There are a few so-called Tennessee football fans who have taken to social media to criticize new head football Jeremy Pruitt because the 2018 recruiting class was less than impressive. The Volunteers finished 20th in the country according to Rivals.com and they placed eighth in the SEC. Considering that Coach Pruitt only started working full time as the Vols head man in the second week of January, that's really pretty good. While the Vols signed no five star players in this year's class, they did manage to get nine four star players. A recent article in the Knoxville News Sentinel stated that since the Volunteers finished dead last in the SEC, to finish eighth in recruiting was a huge step in the right direction and I agree.
College recruiting has never been an exact science.
Many of those so-called five star players never pan out. I would rather have a hungry three star or four star athlete who works his rear off to get better than a pampered, glorified five star player who thinks the world owes them a favor because recruiting services have deemed them can't miss prospects. A good example of that premise is three star linebacker Al Wilson from Jackson, TN who became one of the best players Tennessee has ever had. Perhaps there is an Al Wilson or two in Tennessee's 2018 recruiting class.
Jeremy Pruitt will never be popular with a certain section of Volunteer fans. He is from Alabama, played there and coached there. That alone makes him the enemy. The man hasn't coached a single game or a practice yet and he already has detractors among the Big Orange faithful. I would imagine some of those same detractors are among those who screamed for Coach Phillip Fulmer's head back in 2009. You see how that move worked out. Nine less than mediocre seasons later and the Volunteers are dead last in the SEC. 14th out of 14 SEC teams in 2017. Winless in the SEC and record wise the worst team in Tennessee history. That's the program that Jeremy Pruitt inherited.
Coach Pruitt said last week that Tennessee would be back on top in recruiting next year and I believe him. He is a relentless recruiter and has a good staff in place to help him. As badly as Coach Butch Jones allowed the program to sink, there are a few talented players in school who need to be developed properly and I also believe Coach Pruitt and his staff can handle that challenge as well.
I believe the naysayers are definitely in the minority right now. As we get closer to spring practice at Tennessee, I look for a new level of excitement around the Big Orange. Will Tennessee be a contender in the SEC East in 2018? No. Will they be good enough to get to a bowl game? That remains to be seen. But I do know this; The Volunteers will be better than last year. They will play harder and be stronger and more physical than they were a year ago. How that translates into wins is anybody's guess but I trust Coach Jeremy Pruitt to get it done at Tennessee, and that's what all Big Orange faithful need to do.
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Randy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org