Both Georgia and Florida State saw a good chunk of their defenses selected in last April’s NFL draft.
Like the Bulldogs, the Seminoles had seven players selected from that side of the ball including first-round defensive end Bjoern Werner and cornerback Xavier Rhodes and second-round defensive lineman Tank Carradine.
While Georgia had its struggles in 2013 in large part due to youth in its secondary, the Seminoles under first-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt were the stingiest defense in the nation. They ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense at 12.1 points per game after finishing No. 6 in 2012 at 14.7 and remained tops in the nation in passing defense at 156.6 yards given up after holding teams to 161.9 the year before.
Pruitt, hired last week to replace Todd Grantham as Georgia’s defensive coordinator, still had some veteran talent to work with for the Seminoles.
Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan is a top-10 projected overall pick in this May’s NFL draft and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner could be an early-round pick as well. Linebacker Christian Jones is at the Senior Bowl this week.
“I think we have a lot of diversity in what we do,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said in late September. “I think we have good players and I think we’re coached very well. I think our coaches and players have been very sound in the schemes they have. We’ve played very hard and been very fundamentally sound. And when you go back to look at it, it gets back to being fundamentally-sound, well-coached and having good players. I think we could say all the other things we want, but that’s the core of everything you have in football.”
The Bulldogs were forced to rely on inexperience players on the back end and don’t have an early-round defensive prospect in this year’s NFL draft, but there is talent there like outside linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd.
Georgia too often didn’t look like a team that was “very fundamentally sound,” as Fisher put it.
As Jenkins said after the Gator Bowl loss to Nebraska: “I feel like we have to work on our fundamentals this offseason and work on doing every little thing right.”
It will be Pruitt and his staff’s job to make sure of it now.
–Please follow me at Twitter.com/marcweiszer