Tennessee football: Five positives that came out of the Jeremy Pruitt era

Jan 2, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Jeremy Pruitt watches his team stretch out before the game against the Indiana Hoosiers in the 2020 Taxslayer Gator Bowl at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 2, 2020; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Tennessee Volunteers head coach Jeremy Pruitt watches his team stretch out before the game against the Indiana Hoosiers in the 2020 Taxslayer Gator Bowl at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /
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Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt runs off the field after a game between Tennessee and Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala. Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. Tennessee defeated Auburn 30-24.Auburntennessee1013 1831 RANK 10
Tennessee Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt runs off the field after a game between Tennessee and Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala. Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. Tennessee defeated Auburn 30-24.Auburntennessee1013 1831 RANK 10 /

Nobody will deny that Jeremy Pruitt left Tennessee football in horrendous shape. The Vols went 3-7 his last year on the job and then got hit with a serious NCAA investigation that is still ongoing and resulted in his firing along with Phillip Fulmer stepping down as athletic director. Meanwhile, there was a mass exodus of players in the transfer portal.

Still, to be fair to him, he inherited a huge mess too. Don’t forget that Butch Jones’ final year on Rocky Top was the worst for the school ever since it joined the SEC in 1933. Pruitt didn’t have as short a stick as Derek Dooley had in 2010, but he certainly had to deal with plenty of issues.

Despite only three years on the job, there are certain things better about UT now than when he took over. We have to be fair about his tenure, and we’re going to give the other side to the mainstream narrative of that tenure here. These are the five positive things for Tennessee football that came out of the Pruitt era.

5. Ending  key droughts

Okay, so he never beat the Florida Gators, Georgia Bulldogs or Alabama Crimson Tide. However, Jeremy Pruitt restored the Vols’ dominance over the Vanderbilt Commodores, winning two straight after losing his first year, which was a third straight loss at the time. He also won two straight over the Missouri Tigers, who had won four of six from 2012, when they joined the SEC, to 2018.

Among everything, though, Pruitt ended a major drought against SEC West teams. He scored wins over the Auburn Tigers in 2018 and Mississippi State Bulldogs in 2019, ending a winless drought for UT against teams from the West dating back to 2010.

That win at Auburn also ended Tennessee football’s six-game losing streak in that series dating back to 1999. It ended numerous other droughts, all of which we detailed here. Some of these things were hanging over the heads of Vol fans consistently, so Pruitt pulling them off the way he did has to count for something.