Tennessee football firing Jimmy Brumbaugh midseason could prove costly

Tennessee defensive lineman Kurott Garland (79) tackles Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) during a game between Alabama and Tennessee at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.102420 Ut Bama Gameaction
Tennessee defensive lineman Kurott Garland (79) tackles Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) during a game between Alabama and Tennessee at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.102420 Ut Bama Gameaction /

Jeremy Pruitt firing Jimmy Brumbaugh could hurt the Tennessee football Volunteers.

Well, Tennessee football has itself another coaching search in Knoxville. No, it won’t be garnering the same hype that the Butch Jones – Jeremy Pruitt debacle attracted, but filling this vacancy will be incredibly important towards recruiting young talent in the future.

The search comes after Pruitt fired defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh following the Vols’ 34-7 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats. For Brumbaugh, the move came just four games into his role as a coach on Rocky Top.

Brumbaugh’s dismissal certainly received attention from the media, but in a game where seemingly nothing went right for the Vols, the significance of the firing was in many ways underplayed. The true repercussions of Brambaugh’s absence didn’t rear their ugly head until last week when Tennessee football lost-out on a much-wanted prospect to a division rival.

Regarded as one of the best defensive tackle prospects in the nation, South Carolina prospect Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins out of Gaffney, S.C. had the Vols in his top schools upon announcing his college commitment on Oct. 30. The four-star out of Gaffney High School in Gaffney, S.C. was pegged as a top 200 prospect nationally and the No. 1 high school player in his state.

Brumbaugh recruited Ingram-Dawkins heavily, and there were plenty of reasons to believe the Vols would land him. Well, needless to say, his decision appeared to come a little easier when he heard the news about what happened at UT.

Ingram-Dawkins, who also held offers from the South Carolina Gamecocks, North Carolina Tar Heels, Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide, ultimately chose Athens, Ga. as his next home. As if his tweet wasn’t enough of an indication, his commitment was really between the Dawgs and the in-state Gamecocks after Brumbaugh was relieved of his duties.

Ingram-Dawkins would have been a stout addition, but Tennessee football isn’t completely dead on the defensive line recruiting trail for the 2021 class. New Jersey’s Tywone Malone, a top five defensive tackle nationally, has UT in his top five schools with a commitment date set for sometime later this year.

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Malone, who attends Bergen Catholic High School in Oradell, N.J., the same high school quarterback Jarret Guarantano came from, also holds an official offer to play baseball on Rocky Top. He may be another player the Vols’ coaching staff has circled for this cycle, but the defensive line prospects don’t end there.

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In 2022 the No. 1 player in the entire recruiting class will be playing high school football within the same state lines as the Tennessee football program. The Vols have an opportunity to snag Walter Nolen, a five-star DT out of the Memphis area.

Nolen is currently being heavily recruited by schools like Alabama, the Clemson Tigers, the Michigan Wolverines, the LSU Tigers and the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Vols are still very much in the mix for the Cordova, Tenn. prospect.

By now, Pruitt has established that Brumbaugh was not his guy for the job. That’s fine. It’s time to move on from that. But the importance of this next hire could determine whether or not Malone and Nolen wear the Power T in college.

With Pruitt declaring he’d take over the Vols’ defensive line responsibilities for the remainder of the season, it’s anyone’s guess who the next coach in Knoxville might be. UT may still have a chance at Malone while they finalize the decision, but it’ll be hard to believe a blue-chip prospect like Nolen would commit to the Vols without a serious coach running the position group.

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It will also be important to keep an eye on current 2021 Tennessee football defensive tackle commitment KaTron Evans. Brumbaugh was the four-star’s primary recruiter, and while no signs point to a decommitment soon, a strong defensive line coaching hire would probably lock him down for good.