NEW ORLEANS — Jeremy Pruitt isn’t a man of public emotion, but the outgoing Alabama defensive coordinator might have had a tear in his eye when asked about how much he cares about his players.
“I have a special bond for the guys that are here,” Pruitt said in the days leading up to the Crimson Tide’s 24-6 victory over Clemson in College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl. “It’s not a four-year commitment to me — it’s a lifetime commitment. I’m in this business for the players.”
Pruitt was hired as Tennessee’s coach on Dec. 7, with the provision he be allowed to complete the season with Alabama. Crimson Tide stars Rashaan Evans and Minkah Fitzpatrick said they were relieved to learn that Pruitt would remain with Alabama through the postseason.
Alabama has finished No. 2 in the nation in total defense each of the past two seasons, and players say Pruitt’s relationships are a big reason for that statistic.
“He doesn’t just talk about Xs and Os every day,” Evans said. “He talks about our lives and what we’re going through, and a lot of those things play a part in going to practice each and every day. You have things that cloud your mind that are going on outside of football. It’s kind of hard to be able to practice on the high level we do practice on. For him to help us out with that, it makes us better players.”
Fitzpatrick said Pruitt has the sort of intangibles players look for in a football coach.
“One, it’s his passion. He brings a lot of fire and intensity to the team, and players love playing for him,” Fitzpatrick said. “He brings it week in and week out, and every game is like a national championship to him.
“He’s a great leader. Players love playing for him and listening to him. He knows the game. He played the game, and he’s been coached by some great coaches. He has all the assets to make a great head coach.”
No doubt, the players responded to Pruitt in their game Monday night against the Tigers, holding them to 188 total yards and just 6 points — their fewest in more than three years.
Evans said Pruitt’s abilities as game planner and personnel manager have everything to do with his future in Knoxville.
“He’s very intense, very hands on. He does a great job, and that’s why he’s going to Tennessee,” Evans said. “To be honest, I’m so happy for this man. He’s been through a lot of things. For him to have that chance now to pursue his lifelong goal, that’s amazing.”
More SEC Country exclusive stories about Jeremy Pruitt
- WATCH: Dabo Swinney dishes advice to head coach Pruitt
- WATCH: Pruitt shares Tennessee early signing class strategy
- WATCH: Alabama star defensive lineman says Pruitt pushes right buttons
- WATCH: Clemson coordinators reveal Pruitt defensive characteristics
- WATCH: Pruitt’s Tennessee talk limited, but meaningful
- WATCH: Super Bowl assistant, Tide OC has high praise for Jeremy Pruitt
- WATCH: Can Pruitt’s defensive finally slow down Clemson?
- Pruitt’s reasons for coaching Alabama go beyond title chase
- WATCH: Nick Saban shares rise of Tennessee coach Pruitt
- PODCAST: Jeremy Pruitt’s understated nature is unmistakable
- WATCH: Jeremy Pruitt: no interest in talking about dominant defense
- Jeremy Pruitt’s defense smothered Clemson, keyed Alabama win
- Alabama stock report shows Jeremy Pruitt rising after Sugar Bowl win
The post WATCH: Alabama football players say there’s more to Jeremy Pruitt than Xs and Os appeared first on SEC Country.