College Football News has the Tennessee football Volunteers leader below nine Southeastern Conference coaches.
Although there are plenty of reasons to be high on Jeremy Pruitt and everything he is doing with Tennessee football, his ranking among SEC coaches is still relatively low. To be fair, Pruitt less proven than most, and this is a league of stars.
Pruitt came in at No. 10 in a ranking of coaches in the league by College Football News. Behind him were Eliah Drinkwitz of the Missouri Tigers at No. 11, Derek Mason of the Vanderbilt Commodores at No. 12, Will Muschamp of the South Carolina Gamecocks at No. 13 and Sam Pittman of the Arkansas Razorbacks at No. 14.
Drinkwitz and Pittman are both in their first seasons at their respective schools, and Pittman is in his first season as a head coach in general. As a result, it’s safe to say the Tennessee football head coach hasn’t gotten a lot of love just yet.
To be fair, in two years, Pruitt has one bowl appearance and no top 25 finishes. He did go 8-5 last year and finished 2019 on a six-game winning streak, but we should note that the Vols had one of the easiest schedules of SEC schools and still lost their first two games to non-conference Group of Five schools at home.
By that standard, they may have underachieved. However, you could also point out the fact that in 16 SEC games through two years, UT was an underdog in 15 of them under Pruitt. That shows just how much of a mess he was left.
Just ahead Pruitt are Mike Leach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs at No. 9 and Lane Kiffin of the Ole Miss Rebels at No. 8. Both of those coaches have connections to Tennessee football, as the Vols almost hired Leach in 2017, and Kiffin obviously coached UT in 2009 and then infamously left for the USC Trojans.
Given what Kiffin did with the Florida Atlantic Owls and what Leach did with the Washington State Cougars and the Texas Tech Red Raiders, it’s fair to put them ahead of Pruitt. The same is true of the other coaches ahead of Pruitt as well.
Gus Malzahn led the Auburn Tigers to an SEC title. Mark Stoops led the Kentucky Wildcats to four straight bowl games. Dan Mullen led the Florida Gators to back to back top 10 finishes. Ed Orgeron just led the LSU Tigers to the national title. Nick Saban has a dynasty with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Kirby Smart has led the Georgia Bulldogs to an SEC title and three straight SEC East titles.
Now, the one questionable move is Jimbo Fisher of the Texas A&M Aggies. He has vastly underachieved so far in two years there. His national championship with the Florida State Seminoles, though, may give him an advantage, even if it was at a different school. We should note that Pruitt was his defensive coordinator that year.
Still, it’s safe to say that at this moment, Fisher is more accomplished than Pruitt, although he has lots more pressure on him. A good season by Tennessee football could shoot Pruitt up this list. As a result, this ranking is nothing to freak out about right now.