Georgia’s SEC home opener in 2018 won’t lack for a compelling storyline.
Former Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will return for the first time to Sanford Stadium as head coach at Tennessee on Sept. 29.
Tennessee on Thursday morning announced Pruitt had landed the job. The Volunteers selected the Alabama defensive coordinator after interviews this week with Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker and Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele.
The SEC East now has the last two defensive coordinators under Nick Saban as head coaches. Georgia’s Kirby Smart has guided the Bulldogs to the national semifinals in his second season. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp also was a coordinator under Saban at LSU.
Pruitt’s defense was formidable with the Bulldogs — seventh in total defense and eighth in scoring defense in 2015 — but staff chemistry created drama during a 9-3 regular season that ended with Mark Richt fired, Pruitt out the door to become Alabama defensive coordinator and some players he left behind upset he wasn’t retained.
“The guy’s a really good coach. Players respond well to him and he’s a good teacher,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said in 2015.
Current and former Georgia assistant coaches could join Pruitt on the Tennessee staff.
Outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer was hired by Pruitt to work under him in 2014 and the two were together at Alabama on the staff and as a teammates. Sherrer and Tucker could be candidates to replace Pruitt at Alabama.
Former Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend, now Colorado State offensive coordinator under Mike Bobo, is expected to join Tennessee’s staff as offensive line coach, according to ESPN’s Bruce Feldman. Former Georgia defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, who was on Pruitt’s staff at Georgia, could also be headed to Knoxville.
Pruitt won a national championship as coordinator at Florida State in 2013 and was on staff at Alabama when it won national titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012. He replaced Smart as Alabama defensive coordinator when Smart was hired as Georgia’s head coach. Alabama lost in the national title game last season and is in the semifinals this year.
The SEC East will also have another former Georgia defensive coordinator on the opposing sideline in Todd Grantham, who went with Dan Mullen from Mississippi State to Florida. The Bulldogs will see him again on Oct. 27 in Jacksonville.