Tennessee created the most chaotic coaching search in the history of college football to find Butch Jones’ replacement. When the dust settled, Phil Fulmer hired Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Of the many former Nick Saban disciples who are now SEC head coaches, nobody faces a more difficult task than Pruitt.
The Best Thing Jeremy Pruitt Said — Pruitt was asked if he got any advice from Saban after he was hired by the Vols.
“You think Coach Saban is going to give me advice? There’s a lot of us in the league. We’ve known us for a while, some of us assistant coaches, and now I get an opportunity now. It is probably you better write down everything you can. You better take it all in while you have the opportunity because as soon as you go put on the other uniform, I can guarantee you, everybody, even though everybody’s friends, we want to beat the other guy. You know? So we don’t want to give the other person the edge.”
The Best Thing Jeremy Pruitt Said (Out of Context) — “We’re hungry. They’re hungry. Everybody’s hungry.”
Coach Speak 101 — Pruitt mentioned the “Power of the T” at least three times in his address. I remember, because that’s how many times I threw up in my mouth.
One Stud — Trey Smith might just be the best offensive lineman in the Southeastern Conference. The nation’s top-ranked high school offensive lineman in 2017, he started left tackle as a true freshman and did not disappoint. Smith was injured in the spring but shouldn’t miss a step this fall.
Tennessee’s Scariest Player — Former JUCO transfer Jonathan Kongbo has the name of a terrifying pass rusher, even though he only had 2.5 sacks last year. Kongbo should be better suited as an outside linebacker in Pruitt’s 3-4 defense.
Call the Whambulance — Jarrett Guarantano had quite an impressive freshman year. Six games into the season, the dual-threat quarterback took over an offense that was in the midst of a 14-quarter touchdown drought. In his first start he almost led the dismal Vols to a game-winning touchdown drive against South Carolina.
Down six with 1:13 to play, Guarantano marched Tennessee down to the South Carolina two-yard line. They had a few attempts into the end zone with just seconds remaining before his final pass sailed out of bounds. Devastated, Guarantano fell to his knees on the sideline. South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley was there to pick up his opponent, earning a sportsmanship award from the SEC in the process.
Good News for UK — Tennessee is trash. The program is in shambles and I don’t think Pruitt can save face in just one year. All hatred aside, transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense isn’t easy, and the Tennessee defense lost their greatest playmaker, Rashaun Gaulden. On offense, Alvin Kamara isn’t walking through that door. Butch Jones scared off Jalen Hurd, Kamara was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year and John Kelly has graduated.
Bad News for UK — The Vols do return their starting dual-threat quarterback and his top three targets. Most importantly, this game will be played at Neyland Stadium, a place that has not been kind to Kentucky over the last three decades.
Fear Factor — 3.4
It’s been 34 years since Kentucky won a football game on Rocky Top. History is the only thing scary about Tennessee (and that insufferable, puke in a pumpkin orange).