KNOXVILLE, Tenn — It was only a matter of time before Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt was at odds with his former Alabama boss, Nick Saban.
Neither Pruitt nor Saban is likely to make their difference of opinion personal considering their history and mutual respect.
But professionally the men are on opposite sides where it concerns Crimson Tide backup center and graduate transfer wannabe Brandon Kennedy.
Some chuckled when new Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer said he aimed to make Alabama “sweat again” with his hiring of Pruitt, but it appears the ball is rolling.
It has struck some as odd that Saban would be this riled up about a backup center wanting to play for Tennessee, but that’s exactly what this situation looks like.
Kennedy has been in the Alabama program three years and is on the verge of graduating. The player wants a release to transfer within the conference, to Tennessee or Auburn, two schools that recruited when he was in high school.
Saban essentially has cried foul, asking aloud whether the SEC wants to go down the road of free agency when it comes to transfers while pointing to a league stipulation that would require Kennedy to sit out a year.
Pruitt, while not attacking Saban directly, made his thoughts on the issue known loud and clear Wednesday during a radio show on Knoxville’s WNML.
“You know, the big thing when it comes to guys that are grad transfers is if they’ve shown the maturity to do what it takes to get their degree,” said Pruitt, who worked for Saban from 2007-09 as Alabama’s director of player development, from 2010-12 as defensive backs coach, and in 2016 and 2017 as defensive coordinator.
“Obviously, I don’t think they would be leaving a situation where they felt like they could continue to have success,” Pruitt said. “If they’ve earned their degree, in my opinion, they’ve earned the right to choose where they want to go by their maturity and the things that they’ve accomplished.”
Pruitt has made it clear that he’s ready to practice what he preaches at Tennessee when the situation arises.
Indeed, Vols quarterback Quinten Dormady seemingly would have been a great fit for Tennessee’s new pro-style offense, but he elected to leave as a graduate transfer and play at Houston.
“We’ve had some guys that elected to leave here and that’s their decision and we’ve supported them,” Pruitt said. “The way I look at it is, who am I to determine where somebody is going to school?
“They’ve earned the right to pick where they want to go.”
Pruitt knows full well he will be held to his word, likely sooner than later, but to this point he has proven firm in his opinion.
Even when it means being at odds with the most dominant coach in college football.
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