Alabama coach Nick Saban looks on. Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The Alabama Crimson Tide are suddenly in need of a defensive coordinator, and they are already being linked to some big names who might fill the position.
Reports Friday indicated that Pete Golding, who has spent the last four years as the Crimson Tide defensive coordinator, was leaving to take the same position at Ole Miss. That leaves Alabama with a significant staff opening that Nick Saban will need to fill.
Pat Smith of WJOX reported Friday that Georgia co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann, former Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt, and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard are all on Alabama’s radar as potential defensive coordinators.
Both Schumann and Pruitt come from Saban’s coaching tree, and Pruitt spent two years as Alabama defensive coordinator previously. However, the widespread recruiting violations he was accused of at Tennessee might be good reason to look elsewhere.
Leonhard is a particularly intriguing name. He has been regarded as one of the top up-and-coming assistants in the sport, and went 5-3 as interim coach at Wisconsin last season. New coach Luke Fickell had been interested in keeping Leonhard on his staff, but that ultimately did not happen. Though he lacks previous ties to Saban and Alabama, he certainly has the pedigree to handle the position.
Alabama still had a top-10 defense in terms of points allowed in 2022, but they were a top-five unit every season from 2009 through 2018. The new defensive coordinator will likely be tasked with getting the Crimson Tide defense back into that position.
Credit: Mickey Welsh, Montgomery Advertiser via Imagn Content Services, LLC
Jeremy Pruitt was fired by Tennessee two seasons ago amid an investigation into recruiting violations, and there was one story that players were handed cash in fast food bags. Apparently there is some truth to those wild rumors.
Mike Wilson of the Knoxville News Sentinel obtained a copy of the 108-response Tennessee gave to the NCAA’s notice of allegations. The documents describe the scope and nature of the 18 Level 1 violations committed by Pruitt and his staff. In one instance, Pruitt handed the mother of a player a Chick-fil-A bag with $300 or $400 in it.
Pruitt admitted he gave the woman the money, telling investigators back in March “it was the human thing, the right thing to do.” The money was supposedly to “assist with other expenses” after Pruitt had previously given the woman $3,000 to help her pay an outstanding medical bill.
The player’s family was allegedly given $12,707 in total during his recruitment and while he played at Tennessee. The woman told investigators that Pruitt gave her money so she could pay a delinquent medical bill that would allow her to schedule a hip surgery. Pruitt denied providing the $3,000. The names of both the player and his mother were redacted.
A report last year claimed Pruitt and his staff were “sloppy” about paying players and gave some of them money in McDonald’s bags. That may have stemmed from the Chick-fil-A bag story. Either way, it is not a good look for Pruitt.
Credit: Mickey Welsh, Montgomery Advertiser via Imagn Content Services, LLC
Tennessee on Friday receive its notice of allegations from the NCAA, and they are accused of several infractions committed under Jeremy Pruitt.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the Vols are accused of committing 18 Level 1 violations, which is the highest level of violation. The violations allegedly occurred under Pruitt, who coached the team from 2018-2021.
Pruitt, his wife, and some of his staff members are accused of violating NCAA rules by making cash payments to players and their family. The payments allegedly total around $60,000.
Pruitt’s wife Casey is accused of making $15,000 in rent and car payments to one player and the player’s mother over the course of two and a half years.
According to the News Sentinel’s report, in addition to the Pruitts, “assistant coaches Derrick Ansley, Shelton Felton and Brian Niedermeyer; and recruiting staff members Drew Hughes, Bethany Gunn and Chantryce Boone” were also accused of making payments.
Tennessee fired Pruitt for cause in Jan. 2021 after conducting its own investigation. None of the aforementioned staff members remain employed by Tennessee.
The NCAA commended Tennessee for its help in the investigation, which included self-reporting violations. The organization is not charging the school with the vaunted “lack of institutional control” tag, which should also result in lessened punishment.
You can read about each alleged violation at the News Sentinel’s story.
Pruitt went 3-7 in the 2020 season, which was his last year on the job. He went 16-19 overall in three seasons. After firing Pruitt, the Vols hired former UCF coach Josh Heupel, who went 7-6 in his first season.
If you want another idea of why Jeremy Pruitt failed as head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers, look no further than the assessment from a prominent high school football coach in the state.
David Ubben and Joe Rexrode of The Athletic spoke anonymously to eight high school football coaches in the state of Tennessee to evaluate how the Volunteers’ recruiting is going under new coach Josh Heupel. Building relationships with top high school coaches is crucial for college coaches, as it can give them a leg up in recruiting and play a big role in keeping top recruits from leaving the state.
One of the anonymous coaches, described as a head coach in the Nashville area, essentially unloaded on Pruitt, who was fired in January.
“Pruitt, that guy, I had nothing to do with him,” the coach said. “I saw him one time over here. I’ll leave it at that. He told one of our kids who played for him, who started a lot of games for him, that he couldn’t win with kids from our school and needed some dogs from Georgia. I was not a big fan at all. He didn’t think he could win with Tennessee kids, and it’s true that you can’t win with just Tennessee kids, but you better get the best from here, and there’s plenty you can get. He didn’t do that.
“And to be honest with you, I thought he was a low-class human being. We had kids on that team, we had managers, and just the stories about him, he didn’t sound like someone I’d really want to have anything to do with.”
Pruitt went 16-19 in three years at Tennessee, and was ultimately fired over alleged recruiting violations. That produced some pretty wild stories. Pruitt clearly didn’t make many connections within the state of Tennessee, an error Heupel seems intent on correcting. No wonder the Vols felt the need to make a change.
Former Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt is landing on his feet in a somewhat surprising place.
According to Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, Pruitt is set to join the New York Jets’ coaching staff as an assistant.
It’s not clear what role Pruitt would assume on the Jets’ staff. His expertise is on the defensive side of the ball, having worked as defensive coordinator at Florida State, Georgia, and Alabama. Jeff Ulbrich has been hired to fill that role for the Jets, so the likelihood is Pruitt will serve as a defensive assistant under him.
Pruitt has no NFL coaching experience, so this definitely counts as a surprise. Clearly, new Jets head coach Robert Saleh sees something in the former Volunteers coach that he thinks will translate to the NFL level.
The good news is things like this won’t be an area of concern for Pruitt on an NFL staff.
Tennessee fired Jeremy Pruitt on Monday amid an investigation of recruiting violations, and you will understand why when you hear about some of the practices that allegedly took place under the former Vols head coach.
Dan Patrick said on his show Tuesday that he was told by sources familiar with the investigation that Tennessee was handing out cash to recruits in McDonald’s bags. He says he was told they got caught because they were being so “in your face” and “sloppy” about it.
“They put money into McDonald’s bags and they gave them to the recruits when they came on campus,” Patrick said. “The campus visits were not organized, but they were handing out cash — I don’t know if it was through the drive-thru — so you literally had bag men. They put the cash in McDonald’s bags and handed it to the recruits.”
Patrick added that he was also told Georgia got “sloppy” with its recruiting practices, though it’s unclear if the NCAA is planning to investigate the Bulldogs.
That certainly helps explain why Pruitt was fired for cause. Tennessee hired a legal team to conduct an internal investigation, and chancellor Donde Plowman said Monday that it is “stunning” how deep the issues run.
If Patrick’s information is accurate, the investigation is going to lead to major violations for Tennessee. Vols fans may already have a preferred Pruitt replacement in mind, but the situation at Tennessee could get ugly in the near future.
Paul Finebaum was an early champion of Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee, but after Monday’s events, the college football commentator simply had to admit how wrong he was.
In 2018, Finebaum ripped former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray after Murray said he was skeptical that Pruitt had the right temperament to be a head coach. Finebaum called Pruitt a “phenomenal leader” and dismissed Murray’s comments as “not relevant” and made out of loyalty to former Georgia coach Mark Richt.
On Monday, Finebaum was reminded of those comments by a caller on “The Paul Finebaum Show,” and the host admitted that he’d gotten it completely wrong.
“Of course I recall that,” Finebaum said, via Kipp Adams of 247Sports. “It turned out that, Aaron Murray was extremely critical of Jeremy Pruitt, and Aaron Murray was right. A lot of us were wrong. We thought Jeremy Pruitt would be good. Aaron said a lot of it had to do more with his temperament.
“I will tell you, at the beginning, I thought he would be good. Then, the few times I was with him up there, I came away more disappointed every time. He has a block somewhere within his system that he just cannot differentiate. He cannot take advice, number one. I know people tried to help him. Number two, he had a propensity just to be a hothead. We saw evidence of that all of the time. I am glad you brought that up. Aaron was completely correct in his evaluation of the situation.”
Credit to Finebaum for admitting when he was wrong and giving credit to Murray for being right when a lot of people were hailing Pruitt as a good hire. Three years later, Pruitt has been fired for cause, and the Volunteers are essentially back at square one.
Jeremy Pruitt has been on the hot seat for weeks amid an investigation into the Tennessee football program, and the head coach will soon be officially out.
Tennessee fired Pruitt on Monday, according to multiple reports. Sources told Blake Toppmeyer of the Knoxville News Sentinel that Pruitt has been fired for cause, meaning he will not be entitled to a buyout.
Phillip Fulmer is also stepping down as athletic director at Tennessee, though the decision is reportedly not related to the investigation.
Tennessee is conducting an internal investigation into its football program over alleged recruiting violations. The probe began as far back as November, and ESPN’s Mark Schlabach has reported that the recruitment of offensive tackle Amarius Mims is part of the investigation. Mims, one of the top players in the country for 2021, has signed with Georgia.
There has been talk that the investigation is serious in nature, and Pruitt’s dismissal seemingly confirms that.
Pruitt, 46, went 16-19 in three seasons at Tennessee. The school initially intended to keep him, as evidenced by the contract extension he signed four months ago. The investigation obviously changed things.
The Tennessee football program has been under investigation for potential recruiting violations and improper benefits, and head coach Jeremy Pruitt could be on his way out at the school as a result.
Tennessee announced earlier this week that the school has hired attorneys Mike Glazier and Kyle Skillman to assist with an internal investigation of the football program. The probe began as far back as November, and ESPN’s Mark Schlabach has reported that the recruitment of offensive tackle Amarius Mims is part of the investigation. Mims, one of the top players in the country for 2021, has signed with Georgia.
The Vols have not extended contracts of assistant coaches and are not making any new hires while the investigation plays out. John Brice of FootballScoop.com reported this week that Pruitt has interest in hiring assistant coaches Kevin Steele and Rodney Garner away from Auburn, but Pruitt’s own future at Tennessee is “murky” at the moment.
It’s possible the probe could result in more than a slap on the wrist. Dan Patrick reported on his show Friday morning that a source told him the Tennessee investigation is “serious.” Georgia is also said to be in hot water.
While it is too early to draw conclusions, the fact that Tennessee has hired attorneys to conduct an internal investigation may not bode well for Pruitt’s future with the program. If violations were committed, Tennessee could be looking for a way to fire the coach with cause.
Tennessee went 3-7 this season and is 16-19 since Pruitt took over in 2018. Athletic director Phillip Fulmer had an interesting way of showing support for Pruitt prior to the season, but a recruiting scandal could change all that.
What looked to be a promising season for the Tennessee Volunteers is quickly falling apart, and now the team has a full-fledged quarterback controversy to deal with.
The Volunteers benched starter Jarrett Guarantano in the second quarter after he turned the ball over on three consecutive drives. Two of those turnovers were pick sixes. However, Guarantano’s replacement failed to stand out. Sophomore J.T. Shrout immediately threw another interception, and Guarantano was promptly put back in the game.
After the 34-7 loss, coach Jeremy Pruitt admitted that the coaching staff would assess the quarterback situation going forward.
“It’s undecided,” Pruitt said, via Adam Rittenberg of ESPN. “When you lose 34-7, everybody within our organization, you’ve got to look and see what went wrong. We could make changes at any level.”
Guarantano, a senior, has made 29 starts at quarterback for the Vols. It’s not as if his struggles are down to inexperience. The two interceptions on consecutive drives will definitely raise alarm bells after he threw only eight all of last season.
The reality is the Volunteers might lack a better option right now. Harrison Bailey is a four-star recruit, but is still a true freshman and simply may not be ready to start. Sophomore Brian Maurer, who started four games in 2019, missed much of preseason with a hamstring injury and COVID-19 quarantine. Pruitt said he is still lagging behind the rest of the team as a result.
To be clear, Tennessee’s issues aren’t solely the fault of Guarantano. The team has struggled defensively, and has also been plagued by bad discipline on several occasions.