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By The Numbers Part 2: Jeremy Pruitt’s Tenure at Tennessee

Jan 16, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers guard Josiah-Jordan James (5) brings the ball up court against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

The 2020 Vols Football season has now been over for a month now, and to say Jeremy Pruitt’s third year was a disaster would be an understatement.

Not only did we see 4 different QBs take snaps, but we also saw the Big Orange lose 7 of their last 8 games.

Tennessee has also had 16 players enter the transfer portal, including Deandre Johnson and Wanya Morris.

Worst of all, the UT Football program is currently being investigated by the NCAA over potential recruiting violations.

There is no way to sugarcoat it; the program is a dumpster fire right now.

Back in October, I wrote a piece that emphasized the similarity of Jeremy Pruitt’s record through his first 30 games to Derek Dooley’s and Butch Jones’s records, respectively.

This article’s purpose is to update those numbers and show Pruitt’s tenure on Rocky Top.

Overall Record

Jeremy Pruitt’s Year 3 ended with a record of 3-7. That mark put his total record to 16-19.

Derek Dooley’s record in Year 3 was 4-7 (Dooley was fired after the Vanderbilt game) and he ended his Tennessee tenure with a record of 15-21.

Butch Jones’s record in Year 3 was 9-4 and that brought his total record to 21-17.

  • Jeremy Pruitt: 16-19
  • Derek Dooley: 15-21
  • Butch Jones: 21-17

Pruitt’s 16-19 record brings his winning percentage to 45%, which is the second-highest winning percentage among the 3 coaches (Derek Dooley 41%, Butch Jones 55%).

Pruitt’s 45% winning percentage is the sixth-lowest winning percentage in Tennessee Football history:

  • Jeremy Pruitt (2018- ): 45%
  • W.H. Bitton (1935): 44%
  • Derek Dooley (2010-2012): 41%
  • Lex Stone (1910): 38%
  • Sax Crawford (1904): 38%
  • James Depree (1905-1906): 30%

Record vs. SEC Opponents

In the first piece, I wanted to look at each of the coaches records against common SEC opponents that they have faced while they were Head Coach at Tennessee.

Here is Pruitt’s stats are against these opponents:

  • Georgia: 0-3 (12-38 in 2018, 14-43 in 2019, 21-44 in 2020)
  • Florida: 0-3 (21-47 in 2018, 3-34 in 2019, 19-31 in 2020)
  • Alabama: 0-3 (21-58 in 2018, 13-35 in 2019, 17-48 in 2020)
  • Kentucky: 2-1 (24-7 in 2018, 17-13 in 2019, 7-34 in 2020)
  • Vanderbilt: 2-1 (13-38 in 2018, 28-10 in 2019, 42-17 in 2020)
  • Missouri: 2-1 (17-50 in 2018, 24-20 in 2019, 35-12 in 2020)
  • Arkansas: 0-1 (13-24 in 2020)

Pruitt’s overall record among these opponents is 6-13 

Here is Butch Jones’s stats against these opponents:

  • Georgia: 1-2 (31-34 in 2013, 32-35 in 2014, 38-31 in 2015)
  • Florida: 0-3 (17-31 in 2013, 9-10 in 2014, 27-28 in 2015)
  • Alabama: 0-3 (10-45 in 2013, 20-34 in 2014, 14-19 in 2015)
  • Kentucky: 3-0 (27-14 in 2013, 50-16 in 2014, 52-21 in 2015)
  • Vanderbilt: 2-1: (10-14 in 2013, 24-17 in 2014, 53-28 in 2015)
  • Missouri: 1-2: (3-38 in 2013, 21-29 in 2014, 19-8 in 2015)
  • Arkansas: 0-1 (20-24 in 2015)

Butch’s overall record among these opponents is 7-12

Here is Derek Dooley’s stats against these opponents:

  • Georgia: 0-3 (14-41 in 2010, 12-20 in 2011, 44-51 in 2012)
  • Florida: 0-3 (17-31 in 2010, 23-33 in 2011, 20-37 in 2012)
  • Alabama: 0-3 (10-41 in 2010, 6-37 in 2011, 13-44 in 2012)
  • Kentucky: 1-1 (24-14 in 2010, 7-10 in 2011)
  • Vanderbilt: 2-1 (24-10 in 2010, 27-21 in 2011, 18-41 in 2012)
  • Missouri: 0-1 (48-51 in 2012)
  • Arkansas: 0-1 (7-49 in 2011)

Dooley’s overall record among these opponents is 3-13 

Out of the three coaches, Derek Dooley has the worst record against these opponents with only a 18% winning percentage.

Pruitt’s 6-13 record gives him a 31% winning percentage and Butch’s 7-12 record gives him the highest winning percentage with 36%.

So obviously out of the three coaches, Derek Dooley has the worst record, but Jeremy Pruitt is not much better. His record is certainly not better than Butch.

Year 3 Records

Next we will break down the Year 3 records for Jeremy Pruitt, Derek Dooley, and Butch Jones.

Jeremy Pruitt’s Year 3 ended with a 3-7 record.

Pruitt’s three wins came against South Carolina (2-8), Missouri (5-5), and Vanderbilt (0-9).

Missouri finished with the third-best record in the SEC East, South Carolina and Vanderbilt both finished 6th and 7th in the division.

Despite starting off the season 2-0, Tennessee would go on to lose 7 of their last 8 games.

All of the Vols losses were by double digits:

  • At Georgia: 21-44
  • Kentucky: 7-34
  • Alabama: 17-48
  • At Arkansas: 13-24
  • At Auburn: 17-30
  • Florida: 19-31
  • Texas A&M: 13-34

The Vols averaged giving up 35 points a game in these 7 losses and only averaged scoring 15 points a game.

Meaning that their 7 losses came by an average of 20 points. 

Now let’s compare that to Derek Dooley’s and Butch Jones’s losses in their Year 3.

Derek Dooley’s Year 3 losses:

  • Florida: 20-37
  • At Georgia: 44-51
  • At Mississippi State: 31-41
  • Alabama: 13-44
  • At South Carolina: 35-38
  • Missouri: 48-51
  • At Vanderbilt: 18-41

In Dooley’s Year 3, Tennessee averaged giving up 43 points a game and averaged scoring 29 points a game.

In those 7 losses, Tennessee lost by an average of 14 points.

Lastly, let’s compare Butch Jones losses in his year 3:

  • Oklahoma: 24-31
  • At Florida: 27-28
  • Arkansas: 20-24
  • At Alabama: 14-19

In Butch’s Year 3, Tennessee averaged giving up 25 points a game and averaged scoring 21 points a game in their four losses.

Tennessee only averaged to lose by 4 points in their four losses under Butch Jones.

What does this mean?

This means that in Year 3, Butch Jones’s teams were more competitive in their four losses compared to Derek Dooley and Jeremy Pruitt.

In fact, Pruitt’s 2020 is statistically less competitive than Derek Dooley’s 2012 campaign despite the Sal Sunseri defense finishing 109th in the country.

Year 3 Offenses and Defenses

Next we are going to compare all three coaches Total Offense and Total Defense rankings.

I will be using rankings from sports-reference.com

Total Offense Rankings:

  • Jeremy Pruitt’s 2020 Offense Ranking: 108th (averaging 21.5 points a game)
  • Derek Dooley’s 2012 Offense Ranking: 22nd (averaging 36.2 points a game)
  • Butch Jones’s 2015 Offense Ranking: 29th (averaging 35.2 points a game)

Pruitt’s Year 3 offense is clearly the worst and it’s not even close.

Here is how Pruitt’s 2018 and 2019 offenses compare:

  • 2018 Offense Ranking: 110th (averaging 22.8 points a game)
  • 2019 Offense Ranking: 97th (averaging 24.2 points a game)

While the offenses under Jeremy Pruitt have been below average at best, the 2020 offense was arguably the worst offense in the Jeremy Pruitt era.

2020 saw four different quarterbacks take snaps this season and the Vols have yet to find a definitive answer at Quarterback.

Here is one statistic that surprised me the most.

Tennessee didn’t score a single point in the 2nd half in four of its last eight games.

You read that correctly, not a single point.

That is atrocious.

Now we are going to compare the three coaches Year 3 Defenses:

  • Jeremy Pruitt’s 2020 Defense Ranking: 70th (averaging to give up 30.1 points a game)
  • Derek Dooley’s 2012 Defense Ranking: 109th (averaging to give up 35.2 points a game)
  • Butch Jones’s 2015 Defense Ranking: 16th (averaging to give up 20 points a game)

Here is how Pruitt’s 2018 and 2019 defenses compare:

  • 2018 Defense Ranking: 77th (averaging to give up 27.9 points a game)
  • 2019 Defense Ranking: 29th (averaging to give up 21.7 points a game)

So not only has the offense has gotten worse, the defense has regressed tremendously within the last season.

This is rather surprising considering Jeremy Pruitt loves to say that he is a defensive guru.

Final Verdict

As the statistics show, it is clear that Jeremy Pruitt was not the answer.

Butch Jones’s 2015 team took a step forward by finishing 9-4, in the Top 25, and beating Georgia in Year 3.

Pruitt in Year 3 took about three steps back.

The 2020 team averaged losing by 20 points in their seven losses this season.

Out of Pruitt’s 19 losses, 16 of those losses were by double digits, 13 of those double digit losses were by 20 points or more.

16 players from Tennessee have entered the transfer portal this off-season and potential recruiting violations have led UT and the NCAA to launch an investigation on the football program.

However, Jeremy Pruitt did put himself in the Tennessee record books this past season.

Jeremy Pruitt now joins M.B. Banks and James Depree as the only coaches in Tennessee Football history to lose to both Vanderbilt and Kentucky by 20+ points.

Pruitt also became the first coach since 1984 to lose to Kentucky in Neyland Stadium.

Lastly, Jeremy Pruitt also became the first Head Coach in Tennessee Football history to have 5 straight losses by double digits.

That has never happened in the 129 years of this once great program’s history.

In conclusion, the Jeremy Pruitt era at the University of Tennessee was an unmitigated disaster.

Both parties are better off now that the Alabama native has been relieved of his duties.

With NCAA sanctions looming, it will be intriguing to see who the UT Administration turns to in this time of uncertainty.

Chancellor Donde Plowman announced Monday that the University would hire a new Athletic Director to replace Phillip Fulmer before hiring a new head coach.

In wake of this statement, all Vol fans can do now is wait for decisions to be made.

One thing is for sure, Jeremy Pruitt wrecked this program for 2021 and beyond.

Hopefully the new athletic director, in consultation with the chancellor and UT President Randy Boyd, will bring us the home run hire that this university has deserved the last three coaching searches.

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