Jeremy Pruitt praises Josh Heupel, tabs Vols as 2022 breakout team

Jeremy Pruitt has been fairly quiet in regards to the college football landscape since his head coaching tenure at Tennessee fizzled out two years ago. Now on a sabbatical from the sport all together, Pruitt recently joined Crain & Company and opened up on myriad topics, including the transfer portal and name, image and likeness.

He also gave his impression of the current state of Tennessee football, and shared his thoughts on Vols coach Josh Heupelwho replaced Pruitt following the 2020 season.

“Really just for any fan base is just patience,” Pruitt said when asked what he would say to Tennessee fans. “Everybody wants it right now and nobody wants it more than the players and the coaches. I think if you look at Tennessee this past year, I think Josh (Heupel) and his staff have done a really, really great job transitioning. That’s always tough when you replace a new staff, and I think they’ve done an outstanding job. They’re building something there, especially on offense. If you can score as many points as they can, you’re dangerous every week. ”

Pruitt was also asked to identify potential breakout teams in the SEC for 2022, and he was quick to name the Vols.

“I would start at Tennessee,” Pruitt said. “Hendon Hooker and the success that they had last year. (They will get better) as they grow and develop a little bit on defense. They’re going to score points. ”

Tennessee had a great year in its first season under Heupel, who came to the Vols after three seasons as the head coach at UCF. He guided Tennessee to a 7-5 regular season record, including a 4-4 showing in SEC play and a third-place finish in the SEC East, which earned it a berth in the Music City Bowl.

He also completely reinvigorated the offense, turning it into one of the most explosive and exciting units in the entire nation. In his first year as the starter after transferring from Virginia Tech, the aforementioned Hooker passed for 2,945 yards and 31 touchdowns to just three interceptions. The Vols finished seventh nationally in points per game with 39.3.

As for Pruitt, Tennessee made the decision to move on from the first-time head coach after he led the Vols to a 3-7 record in 2020, one of the worst single-season showings in program history. He left Knoxville with a 16-19 overall record, and, despite how things ended, still looks back on his time there fondly.

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“It’s awesome,” Pruitt said on his time with Tennessee. “It’s an awesome experience. I guess when you get into this business, you know, that’s probably the ultimate goal is to be a head coach and have an opportunity to be at an SEC school. To me, for three years it was one of the best experiences of my life. ”

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