Tennessee football: Vols five best seasons with third-year head coach

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Photo by Scott Halleran /Allsport

Year three is huge for Tennessee football head coaches. Will it define Jeremy Pruitt? Let’s look at the past great seasons by third-year Volunteers leaders.

Derek Dooley got fired thanks to his third year. Phillip Fulmer ushered in a new era of dominance. Throughout history, Tennessee football head coaches have often times been able to set the tone for their careers with what they did in their third year. That’s always the time to really start raising expectations on them.

Of course, some can give false hope. That’s what Butch Jones did in his third year. But by and large, if you look at that year in the context of the first three overall and measure the trends, you have a pretty good idea of how their careers will play out.

As Jeremy Pruitt enters his third year, the expectations are beginning to rise on him as well. He has restocked the roster after an 8-5 finish and a six-game winning streak, and the depth and talent can now compete with some of the better programs in the league.

Taking all of that into account, there are plenty of former Tennessee football coaches he’d want to replicate given what they did in their third years. In this post, we’re going to rank the best third seasons all head coaches have had on the job.

Our sole criteria for this ranking is simple. We look at exactly how the team did in its third year with a head coach, including their record, final ranking and championships won. Of course, each coach can only have one third year, which is specific to one particular coach who did three stints on Rocky Top. Also, it has to be their third full year.

Taking all of that into account, let’s look at which head coaches Jeremy Pruitt wants to replicate heading into this year. These are the five greatest Tennessee football seasons in which the Vols were led by a third-year head coach.

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