Tennessee will get their first SEC road test this Saturday afternoon with a trip to Athens to play the Georgia Bulldogs. The Vols dropped their first conference game last Saturday, gifting the Florida Gators a couple of early touchdowns which led to a 47-21 loss.
It only gets tougher from here.
“You go on the road in the SEC and you find out a lot about yourself,” Pruitt said. “One of the best things about being a player or a coach in this league is you find out who you are when you go on the road.”
On the opposite sideline on Saturday will be a familiar face for Jeremy Pruitt. Former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has quickly transformed Georgia into a powerhouse. Pruitt and Smart have spent plenty of time as assistant coaches on the same staff in Tuscaloosa.
“I would say probably both of us worked in the same system, when you talk about schematically, beliefs, how you go about structuring things,” Pruitt said. “I’ve not worked with him in several years, but I know from a baseline we’re probably very similar. I watched them on defense and they play tough. They’re physical, fly around to the football. They recruit the type of players that you’re looking for. Big, fast men that can deny the ball, put pressure on the quarterback. They’re doing a really good job.”
A ‘really good job’ might just be an understatement. Georgia made an appearance in the National Championship in just year two under Smart. Through four weeks of 2018, they’re right back on track to make another run at that later this year.
The Bulldogs may be in the thick of a title hunt, but Pruitt says for the most part, they’re still pretty similar — at least in terms of scheme and philosophy.
“To me I think Kirby’s defense — him and Mel Tucker — they’re a little different now than they were 10 years ago,” Pruitt said. “We all keep evolving a little bit. They probably run a lot more odd now then we did years ago. But I would say there is a lot of similarities.
They’re a lot further ahead of us because this is their third year. When they took over there was probably a lot of carryover, not all of it is the same, but there was probably a lot of carryover because it was the defense that we run here. We steal from each other. I watch their tape — I’m sure they watch somebody else’s tape. You’re always trying to find ways to improve as a coach.”
Pruitt will get his first chance to compete against Smart as a head coach on Saturday at 3:30 eastern.