Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is finalizing a contract and expected to become Tennessee’s head coach, according to multiple reports.
Pruitt’s hiring would end a wild ride for the Tennessee coaching search. The Volunteers were set to hire Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano on November 26 before overwhelming backlash from fans caused the athletic department to reverse course.
Athletic director John Currie sought out Duke’s David Cutcliffe, North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren, Purdue’s Jeff Brohm and Washington State’s Mike Leach. Those options all fell through for various reasons before Currie was fired and replaced by former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer as athletic director.
Pruitt would be tasked with trying to restore Tennessee’s program to a level it hasn’t reached in years. The Volunteers haven’t played in the SEC championship since 2007 and haven’t won the conference since 1998, when the program won a national championship. The Vols also haven’t won 10 games since 2007.
Alabama has boasted one of the top defenses in the country under Pruitt. The Crimson Tide ranks first in scoring defense this year, allowing 11.5 points per game, and led the nation last year while allowing 13 points per game. Alabama set a school record with 54 sacks last season and led the nation in rushing defense while reaching the national championship game.
Pruitt was Georgia’s defensive coordinator in 2014-15 before returning to Alabama. He was defensive coordinator at Florida State in 2013 when the Seminoles won a national championship. Before that he was defensive backs coach from 2010-12 at Alabama. Nick Saban first hired him as the Crimson Tide’s director of player development, where he served from 2007-09. That was his first job in major college football after spending the previous seven years as a high school assistant coach.
He named his son, born in May, after former Alabama linebackers Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.
Pruitt would become Tennessee’s fifth head coach since 2008, following Fulmer, Lane Kiffin, Derek Dooley and Butch Jones. He’s the sixth former Saban assistant to take a head coaching position in the SEC, following Dooley, Will Muschamp, Jimbo Fisher, Jim McElwain and Kirby Smart.
Pruitt would also be the second former Saban assistant to take the head coaching position at Tennessee. Dooley coached with Saban at LSU and with the Miami Dolphins. He was head coach in Knoxville from 2010-12.