Jeremy Pruitt shares funny recruiting blunder from early years at Alabama
Jeremy Pruitt is known as one of the top recruiters in college football. The Tennessee head coach currently has the Volunteers ranked No. 2 in the nation for the 2021 class with 24 total commitments. However, even he has had a few recruiting blunders.
During Thursday night’s virtual L’Arche Football Preview, Pruitt shared a funny story from his time under Nick Saban at Alabama. The year was 2008, and Pruitt was serving as the Crimson Tide's director of player development. Following a few departures on staff, Saban sent him to South Alabama to monitor a handful of top prospects including linebacker Nico Johnson, running back Trent Richardson, quarterback AJ McCarron and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker.
The objective, as Pruitt recalls, was a simple one.
“Nick Saban told me, he said, ‘Listen, Jeremy we’re in a good spot with these guys. I want you to go down there and recruit them for this week. At the end of the week, I’m going to send Coach Joe Pendry and Coach Jim McElwain down to do a home visit with a couple of these guys. I just want you to report to me every night what’s going on.”
At first, things seemed to be going well for the young assistant. Serving as more of an informant, Pruitt said he called Saban each night with a report on the targets.
During the trip, Pruitt said Saban heard rumors that then-Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin was making a run at McCarron in Mobile. Saban called Pruitt to check to see if the rumors were true. Proudly, the assistant put his head coach at ease, squashing the speculation with his own eye-witness report.
At least he thought.
“I’m like, ‘No Coach. I sat outside his house every night and watched. Nobody’s been in,’” Pruitt said. “On Thursday of that week, Coach McElwain and Coach Pendry fly into Mobile. I pick them up and we’re going straight to AJ’s house.
"We pull up there into AJ’s house. You know I had the right address, the make of the vehicle was the same that was there. You know we knocked on the door and knocked several times. And this little old lady came to the door and kind of shocks me. I’m thinking this must be AJ’s grandmother, and I said, ‘Is AJ here?’ She said, ‘Who?’ I said, ‘AJ McCarron.’ She said, ‘No, he lives four houses down that way.’
“Right then I had a lot of anxiety, thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, I’ve been watching the wrong house for a week.’ And Jim McElwain looked at me and said, ‘Great job, Pruitt.’”
While a bit embarrassing, Pruitt and Alabama ended up with the last laugh as McCarron signed with the Crimson Tide the following year.
McCarron went on to be a part of three national championship teams at Alabama and holds the Tide’s all-time records in passing yards (9,019) and total yards (8,969). He was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2014 — the same year Kiffin was hired as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.