After Tennessee football’s embarrassing loss to the Georgia State Panthers, some Volunteers fans want a new head coach. GSU’s Shawn Elliott is an option.
I’m still sold on Jeremy Pruitt, and I also think Vol fans who want him gone overreacted after Tennessee football lost to the Georgia State Panthers Saturday. However, if he does not work out, or if Phillip Fulmer pulls the trigger early, the Vols may have found his replacement in the loss that brought about criticism of him.
Why not go for Georgia State Panthers head coach Shawn Elliott? We’ve been clear for a while on this site that Elliott is a very good head coach. Forget what he did last year with Georgia State. He had a crop of brand new talent, all inexperienced and unfamiliar with his system. It would clearly require a year of experience before the program took off his third year.
Also, forget what he did with the South Carolina Gamecocks as an interim head coach. Steve Spurrier resigned mid-season, and the team was already 2-4. They were not going to be successful, but it’s worth noting they gave the Vols a game, and they took the national champion runner-up Clemson Tigers to the fourth quarter.
To this point, Elliott has never had a fair year to judge him. This was that year, and while Tennessee football failed miserably on Saturday, so far Elliott is acing his first fair year to judge him as a head coach with flying colors.
Now, his first year with GSU was an extra credit year. And that year, in 2017, he he took a Panthers team that was 3-9 the year before to a 7-5 record. So he clearly can coach, and he has proven that. Being lightyears ahead of Pruitt, who is hailed as a defensive genius, and his new trusted assistant, Derrick Ansley, is really impressive.
Then, if you look at Elliott’s history as an assistant, it’s even more impressive. And why shouldn’t we do that? Fulmer hired Pruitt on his credentials as an assistant. The Georgia Bulldogs hired Kirby Smart for the same reasons.
Well, Elliott spent seven years with the South Carolina Gamecocks. During his tenure, S.C. won its only SEC East title and had three straight 11-win seasons for the first time in school history. You can say that was all Spurrier, but South Carolina never finished a season in the top 25 under Spurrier without Elliott.
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It’s also worth noting that Elliott was offensive coordinator for three and a half of those years, and in two of them the Gamecocks had top 10 finishes. They had a top five finish in 2013, which may have been their best season ever.
What about before Elliott was at South Carolina? Well, he spent 13 years with the Appalachian State Mountaineers. During that time, he oversaw a program that won three straight FCS national championships and pulled off the greatest upset in college football history, beating the Michigan Wolverines back in 2007.
So Elliott has a track record of success wherever he’s been, and he’s overachieved as an assistant coach and head coach. Add in the fact that he’s a protege of Steve Spurrier, a Vol killer and on the Mt. Rushmore of SEC head coaches, and Tennessee football has a head coach who looks like he would succeed at a high level on Rocky Top.
Again, this is all premature. Tennessee football should still stick with Pruitt for the foreseeable future. But if things don’t work out, and if the hot seat talk of Pruitt is real, then the silver lining in Saturday’s loss is that the Vols may have found their future head coach.