SEC Media Days 2018: Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt responds to Aaron Murray's criticism

Jeremy Pruitt's first SEC Media Days appearance as Tennessee's coach was generally considered a major success. Once a coordinator that wasn't the most media-friendly, Pruitt has visibly grown more comfortable in front of a microphone now that he's the head honcho. 

However, Pruitt's appearance wasn't without a small speed bump. Appearing on 102.5 The Game on Tuesday, former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray didn't hold anything back in criticizing the Vols' new coach. Namely, Murray had reservations about whether Pruitt would be able to handle all of the different tasks of being a head coach. 

"I don't know if his personality is fit to be a head coach. I don't," Murray said. "As a head coach, there's so many things that go into it. It's not just going out there and coaching. You have to deal with front office. You've got to go talk with the president of the university. You have to deal with boosters. You have to deal with the offense, the defense. It's not just going in there and dealing with the kids and scheming up. There's a lot that goes into it.

"I don't think he's the right guy to kind of be the CEO of a corporation. He's really good managing just a defense and being a defensive coordinator. He needs to prove to me that he can handle the whole ship. For right now, I don't think he can. We'll see what happens this year. I don't think it helps that he doesn't have a lot of talent at Tennessee."

Murray and Pruitt never quite overlapped at Georgia, but Pruitt did work under former Bulldogs coach Mark Richt for two years from 2014 to 2015, and was not retained by Kirby Smart. If anything, Murray's criticism of Pruitt seems to be rooted in the relationship between Pruitt and Richt -- and Murray is a big Richt supporter. 

"When he was at Georgia, the way he acted, the way he treated Coach Richt I thought was poor," Murray said. "He wasn't as respectful as I thought a defensive coordinator should be to a head coach. So that's my thing, with authority.

"When he's dealing with the athletic director, when he's dealing with the president, when he's dealing with a booster who has given millions of dollars, you can't go tell him to screw off. You have to take the meeting. You have to sit with them. Yeah, I know you want to be game planning and getting ready for the game, but you're a head coach now. You have to do these other things."

Murray's criticism of Pruitt feels personal. To what degree there's truth in his statements is known only by those who were at Georgia when Pruitt was there. In response, Pruitt told reporters on Wednesday that his primary goal has been the impact he's had on players. 

"The reason I'm in this game is because I want to have a positive impact on young people. So, our guys, I think know that. I think everywhere I've ever been it's about your players. Your players are your best recruits. If you help them get what they want."

When asked if he thought the criticism was fair, Pruitt responded "First of all, I hadn't exactly heard what it was. I don't really know Aaron. I have a lot of respect for what kind of player he was. Coached against him. I look at it like this: 15 years ago I was a kindergarten teacher. You probably don't make that ascension unless you know how to treat people."

Pruitt can consider himself a player's coach. He could have trouble with answering to others -- though it's worth noting he coached under Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher, two extremely authoritative figures. Those things can co-exist within the same person. But regardless of what happened in the past, Pruitt noted during his time at the podium in Atlanta that he hopes to be a better coach 10 years from now than he is heading into 2018. That will include dealing with all of the other political aspects of the job beyond the Xs and Os. 

Of course, for every criticism of a new hire, there's praise. Former Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson, who has a history with Pruitt, said during a radio interview in May that, as an Alabama alum, Pruitt scares him more long-term than Smart. What will ultimately matter about Pruitt's perception is obvious: whether or not he wins in Knoxville. 

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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