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Pruitt’s Passion Dominates Introductory Press Conference

After 26 days of wading through departmental drama and national scrutiny, the University of Tennessee finally has its new football coach. Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was introduced as the new coach of the Vols today in the locker room of Neyland Stadium, and while this will be Pruitt’s first stint as a head coach, he is considered one of the top assistant coaches in college football. During stints at Florida State, Georgia and Alabama, Pruitt established himself as a top defensive coordinator and proven recruiter.

There must have been a reason this press conference was held in the locker room, because it seemed more like a pregame speech than anything else.

Pruitt spoke about the university as if he had been a long-time member of the program and someone who understood what Tennessee football is about.

“There was a time and place where this university was feared among the SEC. My goal as the head football coach of the University of Tennessee is to get us back to that point,” Pruitt said.

Coming off of their worst season in school history, the Vols have a lot of work to do, but Pruitt may be the man for the job. He worked alongside coach Nick Saban during Saban’s first season at Alabama in what Pruitt described as a “similar situation.”

He worked in three different capacities during eight years with Saban, and has firsthand experience to what goes into building a dynasty. Pruitt also worked alongside Mark Richt at Georgia and Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, assisting in four national championships over the course of his career.

Pruitt was clear on Thursday about the vision he has for his new Tennessee team.

“We want to be a big, fast, dominating, aggressive, relentless football team that nobody in the SEC wants to play,” Pruitt added. “That’s my goal. Your expectations aren’t near what mine are. My expectations are to win every game we play.”

That wasn’t his only “whoa” comment.

“How do we get there? It’s positive energy, it’s all in. When people come to this campus, it has to be contagious. They want to be a part of it, that’s what it starts with. My goal is that in five years from now when I stand up here, you’ll be just as excited. You understand? Let’s get our hands out of our pockets, let’s roll our sleeves up and let’s get in the streets with everybody else in the SEC,” Pruitt said.

Athletic director Phillip Fulmer said that everyone he interviewed during this coaching search wanted to come to the University of Tennessee, but what set Pruitt apart was his energy and his infectious personality. The players seemed to feel the same way during their first meeting with their new coach.

“We are focused on what it’s going to take for us to have success, and I think we laid out a plan today … when you start talking to them and their legs start shaking, you got ‘em,” Pruitt said. “When they sit on the edge of their seats and start leaning in, you got ‘em. Our guys are pretty excited.”

As for the city of Knoxville — and based off the reactions of Vol fans on social media — it seems like Pruitt “got ‘em,” too.

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