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Jumbo Package: Pruitt to Tennessee? Phil Fulmer is Knoxville’s hillbilly Machiavelli

Rumors are heating up in Knoxville

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NCAA Football: Fresno State at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Hansen, the main beat reporter for, breaks down some questions remaining after anArizona Wildcats 6-3 start that has allegedly mirrored Lute Olsen’s 9-0 one. This is Arizona’s first significant home game, while the Tide has been tested early and often this season. However, the Wildcats did smack around No. 7 Texas A&M already. Parker will have more on this one as the game approaches this weekend, but it wouldn’t hurt to start reading up on it now: even with four other SEC teams in the RPI Top 20 and facing Oklahoma and Minnesota, this may be the Tide’s biggest test of the season.

Through nine games we’ve learned a few things that weren’t clear in the Red-Blue game:

Superbly talented freshman center Deandre Ayton is neither a rim protector nor someone who will lead the league in dunks or blocked shots. He’s a non-traditional scorer for a 7-footer, who, typical of a freshman, is learning about defense and the need to play each possession aggressively. Ayton is the most important player in the Pac-12 and Arizona is desperate for him to force his will on opponents more than, say, Lauri Markkanen did a year ago. If Ayton doesn’t have another gear, Arizona probably isn’t a Final Four team.

The Tide got a scare last night, but Collin Sexton wasn’t too banged up. When he went to the locker room, the fear was that he had suffered another concussion. We say “another,” because he missed time his senior year in high school with a head injury. WHEW.

This changes the playoff calculus a bit...or, since it’s Oklahoma, probably not. But, Sooners leading rusher Rodney Anderson had a protective order served against him following allegations that he raped a woman. Like I said, given Oklahoma’s godawful track record, I would be surprised if Lincoln Riley handles this any differently than his criminal co-conspirator and mentor, Bob Stoops — at least until the Sooners playoff run is over.

On the subject of ghastly, morally bankrupt Sooners, Barry Switzer breaks down the playoffs here.

J.T. Barrett was allegedly “shocked” the Buckeyes were left out of the playoffs. Say what you will about otherwise-excellent Big 10 academics, but it’s plainly not trickling down there in Columbus.

The SB Nation All-American team has been assembled. You’ve seen our ballot; here’s the compilation from the 108 respective schools’ sites.

Phil Fulmer thinks he is clever. He is not. And Alabama will be fine either way.

Secret Witness 2 in the 2002 NCAA case against Alabama, better known as Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer is long on connivance, shorter on execution, for whatever low cunning the hick possesses.

Tennessee’s train wreck of a coaching search seems to be coming to a close, with Fulmer zeroing in on one of two top SEC defensive coordinators. Both just happen to be Vols rivals, and neither have head coaching exerience. That’s not an accident.

Anyone familiar with Fulmer’s two decade history of undermining the Volunteers and their successive coaching staffs, and his willingness to dirk a man between the shoulder blades, sees what’s going on here: Fulmer is willing to sacrifice winning now in order to exert control over the program by hiring a rookie head man who may not be as comfortable in their coaching chops or ability to advocate for themselves.

In experiential terms, Georgia DC Mel Tucker makes the most sense. But, once you understand Fulmer’s game, that is why it seems all the more likely that Fulmer has/would eventually offer the job to Alabama’s Jeremy Pruitt: He gets to play de facto HC (in the mold of Barry Alvarez,) while weakening Alabama, goes the thinking. However, the fly in the ointment is two-fold. First, of all the Saban coordinators outside of Brian Daboll, Pruitt is the one least equipped by experience or (allegedly) temperament to lead a program at this stage of his career. Second, the far greater concern was that Tennessee would hire Mel Tucker, then as rumored, Tucker would target Tide co-DC Tosh Lupoi for his defensive coordinator. Then, of course, next year Pruitt leaves for another job.

Alabama will be fine with Pruitt leaving. And, strategically for Alabama, it may actually better if he leaves sooner rather than later. The “co-” label comes off of Lupoi; Saban gets stability and a DC that will endure the remainder of his career at Alabama; and, Alabama keeps its very popular LB coach and uber-recruiting pipeline to the West Coast.

Is this going to happen? Who knows. To date, only Jimmy Hyams at Gridiron has reported anything with definiteness, and he is by far the least reliable beat reporter in the SEC. All other reports are merely regurgitating his steadfast insistence that it’s a done-deal, and that all that remains is hammering out whether Pruitt can coach the playoffs. So, when I see another, actually reliable exclusive report (a la Brad Marcello breaking Gus’ extension,) then I’ll believe it’s a done deal.

In either case, Alabama will be a-okay. Don’t panic. Personally, I think it happens simply because Fulmer is so insecure while simultaneously thinking he’s the smartest hayseed in the barn. Sticking it to Alabama on the eve of the playoffs may not be as rewarding as kicking a critically-ill Johnny Majors when he was down, but it’s a start. That Fulmer can attempt to dominate a newb HC is what this was always about.

God, I’m so happy this villain is back. Those of you new to the Alabama cause are about to discover why there has always been such bad blood between these two programs.

Finally, speaking of coaches, Dreamy Lane and the Dread Pirate are among a wide range of candidates for the vacated Oregon job left vacant after career .500 Willie Taggart was tabbed to lead the Seminoles. (Seriously, I don’t understand the love affair there.)

That’s all for now. It’ll probably be a slow day, just an FYI. But, we got to hate on Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Tennessee. That’s a good day’s work, in my estimation.