Jeremy Pruitt just finished his second season as the head coach of the Tennessee Vols.
After going 8-5 in 2019, it looks like the program is on a massive upward trajectory.
It’s not unlike when Butch Jones finished his second season as Tennessee’s head coach. At the end of the 2014 season, the Vols had plenty of momentum after winning the TaxSlayer Bowl.
On the surface, there are some striking similarities between Pruitt’s first two seasons and Jones’ first two seasons (both went 5-7 in their first years and upset a top 15 team and both won the TaxSlayer bowl in second season).
But if you go below the surface, you’ll see that Pruitt has a completely approach when it comes to rebuilding Tennessee than Jones had.
In fact, the word “rebuilding” doesn’t even seem to be a part of Pruitt’s approach, unlike it was for Jones.
Butch Jones loved to throw around his “brick-by-brick” slogans and talk about “building a foundation”. Under Jones it seemed like the Vols were in a perpetual state of “rebuilding”.
That’s not the case with Pruitt, though.
Sure, Tennessee is absolutely in rebuild mode right now. But that’s not how Pruitt views his job at UT.
And that’s evident in the way the Vols’ recent signees talk about the players Pruitt is signing.
2020 UT signee Cooper Mays, a four-star recruit from Knoxville, recently spoke with 247Sports and one word kept coming up during his interview.
Mays stressed that Tennessee’s coaches were determined to sign winners. They weren’t signing players who wanted to be part of a rebuild project, they signed players who wanted to come to Knoxville to win.
Jones put the focus on “rebuilding”. Pruitt doesn’t have time for that. He’s putting the focus on winning.
Obviously it’s going to take some time for the Vols to become a program that’s a consistent threat to win the SEC. But that doesn’t mean Pruitt and his staff can’t set their sights on winning the SEC East.
They might fall short of that goal, but it won’t be for lack of trying.
Featured image via Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports/Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports