KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — University of Tennessee, Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport and Director of Athletics Phillip Fulmer introduced Jeremy Pruitt as the new head football coach of the Tennessee Volunteers on Thursday.
The university and Pruitt have agreed to a six-year contract with annual compensation of $3.8 million per year.
“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” 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.”
Pruitt becomes the 26th head coach in Tennessee football history. He will take the helm of the Volunteers after cementing himself as the nation’s top defensive coordinator during stints at Alabama (2016-17), Georgia (2014-15) and Florida State (2013).
“I’m honored and humbled to be recognized as the head football coach at the University of Tennessee,” Pruitt said. “When you talk about tradition – I grew up in a small town in North Alabama, just on the Tennessee River. You grow up knowing all about the University of Tennessee – where you are running through the Power T, Smokey, the great teams that Coach Neyland, Coach Dickey, Coach Majors and Coach Fulmer put on the field.
“There was a time and place when this university was feared among the SEC teams. My goal as the head football coach at Tennessee is to get us back to that point.”
Pruitt was part of three national championships (2009, 2011, 2012) on the staff of the Crimson Tide from 2007 to 2012, and was the defensive coordinator during the Seminoles’ undefeated national championship season in 2013. He was a standout high school coach before joining the Alabama staff as the Director of Player Development. He played collegiately at Middle Tennessee and for the Crimson Tide.
Pruitt owns a 128-31 record as a collegiate assistant coach and is a two-time Broyles Award finalist in addition to being named National Recruiter of the Year by 247Sports in 2012.
He has coached 34 NFL draft picks and 11 first-team All-Americans. The list of players coached by Pruitt reads like a who’s who of college football’s top defensive players this decade and includes 2016 Butkus Award (nation’s top LB) winner Reuben Foster, National Defensive Player of the Year Jonathan Allen, top 10 NFL draft picks Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd, Mark Barron and Dee Milliner, and current NFL stars Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Dre Kirkpatrick, Lamarcus Joyner and Telvin Smith.
The Rainsville, Ala., native served as the defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach during his second stint with the Crimson Tide in 2016 and 2017, leading an Alabama team that topped the nation in scoring defense and advanced to the College Football Playoff both seasons.
Pruitt’s 2017 defense leads the nation in scoring, allowing only 11.5 points per game, and ranks second in total defense, giving up only 257.8 yards per contest. Six Crimson Tide defensive players earned All-SEC honors in 2017, the most among any team in the conference, with defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive lineman Raekwon Davis garnering first-team honors.
In his first season as Alabama’s defensive coordinator, Pruitt led arguably the most dominant defense in college football in 2016. The Tide led the nation in scoring defense (13.0 ppg) and rushing defense (63.9 ypg), while ranking second in total defense by two yards (261.8 ypg). The Tide also led the nation in defensive touchdowns with 11. Pruitt coached the aforementioned Foster to consensus first team All-America honors and the Butkus Award after finishing the season with 115 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and five sacks, while Allen earned unanimous first-team All-America honors and won the Chuck Bednarik Award (nation’s top defensive player), the Vince Lombardi Award (nation’s top lineman), the Ted Hendricks Award (nation’s top defensive end), and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (nation’s top defensive player).
Prior to his return to Alabama, Pruitt was the defensive coordinator for two seasons at Georgia, guiding the nation’s No. 1 pass defense in 2015 and leading a squad that finished in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense, pass defense and total defense in 2014.
The 2015 Bulldogs’ defense ranked seventh nationally in total defense, allowing 305.9 yards per game, third in red zone defense (.676) and in first down defense (189), seventh in pass efficiency defense (104.99) and eighth in scoring defense (16.9 ppg).
Pruitt’s 2014 Georgia defense ranked fifth nationally in passing yards allowed (170.4 ypg) and was fourth in the country in turnover margin (+1.23).
During his stint in Athens, Pruitt coached five future NFL Draft picks and four all-conference selections.
Pruitt’s first defensive coordinator job came at Florida State in 2013 where he also coached the defensive backs. The Seminoles led the nation in scoring defense (12.1 ppg), pass defense (156.6) and interceptions (26) en route to a 14-0 record and the BCS National Championship. In total, a staggering 11 players from FSU’s 2013 defensive were selected in the NFL Draft.
That Seminoles team also boasted nine players that received All-ACC postseason honors, led by Joyner, who was a first-team selection and became just the seventh FSU defensive back to earn consensus All-America honors, joining the likes of Deion Sanders, LeRoy Butler and Terrell Buckley, and was the first Noles defensive back to accomplish that feat since 2000.
Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan also garnered All-America honors from multiple outlets and joined Joyner on the All-ACC first team. Defensive backs Nate Andrews and Ramsey earned Freshman All-America status as well.
Pruitt served as the defensive backs coach at Alabama from 2010 to 2012, helping the Crimson Tide win back-to-back BCS National Championships in 2011 and 2012 with his secondary leading the way.
His 2012 Tide secondary was led by Milliner, a first team All-American and top-10 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Alabama ranked seventh nationally in pass efficiency defense while leading the nation in scoring and total defense en route to winning the SEC and national championships. Milliner led all defensive backs in tackles with 54 while recording two interceptions and breaking up 20 passes. Clinton-Dix, another future first-round pick, led the team with five interceptions while Vinnie Sunseri added 54 tackles and Robert Lester intercepted four passes.
The 2011 Alabama secondary was one of the best in the nation, boasting a pair of AFCA first team All-Americans in Barron, who was also a finalist for the Thorpe Award, and DeQuan Menzie. Kirkpatrick made it three first-team All-Americans in the secondary when he and Barron received that honor from the FWAA. Milliner also made significant contributions at corner and led the team with three interceptions on the season.
During Pruitt’s first season as a full-time collegiate assistant coach, he shaped an inexperienced secondary into one of the best in the country. The young group came together quickly and helped Alabama lead the SEC in total defense, scoring defense and pass efficiency defense. The unit was anchored by Barron, who was named a first-team FWAA All-American. He led the Tide with 75 tackles in 12 games. Lester also had a significant impact at safety, earning second-team Walter Camp All-American honors and ranking second nationally with eight interceptions. At corner, Kirkpatrick was a second-team All-SEC pick, while Milliner was a Freshman All-American and Freshman All-SEC selection.
Pruitt joined the Alabama staff in 2007 as the Director of Player Personnel following a successful run as a high school coach at prep powerhouse Hoover High School and under his father, Dale Pruitt, at Fort Payne High School and Plainview High School.
Pruitt played collegiately at Middle Tennessee and Alabama, serving as a two-year starter at safety for the Blue Raiders, before transferring to Alabama and playing in 16 games as a reserve defensive back for Gene Stallings. He was a member of the 1996 SEC Western Division Championship team that won the Outback Bowl.
He got his first taste of coaching as a student assistant at Alabama in 1997 before entering the high school coaching ranks. He also coached defensive backs at West Alabama for a season in 1999 when he earned his bachelor’s degree.
Pruitt is married to the former Casey East and they have three sons, Jayse, Ridge and Flynt.
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