Why Jeremy Pruitt is excited for Tennessee quarterback signee Kaidon Salter to arrive in spring

Mike Wilson
Knoxville News Sentinel

Jeremy Pruitt viewed the quarterback position through a defensive lens Wednesday.

The Tennessee football coach knows the challenges a dual-threat quarterback presents for a defense. He wants to create the same issues for Vols opponents. 

“To me, you always want an athletic quarterback … a guy that can extend plays and can present something in the run game from a quarterback perspective creates a different dynamic for the defensive staff and defensive team,” Pruitt said.

Tennessee got that type of player with Kaidon Salter.

“It is great that Kaidon has a talented arm, but he also is a really good athlete,” Pruitt said. “You can watch it on his high school tape. He is a guy that is very creative.”

Salter signed with the Vols on the first day of the early signing period. The Cedar Hill (Texas) product committed to the Vols on May 10 over Auburn and held to his decision. He is one of eight expected early enrollees for Tennessee from its 2021 class.

Salter is the No. 157 player in the nation in the 247Sports Composite, the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback, and a four-star prospect. 

“A guy that we targeted very early in the process,” Pruitt said. “He plays in one of the better leagues in the country down in Texas. He is having a phenomenal year this year. A guy that can make all the throws. He is a winner. He is a leader. A guy that will be here midyear. 

“A guy that we can’t wait to get here in the spring.”

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Salter had only two Power Five offers in mid-January. Tennessee was his third on Jan. 21. He finished with 15 Power Five offers, including five SEC schools. 

The Vols were sold on Salter then, but a visit to Knoxville in March — immediately before the NCAA instituted a recruiting dead period due to the COVID-19 pandemic — had them even more enamored. 

“Just really liked his makeup,” Pruitt said. “Loved his family. Loved his tape. A guy that is very athletic that we think has a lot of upside and a guy we are really excited about.”

Tennessee won his recruitment thanks in part to Salter’s desire to play in Jim Chaney’s pro-style offense. His quarterbacks coach D.J. Mann told Knox News in May that Salter is widely viewed a dual-threat quarterback because of athletic ability — one of the reasons the Vols wanted Salter. But he does more than that. 

“He brings a lot of the pro-style style to his game,” Mann said. “He can sit back in the pocket and read defenses and throw it on time. He can do the drops and throw the routes. He does well learning new systems.”

All of those skills make Salter an intriguing addition to a quarterback room that has been mediocre and unsettled in 2020. The Vols have started three quarterbacks and played all four scholarship options.

The room could look different by the time Salter joins, however. Jarrett Guarantano appears unlikely to return for a sixth season, which he could do due to the NCAA giving players a free year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tennessee figures to have freshman Harrison Bailey, who has started the past two games, back next season. But sophomores Brian Maurer and J.T. Shrout could opt to transfer. Maurer has played sparingly in 2020, while Shrout has split time with Bailey in recent weeks. 

Regardless of what the quarterback room looks like when Salter arrives in January, the athletic quarterback that Pruitt and his staff sought will get an opportunity to compete for playing time. 

Pruitt expects that from all of the 15 players who signed Wednesday and the rest who will sign in the early signing period and in February. 

“That is why we recruited them here,” Pruitt said. “They will all have the same opportunity as everybody else. It is a class we are excited about and we are excited about adding to it.”

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.