Wednesday, July 18, 2018
ATLANTA — Tennessee first-year coach Jeremy Pruitt responded on Wednesday to former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray’s criticism that he doesn’t have the personality to lead a program, saying that his career arc would paint a different picture.
Murray also accused Pruitt of treating former Georgia coach Mark Richt poorly during his time as defensive coordinator in Athens. Pruitt spent two years under Richt before returning to Alabama where he was defensive coordinator the last two seasons.
Pruitt, 44, was hired to replace Butch Jones as head coach of the Vols in December.
“Fifteen years ago I was a kindergarten teacher and now I’m the head coach at Tennessee,” Pruitt told reporters at SEC media days. “You probably don’t make that ascension without knowing how to treat people.”
Pruitt, who said that he didn’t know Murray personally and hadn’t read his full comments, described himself as a players’ coach.
Pruitt’s rise through the coaching ranks has been swift. In 2007, Alabama coach Nick Saban hired the former Hoover High defensive coordinator in an off-field position. Three years later, he was promoted to defensive backs coach, and in 2013 then Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher hired him as defensive coordinator.
Murray, who started four seasons as quarterback at Georgia, was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014, the same year Pruitt arrived in Athens.
“I don’t know if his personality is fit to be a head coach,” Murray told 102.5 The Game during a radio interview on Tuesday. “As a head coach, there’s so many things that go into it. It’s not just going out there and coaching. You have to deal with front office. You’ve got to go talk with the president of the university. You have to deal with boosters. You have to deal with the offense, the defense. It’s not just going in there … and scheming up.”
Murray added: “When he was at Georgia, the way he acted, the way he treated Coach Richt, I thought was poor. He needs to prove to me that he can handle the whole ship. For right now, I don’t think he can.”
Pruitt, who has no previous head-coaching experience, is one of four new head coaches in the SEC. Adding to the conference’s sea-change was Matt Luke’s elevation from interim to permanent head coach at Ole Miss, and Dan Mullen’s move from Mississippi State to Florida.
Pruitt, a two-time Broyles Award finalist, inherits a program that has struggled to live up to expectations ever since Phillip Fulmer stepped down as head coach in 2008. The Vols haven’t competed in an SEC title game in more than a decade and are coming off a 4-8 season under Jones.
Pruitt added a number of grad transfers this offseason in an effort to improve the roster, most notably former Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst and Alabama offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy.
Tennessee opens the season on Sept. 1 against West Virginia.