Tennessee football: Ranking all 15 first NFL Draft classes of Vols head coaches

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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.
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Josh Heupel is the 15th head coach of the Tennessee football program since the first NFL Draft in 1936. That refers to full-time head coaches, so Brady Hoke in 2017 or Jim Chaney in 2012 don’t count. Anyway, all 15 have now seen at least one player taken in one NFL Draft. How many did they see in their first NFL Draft, though?

A head coach’s first NFL Draft class would seem to be more of a reflection on the job the previous coaching staff did, but there are cases where players have great final seasons because of the coaching change. Rocky Top has had plenty of those instances.

In this post, we’re going to rank every UT head coach’s first NFL Draft class. The rankings will be based on number of picks and how high those players went cumulatively. How a player performed in the pros is irrelevant. We can’t rank that with Heupel yet, as this class is unknown. Here is every Tennessee football coach’s first draft class ranked.

Jeremy Pruitt
Class: 2019 Record in 2018: 5-7 (2-6)

Number of NFL Draft picks: 0

Nobody has anything nice to say about Jeremy Pruitt nowadays on Rocky Top, and that’s fair. However, the fact that his first team with the Vols produced no NFL Draft picks is not fully his fault. That’s a result of how much of a disaster Butch Jones left him from the previous season in which the team went 4-8.

Still, Pruitt bears some responsibility, as he went 5-7 his first year at UT, and six of those seven losses were by 25 points or more. That’s not going to do any favors for players on that team who have NFL talent, and indeed, some went unnoticed.

Shy Tuttle is most notable from this group as an undrafted free agent who made it with the New Orleans Saints. The 2018 Tennessee football senior class was incredibly small, which even further worked against Pruitt his first year. Overall, this was just a result of how bad the program was in general for years at this time.

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