and Shaq Wilson will all return for their third seasons at Tennessee and work under Artis.

Following the news, Fitzgerald offered this comment on the hire:

“Coach Pruitt and Coach Fulmer made an excellent decision to promote A.J. Artis to the head strength and conditioning position at Tennessee. A.J. along with Mike Farrell, Byron Jerideau and Shaq Wilson will take this SEC program to the next level with their innovative, organized, motivational, high energy and relationship-building approach.”

Duke head coach and former Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe also offered his comments on Artis:

“First and foremost, congratulations to A.J. I couldn’t be more excited for A.J. and this opportunity – I know he’ll be a terrific representative of the University of Tennessee and its football program. From our initial encounter at Duke, I was impressed with his personal drive to be successful and doing things the right way. A.J. is an excellent communicator, is very knowledgeable about college football as it pertains to strength and conditioning and has a very strong passion for helping young men achieve success.”