After a 2013 season ripe with disappointment, the Georgia Bulldogs have begun the 2014 campaign with a bang.
Only a couple of days after losing defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to Louisville, Georgia announced the signing of Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as his replacement, via an official release on Georgiadogs.com.
“This is an outstanding professional and personal opportunity,” Pruitt said. “I’m looking forward to meeting the current players and getting on the road to visit with recruits.”
It’s certainly a tremendous hire for Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt, one that should pay immediate dividends to a defensive unit that struggled to find its footing last season, ranking just No. 45 in total defense (375.5 YPG) while conceding 29.0 points per game.
Here is everything you need to know about Georgia’s new defensive coordinator.
The Road to Success
A Rainsville, Ala., native, Pruitt split his collegiate playing days with Middle Tennessee and Alabama, where he served as a defensive back.
Following his graduation, he immediately got into coaching. However, he spent the majority of his first 10 years on the sidelines at the high school level.
Some may even recognize him from the TV series Two-A-Days, in which he appeared as a coach at Hoover High School.
Pruitt caught his first break in 2007, when he was named director of player development for the Crimson Tide. He eventually moved up to defensive backs coach from 2010-12.
It was at this point when Pruitt really made a splash on the national scene.
|Interceptions||Pass TD Allowed||Pass YPG Allowed||Pass Def. Efficiency|
|2010||22 (4)||12 (9)||176.2 (13)||103.6 (6)|
|2011||13 (43)||6 (1)||111.5 (1)||83.7 (1)|
|2012||18 (12)||8 (4)||173.6 (6)||103.7 (7)|
In each of his three seasons working with the secondary, Alabama always finished in the top 10 in passing efficiency defense. In comparison, last season—Pruitt’s first year away from the team—the Tide ranked No. 26.
During his tenure at Tuscaloosa, Pruitt is credited with producing four first-team All-Americans and NFL draft picks in safety Mark Barron and cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick, DeQuan Menzie and Dee Milliner. In fact, Milliner was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award in 2012.
Given his success—Alabama won back-to-back BCS titles in 2011 and 2012—it was no surprise when Florida State came calling prior to the 2013 season.
Shining Bright on the National Stage
In December of 2012, Pruitt made the move to Tallahassee to take over the defensive coordinator duties for the Seminoles.
Although everyone expected the defense to be good in 2013, nobody could have predicted the unit to be this successful.
Aside from games against Boston College and Auburn, Florida State held seven of its opponents to seven points or less and 12 to under 20. That included limiting four Top 25 opponents—Clemson, Miami, Duke and Maryland—to a combined 35 points.
On the season, the Seminoles defense ranked No. 1 in scoring (12.1 PPG), No. 3 in total defense (281.4 YPG), No. 18 against the run (124.8 YPG) and No. 1 against the pass (156.6 YPG).
Sure, that’s not too much of a jump from the unit’s rankings in those categories from 2012—Nos. 6, 2, 3 and 1, respectively. However, after recording just 11 interceptions and one defensive touchdown in 2012, Florida State picked off a nation-high 26 passes last season while finding the end zone a whopping eight times on defense.
Furthermore, the team also conceded fewer touchdowns in 2013 (21) than the 23 it surrendered the year before.
All in all, the emergence of a tougher and less forgiving defense under Pruitt’s tutelage played a pivotal role in the Seminoles’ surge to an undefeated 14-0 record including the BCS title.
Taking the Next Step
A lot of people questioned Pruitt’s decision to bolt for Athens. Especially given the fact that Florida State was likely to be the odds-on favorite to win the 2014 national title.
Maybe the change was solely based on the money—Pruitt will reportedly rake in $850,000 annually, via ESPN’s Mark Schlabach—or maybe it’s for the opportunity to reunite with college roommate and Bulldogs offensive line coach Will Friend.
Give UGA O-Line Coach Will Friend a MAJOR assist for getting Jeremy Pruitt from FSU. Friend & Pruitt were teammates at Bama & are BUDDIES.— Gil Tyree (@local24gil) January 14, 2014
Either way, the opportunity to turn around an underachieving defense can only boost his stock in future head coaching searches.
There’s no doubt that Pruitt will have his hands full with a Georgia defense that was downright awful at times in 2013. However, returning all but one starter on the unit will be huge.
Not to mention, the arrival of four 4-star defensive prospects in the Class of 2014 will certainly help the Bulldogs next season.
Where will Georgia finish in the SEC in terms of total defense?
As for expectations, Pruitt will be relied on to fix a broken secondary. The unit ranked No. 59 nationally against the pass (227.4 YPGA) while finishing ninth in the SEC.
Those shortcomings cost Georgia dearly in losses to Auburn and to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
Another aspect Pruitt thrives in is recruiting. In fact, according to 247Sports, he was named the top recruiter in the nation in each of the last two years.
Conversely, Grantham finished 29th and 46th, respectively.
Overall, the Bulldogs certainly hit the jackpot in nabbing Pruitt from the Seminoles. It’s no coincidence that he’s been a part of the coaching staff of each of the last three BCS champions.
And if all goes as planned, Pruitt should soon have the Georgia defense playing at a level that could help deliver the program its first national title in over three decades.
All stats and rankings used in this article are courtesy of CFBstats.com.