NEW ORLEANS — Tennessee players can look forward to good times on the football field under their new coach, according to Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne.
Payne said Friday at the Crimson Tide’s College Football Playoff media session that new Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt knows the right buttons to push.
“He’s just a really good leader,” said the 6-foot-2, 319-pound Payne. “He knows what to tell us before practice, and he keeps us focused and not worried about the little things.
“He makes us fired up for practice and ready to go every day.”
Pruitt has spent the past week getting Alabama ready for its CFP semifinal showdown in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson at 8:45 p.m. ET Monday night.
Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer named Pruitt the Vols’ 26th coach on Dec. 7, following an exhaustive 26-day search. Pruitt polished off a top-25 early signing class on Dec. 20 before returning to Tuscaloosa for bowl preparations.
SEC Country asked Pruitt about his approach to practice and the importance of keeping his players motivated.
“To me, coaching football is not like going to work,” Pruitt said. “If you’re going to have success in your work environment, you have to enjoy where you’re going. I think having a positive outlook for the players, if they are excited about coming to practice, they will have a productive practice.
“The bottom line is we have to find a way to make it enjoyable.”
Payne said he’s thankful Pruitt has done that the past two seasons, and now Alabama wants to repay him with a dominant playoff performance.
“I think this would be a good way to send him off,” Payne said.
Pruitt will return to Knoxville to lead Tennessee full-time after Alabama finishes its season.
Tennessee, coming off its first 8-loss season in school history, undoubtedly could use some good times next season.