Behind the scenes…
Contrary to press conference implications, Jeremy Pruitt is not taking a slow, deliberate approach to assembling a coaching staff.
The smart guy had it all along.
In fact, foresight was part of what impressed Phillip Fulmer in his final analysis of prospective coaches. Jeremy had a detailed plan for his staff already mapped out. He said he could move fast. He is moving.
Because Pruitt’s background is defense, his most important hire will be offensive coordinator Tyson Helton, quarterback coach at Southern Cal, younger brother of the head coach.
Before he went West, Tyson earned headlines as offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky when the Hilltoppers had the No. 1 passing attack in the country, No. 3 in scoring, No. 8 in first downs and No. 9 in total yardage.
At Southern Cal, Helton has been a key man in a mix of pro and spread the Trojans call “smash and gun.” It is designed to change tempo with the idea of keeping defenses off balance. It averaged 295 passing and 195 rushing, ninth in the country in total yards.
It might be relevant that Helton had Sam Darnold at quarterback.
Since you asked, yes, former Vol Tee Martin is, indeed, Southern Cal’s offensive coordinator. He and both Heltons factor in the attack. Tyson came down one notch in status to move to Los Angeles to help his brother.
Pruitt wants Tennessee running back coach Robert Gillespie to remain with the Vols. He is under contract for next season.
Will Friend, Pruitt’s friend and former roommate years ago at Alabama, is leaving Colorado State to become Tennessee offensive line coach.
The Rams will also give back Terry Fair, former Volunteer, to be secondary coach. I hope you remember Terry. He was a four-year starter and two-time All-SEC selection at defensive back, standout punt returner and a first-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 1998.
Terry was involved in Knoxville radio when Butch Jones added him to the UT support staff. He soon got a better job.
Georgia linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer is on his way toward becoming Tennessee defensive coordinator.
Four years ago, Pruitt recommended Sherrer to then Georgia coach Mark Richt. Sherrer was one of the few keepers when Richt was fired. His contract with the Bulldogs is expiring.
Florida defensive line coach Chris Rumph is a maybe. His background includes three seasons as defensive line coach at Alabama when the Tide won a pair of national titles. He also coached at Clemson and Texas.
I have been slow to learn who will be Tennessee’s coach of receivers.
What all this says is that Jeremy Pruitt arrived with a mature outlook. He is not resorting to recent kindergarten graduates. These guys are pros who have faith that the new head coach will succeed.
Money is part of the formula. Fulmer is providing a record supply for assistant coaches and support staff. Pruitt is going to get by on $3.8 million, a little less than he might have squeezed.
How the assistants do will determine how much Pruitt earns in bonus checks. He has a typical Jimmy Sexton memorandum of understanding. In several areas, he will be paid extra for just doing his job.
As for now, he sure is doing it.
Marvin West invites reader reactions. His address is [email protected]