The long, winding — sometimes strange — Tennessee coaching search has finally come to an end.
The school announced Thursday morning that Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will be the 26th coach in program history after successfully leading the Crimson Tide to consecutive College Football Playoff appearances.
“Six days ago, I mentioned several attributes that I sought to find in the next leader of our football program, and coach Pruitt meets all criteria,” newly installed athletic director Phillip Fulmer said. “I’m certain he appreciates the unique opportunity to lead a program of Tennessee’s caliber. He’s driven to win at the highest level. He will honor our university’s values, operate with integrity and be a role model for our student-athletes. I know coach Pruitt will hit the ground running and go to work restoring our program to a championship level.”
Prior to his time at Alabama, Pruitt was the defensive coordinator at Georgia from 2014-15, and helped Florida State win the BCS National Championship in the same role in 2013. Prior to his time with the Seminoles, Pruitt was a position coach with Nick Saban during Saban’s first six seasons in Tuscaloosa. Since becoming a college coach in 2007, Pruitt has been with programs that have won four national championships.
From a recruiting perspective, he’s one of the best.
According to the 247Sports coaching database, Pruitt has been either the primary or secondary recruiter on 11 different five-star prospects, including former Alabama running backs Derrick Henry and T.J. Yeldon, current Florida state linebacker Matthew Thomas, current Georgia linebacker Lorenzo Carter and former Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey. He’s responsible for 28, four-star signees, including current Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, former Alabama linebackers C.J. Mosley and Reggie Ragland, and current Florida State safety Trey Marshall.
Prior to his time with the Crimson Tide, Pruitt first gained national notoriety in the mid-2000s when he was an assistant with the Hoover (Alabama) Buccaneers — the team featured on the hit MTV show Two-A-Days.
Pruitt has never been a head coach at any level before, so surrounding himself with top-tier assistants will be a top priority as he formulates his new Tennessee staff. Alabama coach Nick Saban confirmed Thursday night that Pruitt will stay on and coach with the Crimson Tide through the playoff run while splitting time on his Tennessee responsibilities. Georgia coach Kirby Smart did the same with Saban and the Tide two seasons ago.
Tennessee is coming off a 4-8 regular season in which it went 0-8 in SEC play and lost eight games for the first time in the program’s existence. Former coach Butch Jones was fired on Nov. 13, and athletic director John Currie was removed from his position after a dysfunctional coaching search that included a fan uprising against Greg Schiano, and subsequent swings and misses on several candidates including NC State’s Dave Doeren and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy.