An unnamed coach with extensive Southeastern Conference experience has no doubt that Jeremy Pruitt will have success at Tennessee – and soon.
“To me, Jeremy is the best defensive mind in the in the SEC,” said the coach who is still in the SEC..
That’s strong praise, especially with Alabama’s Nick Saban considered a defensive guru and his protege, Georgia’s Kirby Smart, known for his defensive prowess as well. Still, Pruitt can more than hold his own compared to the two, according to the coach.
“He’s better than Nick and Kirby,” the coach said flatly.
The best news for UT fans is that the rebuild in Knoxville shouldn’t take long, according to the coach.
“He hired a great staff,” the coach said. “They will flip Tennessee back to where they were quickly within the first two years.”
The coach said Pruitt’s first year will still be a bit of a struggle because of personnel deficiencies. The coach named only two players on UT’s squad that would be considered championship level: offensive lineman Trey Smith and linebacker Daniel Bituli. However, that doesn’t mean current players can’t be developed, especially with a top-flight strength and conditioning staff led by former Houston Texans strength coach Craig Fitzgerald.
“The guy Jeremy hired for strength and conditioning, he might be the best in the SEC,” the coach said. “He’s super good and the real deal.”
The unnamed coach even went so far as to compare Fitzgerald to Alabama’s Scott Cochran and LSU’s Tommy Moffitt. Both are considered elite strength and conditioning coaches in the nation.
“In terms of getting them bigger, better and faster and functional, he’s damn good,” the coach said of Fitzgerald.
The coach said UT’s opponents will still be able to find some weaknesses in the Vols’ defense this season because of shortcomings in personnel. Still, he predicted UT’s defense would be better almost immediately than in recent history.
“Tennessee will play better defense with whoever they have (now) than they’ve played in the last 10 years,” he said. “The second year, I could see some real (expletive) happening at Tennessee.”
The coach acknowledged there were obvious issues under former coach Butch Jones, who was fired during his fifth season at UT. It was obvious on the field and through coaching circles.
“Tennessee had lots of issues. Jeremy will run it the right way,” the coach said. “To me the biggest thing is obvious as hell, when you’re in your fifth year, that should be your best year. There are no excuses. I think Jeremy will do a good job of identifying what needs to be done.”