Former Tennessee Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt left UT’s football program in a bad spot.

The Vols are facing potentially severe penalties stemming from recruiting violations that occurred under Pruitt’s watch.

Those looming penalties have made it easy for opposing programs to negatively recruit against Tennessee.

It wouldn’t be farfetched to suggest that Pruitt is the worst head coach that Tennessee’s ever had. He finished his career with a 16-19 record and left the program in a deep hole.

But despite Pruitt’s transgressions and head coaching struggles, he still had at least one positive impact on Tennessee’s football program.

Pruitt helped the Vols recreate an important recruiting presence in Memphis. And it’s a lasting presence that will undoubtedly help new head UT coach Josh Heupel find success on Rocky Top.

Pruitt signed nine players from the Memphis area during his three years at Tennessee.

  • Jerome Carvin
  • Jeremy Banks
  • Eric Gray *
  • Melvin McBride
  • Omari Thomas
  • Bryson Eason
  • Martvaius French *
  • Tamarion McDonald
  • Jabari Small

(Eric Gray transferred to Oklahoma this past offseason, and Martavius French entered the NCAA transfer portal earlier this spring. Melvin McBride retired from football after signing with UT.)

Tennessee wasn’t having that kind of recruiting success in Memphis prior to Pruitt’s arrival. The three recruiting classes before Pruitt included one player from Memphis, offensive lineman Drew Richmond (two if you want to count Trey Smith, a Jackson, TN native).

Recruits in Memphis now view Tennessee as a viable option, thanks to the Vols’ major presence in recent years.

“It was special for me being from Memphis and getting that offer from Tennessee,” said 2024 athlete Joe Williams to VolQuest this week.

“Plus, with me being at Whitehaven, we’ve been putting a bunch of guys at Tennessee like Bryson Eason and Tamarion McDonald,” added Williams.

Recruits don’t care that Tennessee’s recent recruiting success in Memphis occurred under Pruitt — all that matters is that the Power T means something again in Memphis (it helps that current Vols running backs coach Jerry Mack is a Memphis native).

Pruitt didn’t do a lot of things right at UT but making Memphis a priority was a massive positive for the beleaguered former Vols head coach.

I’m not saying Tennessee fans should be out on the streets praising Pruitt — he still did more harm than good — but they should at least thank him for getting the Vols back in Memphis.

Featured image via Calvin Mattheis/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services