Tennessee coach reminds media of talent Kirby Smart inherited at UGA

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Tennessee's Jeremy Pruitt (left) worked together with Kirby Smart on Alabama's staff

There’s a lot of comparisons being made this week between Jeremy Pruitt and Kirby Smart.

Both are young coaches and former Alabama assistants who were hired to take over two of the SEC East’s best traditional football programs — Tennessee and UGA, respectfully.

Pruitt’s start with the Volunteers obviously hasn’t gone anywhere nearly as smoothly as Smart’s.

On Monday, Pruitt was asked about Smart being able to turn around things so quickly at UGA. The Tennessee coach was candid in his response, per Volquest’s Rob Lewis:

“I think the program he took over won 20 games in its previous two years (under Mark Richt). That helped. 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.

“(Smart) 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 …”

Obviously, Pruitt is saying that his situation upon his arrival at Tennessee is different than Smart’s at UGA.

Last year was Pruitt’s first season as Tennessee’s coach, and the team posted a 5-7 record. This year, the Volunteers are off to a 1-3 start, including a loss to Georgia State and dropping a 34-3 decision at Florida.

In Smart’s first season at UGA in 2016, the Bulldogs posted an 8-5 record. He followed that up with one of the best seasons in school history in 2017, with UGA reaching the national championship game.

There’s connections between the two young coaches: Pruitt, 45, and Smart, 43, were rival assistants at Alabama, with both serving as defensive coordinators under Nick Saban. Pruitt also worked directly under Smart from 2010 to 2012 as the Crimson Tide’s defensive backs coach.

They’re both known as tireless recruiters. To make this topic even more complicated, Pruitt was UGA’s defensive coordinator for Richt’s last two seasons — meaning he recruited some key Bulldogs players that Smart inherited after replacing Richt.

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