Mark Bradley

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jeremy Pruitt, Tennessee coach: Not a bad hire, but a risky one


Jeremy Pruitt is a really good assistant coach. He might wind up being a really good head coach. I don’t think he’s a bad hire for Tennessee. I do think he’s a risky one. 

The idea is a sound one: If you can’t beat Saban, hire a semi-son of Saban. Georgia did that and is in the College Football Playoff. But Kirby Smart, I submit, was a safer hire than Pruitt. Smart is cool – well, except when one of his guys messes up – and calculating. Pruitt is … 

Well, let’s put it this way. Some folks in Athens were terrified that Pruitt, no shrinking violet, would bring Alabama’s “aggressive” ways to Mark Richt’s program and get Georgia in trouble. They believed, not to put too fine a point on it, that the new defensive coordinator had essentially become co-head coach, that Richt was too deeply in Pruitt’s thrall. 

There was never a chance that Pruitt would stay as part of Smart’s staff; athletic director Greg McGarity was unamused by the assistant’s famous stump speech as to why the Bulldogs just had to have an indoor practice facility. You’ll also recall the rumors after the Faton Bauta game – that Pruitt had had angry confrontations with fellow coaches – that prompted Richt himself to take to Twitter and proclaim that Pruitt hadn’t been fired. 

We’ve just seen some big names change or lose jobs – Jimbo Fisher being one, Jim McElwain being another – because they had issues with their administration. Pruitt is the kind of guy you’d almost expect to have issues, and his boss is Phillip Fulmer, an old coach who has a rather inflated opinion of his expertise.

Football-wise, Pruitt is capable of getting the Volunteers back on the upward trail. Temperament-wise, I’m not sure he’s the man for Big Orange Country. This is a fishbowl job. He might not flourish in a fishbowl.


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About the Author

Mark Bradley is a sports columnist and blogger for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been with the AJC since 1984.