Hey Tennessee fans: You can exhale now (we think).

The Volunteers are finalizing a deal to make Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt their next head football coach, ESPN’s Chris Low reported Thursday night, citing sources. Pruitt’s hire could be made official as early as Friday, per FOX Sports’ Bruce Feldman.

If the Vols and their fans still are wary about celebrating the move before it’s stamped in ink, well, we can’t blame them. Tennessee’s coaching search has been fraught with controversy and drama since the school fired Butch Jones after the season, with much of the hoopla surrounding Greg Schiano.

The Vols had a deal in place to make the Ohio State coordinator their next head coach, according to reports, but backed out at the last minute amid on-campus and social media protests against Schiano over his alleged connection to the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal at Penn State.

Tennessee reportedly came close to hiring a few other big-name candidates, including Washington State’s Mike Leach and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy, but failed to land any of them. Then the school’s athletic director, John Currie, was fired last Friday, capping an embarrassing stretch for the once-proud SEC school.

But the Vols’ missteps in their coaching search could be forgiven if Pruitt delivers in Knoxville. The 43-year-old has no head coaching experience but still boasts an impressive resume; he helped Alabama win two national championships as the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator under Nick Saban from 2010 to 2012, then joined Florida State as defensive coordinator in 2013 to help the Seminoles win a title of their own.

Pruitt spent two seasons as Georgia’s defensive coordinator from 2014 to 2015 before returning to Tuscaloosa for the 2016 season.

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