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Tennessee hires Pruitt as new coach

Dec. 7, 2017 at 7:18 p.m.

New Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt, right, receives a personalized jersey from athletic director Phillip Fulmer during a news conference Thursday in Knoxville, Tenn.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee has hired Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as its head coach, capping a tumultuous search that cost an athletic director his job as the Volunteers attempt to recover from one of their most disappointing seasons.

The school scheduled a news conference Thursday evening to introduce Pruitt, who agreed to a six-year deal that will pay him $3.8 million annually plus various benefits such as an expense allowance and additional money for summer camp.

Pruitt's hiring comes six days after former Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer was named athletic director and put in charge of the coaching search. Fulmer took over for John Currie, who was suspended just eight months into the job as Tennessee investigates whether it can fire him for cause.

Pruitt replaces Butch Jones, who was fired Nov. 12 after going 34-27 overall and 14-24 in Southeastern Conference competition in five seasons. Tennessee went 4-8 this season and set a school record for losses.

"Six days ago, I mentioned several attributes that I sought to find in the next leader of our football program, and Coach Pruitt meets all criteria," Fulmer said in a news release. "I'm certain he appreciates the unique opportunity to lead a program of Tennessee's caliber. He's driven to win at the highest level. He will honor our university's values, operate with integrity and be a role model for our student-athletes.

"I know Coach Pruitt will hit the ground running and go to work restoring our program to a championship level."

Knoxville radio station WNML first reported that Pruitt had accepted the job.

Tennessee would love to see Pruitt match the success of Georgia's Kirby Smart, who preceded Pruitt as the defensive coordinator on Nick Saban's Alabama staff.

Pruitt has been Alabama's defensive coordinator the last two years after spending two seasons in the same role at Georgia. Alabama led the nation in scoring defense and ranked second in total defense last year. This season, Alabama again leads the nation in scoring defense and ranks second in total defense .

Alabama topped the nation in run defense last season and ranks third in that category this year. Tennessee's run defense ranked 125th out of 129 Football Bowl Subdivision teams this year.

"He is hard-working, dedicated and organized with exceptional knowledge of the game," Saban said in a statement. "He is an excellent recruiter who does a great job developing players and earning their respect. He will do a great job at Tennessee and we wish him the best."

Pruitt also was defensive coordinator for Florida State's 2013 national championship team.

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