Colleagues turned adversaries meet again

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT!) The Vols are set to host SEC East rival No. 3 Georgia on Saturday in the Volunteers' first home conference game of the season. And given both the matchup and the experience both Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt and Georgia coach Kirby Smart have working alongside one another, comparisons between their starts at their respective schools were bound to happen.

When speaking with the media on Monday, Pruitt pointed out that Smart has perhaps had an easier road with the Bulldogs than he has with the Vols. While Smart was able to lead the Dawgs to an 8-5 record during his first season at Georgia and a national championship appearance just the next year, Pruitt's Vols posted just a 5-7 record year during his first season at the helm and are off to a rocky 1-3 start in 2019.
"I think the program he took over won 20 games in its previous two years, that helped," Pruitt told reporters. "He had a very young football team that he inherited. He has done a really nice job and has a really nice staff together. It is a place where you can have success. Those guys were used to winning, and now he has been recruiting in his fourth year and all those guys that he has there he has recruited there. He has done a nice job of that, evaluating talent and going to get some of the best players in the country and coaching them up."

Georgia posted consecutive 10-3 records during Mark Richt's final two seasons as coach prior to Smart's arrival. Pruitt added that having Heisman Trophy-contending quarterback Jake Fromm to anchor Georgia's offense has also contributed to Smart's success.

"In this day and time, you need to be good at the quarterback position and he has a really good player there," he said. "Last year, they had two really good players there. They have got playmakers on the outside and they are big up front. They have recruited to their philosophy and you can see it."

The two coaches have a connected history with both serving as Alabama assistants and defensive coordinators under Nick Saban early in their careers. During their time with Saban, Pruitt worked directly under Smart from 2010--12 as the Crimson Tide's defensive backs coach. After a single season stint at Florida State, he then joined Georgia's staff as the program's defensive coordinator during Mark Richt's last two seasons. When Smart was tapped to replace Richt in 2016, Pruitt returned to replace Smart as the Tide's defensive coordinator.

The two teams will go at it inside Neyland Stadium at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 5.