A College Football News analyst rated Jeremy Pruitt the No. 10 coach in the SEC.
What does that mean for Tennessee’s third-year coach?
You can certainly make the case for Pruitt to be ranked 10th. He is clearly behind Nick Saban, Ed Orgeron, Kirby Smart, Gus Malzahn and Jimbo Fisher as each has won or played for a national championship.
Kentucky’s Mark Stoops is seventh on the list, and that’s hard to argue considering he’s won 18 games the past two years combined at a basketball school.
No. 8 is Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin and No. 9 is Mike Leach of Mississippi State.
Each has had multiple seasons better than Pruitt’s best year at Tennessee: 8-5.
But if we’re ranking Pruitt 10th three years from now, that’s a problem – for Pruitt and Tennessee.
That means he has not made the desired progress at Tennessee.
That means he hasn’t capitalized on his strong recruiting efforts.
And that likely means he hasn’t won enough games to keep his job.
For Pruitt to climb the SEC coaching ladder in the next three years, three things have to happen.
- He has to win more games than Kentucky, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Not just one more game. At least four more games, perhaps more. It’s hard to put an exact number on that because one of those schools might have surprising success. Suffice to say, the Vols need to average more than eight wins per year over the next three years.
- He has to make a significant bowl game each season. Going to Birmingham doesn’t cut it. He has to make it to the Music City or Outback or Citrus or Peach, and he can’t fall below the stature of the Liberty or Belk. A New Year’s Six Bowl would be a nice touch.
- He has to get good to great quarterback play. Tennessee appears set at most position groups this year, and for the next couple of years. But the Vols won’t be relevant in the East Division unless the quarterback play improves over what it’s been the last two seasons. That means Jarrett Guarantano or Harrison Bailey or Kaden Salter or someone else has to step to the plate and, in baseball terms, hit .300. Batting .250 or even .275 won’t get it.
There are two other things Pruitt must do: Beat Kentucky and Ole Miss in head-to-head battles and score an upset over one of UT’s chief rivals: Alabama, Georgia or Florida.
Alabama hasn’t lost to UT since 2006.
Florida has won 14 of the last 15.
Georgia has won 8 of the last 10.
Tennessee had never been dominated before by those three teams over such a long period of time.
If Pruitt is able to turn the Tide on at least one of those teams, he might find himself ranked among the top half of coaches in the SEC.