The question was simple and fair, and you almost knew it was coming. Jeremy Pruitt has never been a head coach before, but he has worked with some of the all-time greats. Asking whether or not the former Alabama defensive coordinator turned Tennessee head coach reached out to Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban for advice triggered the priceless response everyone was hoping for.
“You think Coach Saban is going to give me advice?” Pruitt joked.
That was just one little quip in a 30-minute press conference that helped prove how relaxed and confident the first-year coach was during SEC Media Days at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.
Pruitt was direct and insightful with just enough rare humor that should make athletic director Phillip Fulmer and Vols fans in Knoxville and beyond excited for the future.
“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,” Pruitt said. “It is probably you better write down everything you can. You better take it all in while you have an opportunity because as soon as you go put on the other uniform, I guarantee you, everybody, even though everybody’s friends, we want to beat the other guy. So we don’t want to give the other person the edge.”
It likely would be a different story had Pruitt not just left the defending national champions to take a job in the SEC, but his credentials warrant a high-profile job.
As defensive coordinator at Florida State under Jimbo Fisher, with Georgia under Mark Richt, and, most recently, at Alabama under Saban, Pruitt is one of the top defensive minds in college football, and his squads frequently ranked in the nation’s top 10 statistically.
However, Saban, who has six new coaches in 2018 and has an insane lineage of big-time coaches, has the same advice to every coach who leaves the Crimson Tide nest.
“I said the most important thing for you, when you go to be your own head coach, is you have to be who you are. You have to be yourself. You guys have been that way here, and you made a tremendous impact on the group that you were in control over,” Saban said. “So to think you have to be any different just because you’re in charge of the whole team instead of one side of the ball is not something you need to overthink. And I think Jeremy’s very capable. He’s one of the best coaches we’ve had on our staff, and I think he’ll do extremely well.”
There is clearly no love lost between Pruitt and Saban, who spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons together, and they want each other to be successful.
That’s until they play each other, of course. All bets are off then.