Tennessee Vols football: Tennessee announces hire of Jeremy Pruitt as new coach

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The Vols announced the hire late Thursday morning and will introduce their 26th head coach at a press conference inside the Peyton Manning Locker Room in Neyland Stadium at 6:05 p.m.

GoVols247 first reported on Wednesday night that Pruitt had accepted an offer from Tennessee to become the next coach of the Vols with only the final details of the deal between the two sides to iron out.

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Jeremy Pruitt in orange.

“Six days ago, I mentioned several attributes that I sought to find in the next leader of our football program, and Coach Pruitt meets all criteria” new Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer said in the program’s release. “I’m certain he appreciates the unique opportunity to lead a program of Tennessee’s caliber. He’s driven to win at the highest level. He will honor our university’s values, operate with integrity and be a role model for our student-athletes.

“I know Coach Pruitt will hit the ground running and go to work restoring our program to a championship level.”

Pruitt met with Fulmerand other key Tennessee officials in Dallas on Monday and for a second time on Wednesday morning and was the pick over t wo other SEC defensive coordinators in Auburn’sKevin Steeleand Georgia’sMel Tucker, whoalso interviewed twice with Tennessee this week.

Tennessee’s 25-day search, dating back to the firing of Butch Jones on Nov. 12 following the loss at Missouri, was all over the place last week, when now-suspended athletic director John Currie moved from candidate to candidate after a signed deal with Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano fell through amid backlash from athletic department personnel, former players and fans.

The search moved on to the likes of Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, Purdue’s Jeff Brohm and North Carolina State’s Dave Doeren, and Currie appeared to be on the verge of landing Washington State coach Mike Leach when he was summoned back to Knoxville a week ago tonight and fired the following morning by chancellor Beverly Davenport.

Fulmer supplanted him as athletic director and rebooted the search by making contacting former LSU coach Les Miles and potentially a pair of sitting power-conference and interviewing SMU coach Chad Morris a second time – Arkansas hired Morris as its coach on Wednesday.

The search then narrowed to three SEC defensive coordinators in Pruitt, Tucker and Steele, and it became clearer on Wednesday the focus was on Pruitt.

A native of Rainsville in Northeast Alabama, Pruitt began his collegiate playing career at Middle Tennessee State before transferring to Alabama, where he was a walk-on on the 1995 and 1996 teams under Gene Stallings and began his coaching career as a student assistant for one year.

Pruitt spent most of the next decade as a high school coach in his home state, the lone deviation a one-year stint as the defensive backs coach at West Alabama, before Saban hired him to his first Alabama staff in 2007 in a support staff role as the director of player development

He was promoted to defensive backs coach in 2010 and was part of a pair of national championship teams.

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Jeremy Pruitt has been named the 26th head coach of the Tennessee football program.

Welcome to Rocky Top, Coach Pruitt! 🍊🏈

STORY ” https://t.co/umAqTlyJ8D pic.twitter.com/tTDYmtBtXr

– Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football)December 7, 2017

Florida State then hired Pruitt as its defensive coordinator and he helped the Seminoles field an elite defense en route to a national title, the third in as many years with which Pruitt was involved.

Mark Richt then hired Pruitt as his defensive coordinator at Georgia, and the Bulldogs improved immediately and drastically, going from ranking 79th nationally in scoring defense in 2013 to 16th and eighth in two seasons under Pruitt.

When Georgia hired Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Saban brought Pruitt back to Alabama without even speaking to anyone else about the job, and he’s maintained the lofty standard of Alabama defenses as the Tide led the nation in scoring defense the past two seasons.

Pruitt was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation’s top assistant coach, in 2016 and was the 247Sports Recruiter of the Year in 2012 at Alabama and 2013 at Florida State.

In his career as an assistant coach, Pruitt has a 128-31 record and has coached 34 NFL draft picks and 11 first-team All-Americans.

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Contact Patrick Brown at patrick.brown@cbsinteractive.com or on Twitter , and follow GoVols247 on Facebook .

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