Don’t get too bogged down on whether Georgia is running a 3-4 or 4-3 defense under new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
“They’ll be times we’ll line up with three down linemen and they’ll be times when we line up with four down linemen,” Pruitt said. “It’s varied based on what the offense is doing to us and for one, what we think our best personnel is.”
Kevin Sherrer, who joined Pruitt at Georgia after a year as the defensive coordinator at South Alabama last season, said his defense was more of a 4-3 at the Sun Belt Conference school, matching personnel, and was very similar to what Pruitt ran with the Seminoles.
“For the most part, the basis of it was a carbon copy,” said Sherrer, who was Pruitt’s first hire at Georgia and will coach the `Sam’ linebackers and the `Star’ nickel back position. “I know he did some things that we did at Hoover High School (in Alabama). We did a little bit of that at South Alabama, but the terminology, the scheme, the coverages, the pressures, all of those type of things are exactly the same things.”
Pruitt said at his introductory news conference that “we are and will be a 3-4 defense,” but told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week that he used a four-man front about “about 80 percent of the time,” during Pruitt’s one season at Florida State.
“Teams that are 3-4, you’ll see them line up in 4-3 defenses and teams that are 4-3, you’ll see them line up in odd defenses,” he said when he was hired. “I think you’ve got to be able to do both.”
South Alabama’s defense matched personnel just like Pruitt, who takes over a Georgia defense that ran a base 3-4 scheme under Todd Grantham, but often was in a 4-2-5.
“It’s multiple,” said Sherrer, who was on staff together with Pruitt at Alabama after working together at Hoover and playing together with the Crimson Tide. “You can get in three downs, you can get in four downs. You’re going to match personnel with the offense. You’re going to have five defensive backs on the field, you’re going to have six defensive backs on the field. You’re going to get in some packages where you may have two d-lineman and three or four linebackers on third down and things like that where you can create pressure and that’s why he likes to recruit the guys that can play multiple positions. You can have a guy who can play inside backer, they can play not really a D-end but an outside rush guy on third down, things like that but they can also drop back and cover and run with the wide receivers and things.”
If you check out Florida State’s defensive depth chart from last year it listed 12 players (probably for the multiple looks).
It stacked up with a left end and right end, a nose guard and defensive tackle, a Sam, Mike and Will Linebacker and three cornerbacks and two safeties.
Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, thinks Pruitt’s scheme will be more advantageous for the Bulldogs’ recruiting.
Pruitt came to Georgia with a reputation for being able to recruit and the Bulldogs’ landed 2015 defensive back commitments Rico McGraw and Terry Godwin days after his hire last month.
“Their recruiting is going to take an extra step up with him as a defensive coordinator,” Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. “And I think they’ll go to a more comfortable scheme when it comes to recruiting. By comfortable, I mean 3-4 is tough.”
Farrell said it’s hard to find a “zero technique” that lines up over the center or a “five technique” that lines up over an offensive tackle.
Here’s what Warchant.com wrote about Florida State under Pruitt last season: “FSU’s defense had gotten a makeover in the offseason, shifting from a vanilla 4-3 scheme under former defensive coordinator Mike Stoops to an aggressive, attacking, shifting defense that could move between the 3-4 and 4-3 depending on the play.”
Georgia’s makeover is on the way.
“We’ve got to figure out what we are first of all,” Pruitt said. “If you’ve got four really good defensive linemen, it doesn’t make sense to play with just three of them. We’ve got to figure out who we are. At the end of the day when you start putting up a defensive front, it’s just Xs. You can say that they’re an outside linebacker, you can say they’re a defensive end.”