If there was a whiff of controversy at the usually benign SEC Media Days on Tuesday, it didn’t come from the podium, where things were fairly dull.
The pungent breeze instead came from the radio room, where former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, appearing on Nashville radio station 102.5 FM with Jared Stillman and Floyd Reese, offered a less-than-five star review of new Tennessee head coach (and former Alabama defensive coordinator) Jeremy Pruitt. The backstory is that Murray was a Mark Richt guy. Pruitt and Richt notoriously did not get along in Pruitt’s year as Georgia’s defensive coordinator — and Murray clearly is on Richt’s side.
“I don’t know if his personality is fit to be a head coach,” Murray said during the interview. “As a head coach, there’s so many things that go into it. It’s not just going out there and coaching. You have to deal with front office. You’ve got to go talk with the president of the university. You have to deal with boosters. You have to deal with the offense, the defense. It’s not just going in there … and scheming up.
“When he was at Georgia, the way he acted, the way he treated Coach Richt, I thought was poor,” Murray said. “He needs to prove to me that he can handle the whole ship. For right now, I don’t think he can. We’ll see what happens this year. I don’t think it helps that he doesn’t have a lot of talent at Tennessee.”
Pruitt has not responded, although he will certainly be asked about it. There’s no word yet on whether he has reached out to Quinton Dial to deliver the answer.
Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to Florida head coach Dan Mullen. Whether he is a solid choice, like a well-hit double at a program that has grand-slam resources, remains to be seen. There are still only two grand slams currently in college football, Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. In terms of Florida, Saban wasn’t going and Meyer wasn’t going back. Steve Spurrier was hired nearly 30 years ago, but many programs only hit a jackpot like that once. Alabama is fortunate to have done it twice, with the two best coaches in college football history.
Neither Will Muschamp, who had no head coaching experience, nor Jim McElwain, who had Colorado State experience but was, to make the inevitable shark joke, a fish out of water in Gainesville, worked out. Mullen has no championships as a head coach on his resume but has had a solid SEC run at Mississippi State, where he worked with UF AD Scott Stricklin. There are abundant resources at Florida, so it could work well.
“In the last four years, they’ve had two four-win seasons and played for two SEC Championships,” Mullen said. “That tells me that individual teams have performed at a high level, but the program itself is not performing at the level it should be. There has been talent. There are good players. There is also a lack of consistency in performance, which speaks to the program as a whole: whether the problem is confidence, training, discipline, culture, development — or, I think, all of the above. When the program is consistent, you can win championships. That’s where we want to be.”
Mullen said it was “an easy decision” to leave Mississippi State and, as much as that stings in Starkville, it probably should have been. It won’t be an issue of winning for a semi-proven Mullen as a Gator. He’s not a rookie. The criticism leveled at a Pruitt hire don’t apply.
The question will be, can he win enough?
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.