Jeremy Pruitt is about to embark on his journey of being the head coach of the Vols. Can he have success like former coaches by winning the season opener?
The countdown to the start of the Tennessee football season is in single digit days. First-year head coach, Jeremy Pruitt has the opportunity to prove to the nation that he can be a successful head coach in the SEC, the best conference in college football.
It is no secret; he is going to have his hands full. Don’t’ get me wrong there is talent on the 2018 roster. However, the Vols are coming off the worst season in program history. The expectations are not high, but winning his first career game as a head coach could go a long way for his longevity in the league.
The last time Tennessee lost a season opener was Phillip Fulmer’s last season as head coach in 2008. The Vols had to travel all the way to California to play UCLA and ended up losing the game 27-24. Even the likes of Derek Dooley and Butch Jones went unblemished in season openers. However, it didn’t do them much good.
Dooley and Jones both won their career opening games with the Volunteers, but that hasn’t always been the case regarding some of the best coaches in Tennessee history. Here is a look at how a few notable coaches fared in their Tennessee football debuts.
Robert Neyland – 1926 (8-1)
Robert Neyland started his career with a 13-0 win against the Carson Newman Eagles. The Vols went 8-1 in 1926 with other wins against North Carolina, LSU, Mississippi State, and Kentucky. Their only loss that season came to Vanderbilt, 20-3.
John Barnhill – 1955 (8-2)
John Barnhill’s first game as head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers came against the Furman Paladins. His Vols cruised to a 32-6 victory. Barnhill finished his first season as head coach with an 8-2 record.
Bowden Wyatt – 1955 (6-3-1)
Bowden Wyatt is the first coach on the list to open with a stronger opponent. He started his Tennessee career with a 13-7 loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Despite a season-opening loss, Wyatt still managed to lead the Vols to a six-win season.
Doug Dickey – 1964 (4-5-1)
In 1964, Doug Dickey began his Tennessee coaching career with a 10-6 win against the Chattanooga Mocs. Dickey ended up losing to Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Alabama in that season.
Bill Battle – 1970 (11-1)
Bill Battle took the 1970 Tennessee football team to an 11-1 record with his only loss coming to the Auburn Tigers 26-23. However, Battle started the season off strong with a 28-3 against the SMU Mustangs.
Johnny Majors – 1977 (4-7)
The great Johnny Majors did not start his career on a good note. His Volunteers lost to California 27-17. Majors went 4-7 that season which ended up being his worst season as a head coach.
Phillip Fulmer – 1993* (10-2)
Phillip Fulmer technically coached a couple of games in the 1992 season when Johnny Majors had to undergo emergency quintuple bypass surgery. Fulmer’s first game as head coach came against Lousiana Tech; the Vols won the game 50-0.
Win or lose; I think Jeremy Pruitt will do just fine as the Vols’ head coach. But, if he can win his first career game against the Mountaineers, it will be that much more impressive.