The difference from year-one to year-two for a football player is when you see the most noticeable development in a player, and it is the same for a head coach.
Year-one is when everyone is acclimating to one another. Players learn to play off the new coach and coaches learn what kind of players they have inherited. Naturally, the talent will be better in year-two from year-one, but the most important adjustment, is how a coach evolves from his first year to the next. Pruitt was a first time head coach when the University of Tennessee hired him in December of 2017. There are many adjustments that coaches make when they first take on the head coaching role. Take those adjustments and magnify them ten-fold at Tennessee because around here, football is bigger than life. Pruitt’s first year was obviously a learning experience.
He wasn't entirely familiar with everyone around the university, his relationships were just forming, and unfamiliarity was in the air.
Players respected Pruitt because of his line of success, but it was obvious that trust had to be earned. Fast-forward to the present, Pruitt has brought in one of the most, if not the most, experienced coaching staff in America.
The players have mentioned on numerous occasions how impressive and respectable the new coaches are. The trust, respect, and love from last year to this year from the team to coaches are most notable. Players know all the coaches come from successful careers and know they are in good hands. Not only have the players bought in to the new culture and coaches, but also the biggest change has happened to Pruitt himself.
Jeremy Pruitt has been a DC for several years now and has seen success. Knowing he was coming in to Tennessee and taking over a team that clearly wasn’t on the level of previous teams he had coached obviously concerned him. Pruitt’s previous teams on defense have been some of the best in the country. Given the situation, Pruitt himself was calling the plays on defense. It can be hard to not forget when Pruitt called out an Auburn play seconds before the play began. He seemed comfortable calling the plays and probably felt that would give Tennessee the best chance to win.
Now in year-two, Pruitt has passed the reins of calling the defense to Derrick Ansley. When asked how he was going to handle giving the responsibility to someone else on defense, Pruitt said, “I've got confidence in the guys we have on defense.” Ansley himself has a great pedigree and resume to compliment it; he was previously at Tennessee in 2012 as the cornerback’s coach and was with the Raiders following his stent on the Hill.
Ansley left the Oakland Raiders to join Pruitt’s staff. To get a coach to leave an NFL team shows how much trust Ansley has in Pruitt.
The attitude and expectations are higher this year, and the understanding of what players need to do has become the norm. Pruitt has helped these young men understand what it takes to win, and the players have shown to him that tough love will earn respect/trust. This off-season was a big step into Pruitt becoming not only a good head coach, but an SEC head coach with much more to prove.