It’s been a whirlwind month for Pruitt, who juggled recruiting for Tennessee and game-planning for the College Football Playoff after being named the Vols’ 26th head coach on Dec. 7.
“I’m excited to finally be in Knoxville and getting started,” Pruitt said on Wednesday in his first press conference as the UT head coach since his introduction to Rocky Top last month.
“It’s been a long time coming for me. Since the opening press conference, we’ve kind of had a whirlwind, trying to hire a staff, get started in recruiting, and I think the staff that we’ve put together so far, which we’re still working on it, I’m excited about the guys that we’ve hired. These guys have done an excellent job while I’ve been away, along with (Director of Athletics) Phillip Fulmer.”
Pruitt is still completing his staff, but he confirmed several hires. The Tennessee athletic department will have an official release on the new assistant coaches in the coming days.
Pruitt, who also did a television interview that will air on the SEC Network’s Paul Finebaum Show, was very complimentary of Fulmer, who was named Tennessee’s Athletic Director on Dec. 1, as well as his Alabama boss, Nick Saban, Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher and Miami (Fla.) head coach Mark Richt. Pruitt served as the defensive coordinator at Florida State under Fisher in 2013 before working in the same role under Richt at Georgia in 2014 and 2015.
Pruitt thanked Fulmer for letting him finish what he started at Alabama. He is looking forward to relying on Fulmer, who led the Vols to the 1998 national championship, as a sounding board.
“I knew that anytime I had any questions, I knew that whenever I needed advice, I knew that was probably as good a guy in the business that I could go lean on and talk to,” Pruitt said of Fulmer. “Especially the fact that he’s been here before. I told the players last night, there are no perfect coaches, there are no perfect players and there never will be, so we’re always learning.”
Pruitt held a team meeting Tuesday night. He will continue assembling his staff and, of course, recruiting with the Feb. 7 Signing Day fast approaching.
The Vols signed 14 student-athletes in the December Early Signing Period, including seven or eight who will be early enrollees and in class for the current semester that began on Wednesday.
“We had 14 guys that signed at mid-year,” Pruitt said. “Out of those 14 guys, we have now seven that are here, and we still have one that’s waiting on a bit of paperwork to get here. We have to finish up this class, and I’m looking forward to doing it. We also need to start on the 2019 class and the 2020 class.”
On Monday night just after 8 p.m., Pruitt was directing the defense for the national champions in Atlanta.
Less than 24 hours later, it was back to his head coach role. Pruitt addressed his Tennessee team and began building the foundation for the 2018 fall season.
“Last night we had an opportunity to meet with the team for the first time, kind of setting the groundwork for our expectations for the coming semester and offseason program,” Pruitt said. “Everybody was all smiles, they always are the first meeting. But we’re excited to get started.”