The Georgia Bulldogs introduced new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt on Wednesday, just three days after the team’s defensive coordinator position was vacated by Todd Grantham, who took the same position at Louisville.
Pruitt is coming off his first season as a defensive coordinator with Florida State, but what a season it was in Tallahassee. FSU led the nation in passing yards allowed (just 156 per game) and points allowed (12.1 per contest) in a season that saw the Seminoles win their first national championship since 1999.
Pruitt made sure to mention Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher to open Wednesday’s presser, thanking his former boss for going out on a limb on a coach that back in 2006 was an assistant high school coach. Before Fisher lured Pruitt to FSU, Pruitt spent six seasons on the Alabama coaching staff, first as the director of player development and then as defensive backs coach.
Many have questioned the reasoning for Pruitt to leave a national championship squad to come to a college that has not won a title since 1980, and one of the clear factors for his decision appears to be his close relationship with Bulldogs offensive line coach Will Friend. Roommates back in their days at Alabama, Pruitt stated that Friend recruited him very hard to join the Georgia coaching staff, and whether or not that or Pruitt’s $850,000 salary ($350,000 more than he was set to make at Florida State) was the clinching factor, it certainly did not help.
The room was packed for Wednesday’s conference, leading head coach Mark Richt to quip that “It looks like Georgia football is alive and well.” Richt seemed notably excited sitting to the left of his new defensive coordinator and comfortable with Pruitt, who met Richt back when he was still coaching high school football in Alabama. Although Richt was unable to remember the encounter, the fit between the two already seems to be much more comfortable than the relationship that was maintained between Richt and Todd Grantham, who infamously interviewed with the New Orleans Saints one day after National Signing Day last year.
Some may question Coach Richt for bringing in a coach with just one season as a defensive coordinator in what many deemed to be the most important hire in his run in Athens, but the decision sure seems like a homerun on all fronts. All indications are that Pruitt is a “player’s coach” and is already working to establish relationships with his new players, which sure seems like a far cry from the coach who preceded him. Pruitt is also familiar with the 3-4 system that Georgia runs and he ran in Tallahassee, and although the terminology at both schools is bound to be different, the learning curve between players and coach should not be a major barrier.
Georgia is also lucky that Pruitt has plenty of experience coaching the secondary, something he did with the Crimson Tide and an area that the Bulldogs struggled in last season. Pruitt handed out a nice nugget of information at his press conference that should be put to good use in 2014, saying that the most important aspect for defensive backs is “eye control…[They] need to know where to go.” The Bulldogs have plenty of unrealized talent in the defensive backfield returning for the upcoming season, and the fact that Pruitt will also take on the responsibility of coaching defensive backs as well should ease the minds of many of those concerned with the unit’s play.
The Georgia Bulldogs did not solve all of the problems that plagued the team last year with the hire of Pruitt, but it definitely looks like they are making strides in the right direction. Young but experienced and confident, Pruitt’s addition to the coaching staff looks like just what the doctor ordered, and furthers the belief that Grantham’s departure was simply addition by subtraction.
What if Grantham had not taken Bobby Petrino’s offer and instead stayed with Georgia? The alternate situation would have provided for a different story at Sanford Stadium on Saturdays this fall, something that should make those close to the program shudder. Even Mark Richt understood that the situation fell perfectly for the Dawgs, saying “When you get the right person in the right time that we did, I am not sure there was not some divine intervention in the thing.” Whether or not divine intervention was in play for Georgia, it looks as if these Bulldogs have found the man who can lead the defense to the top of the SEC.