A couple of weeks after Georgia‚Äôs defense closed the book on a downbeat 2013 season, the players spirits were lifted when they met Jeremy Pruitt, who had a record of success they hoped would translate over to the Bulldogs.
‚ÄúWe knew what he‚Äôs done in the past, we knew where he came from,‚Äù senior cornerback Damian Swann said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs been at Alabama, he‚Äôs been at Florida State, he‚Äôs won national titles. He knows what it takes and he‚Äôs been a part of it. That made a lot of guys excited and a lot of guys were ready to get right back into football.‚Äù
That time will finally come late Tuesday afternoon when Georgia holds its first spring practice with Pruitt as defensive coordinator.
Swann called Pruitt ‚Äúthe perfect guy‚Äù to replace Todd Grantham, who left after four seasons for a similar job at Louisville.
Pruitt spent three years coaching the secondary in Nick Saban‚Äôs 3-4 defense at Alabama and one year as defensive coordinator at Florida State during its national title run last season.
‚ÄúThere are a lot of similarities,‚Äù Pruitt said. ‚ÄúCoach Grantham coached for Coach Saban and we‚Äôre all kind of from the same tree, so from a schematic standpoint there‚Äôs going to be some similarities, which is a good thing.‚Äù
Swann has watched cutups of Florida State film and came to the conclusion that there won‚Äôt be a drastic overhaul on defense this season.
There has been, however, quite the changeover on the defensive staff, with a complete overhaul on that side of the ball for the first time since 1964. Other new faces: defensive line/Will linebacker coach Tracy Rocker, inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler and Sam linebacker/Star coach Kevin Sherrer.
‚ÄúThe big thing is we‚Äôre not concerned about how much someone can learn right now,‚Äù Pruitt said. ‚ÄúWe want to see who can get off blockers, who can tackle in space and then whoever can do that will do as much as they can do in the fall.‚Äù
Added head coach Mark Richt: ‚ÄúYou could have a great scheme and poor tactics, and you‚Äôre going to have no success. I‚Äôd rather have less of a scheme and more tactics and more fundamentals because I think we‚Äôll have a better chance of winning. That‚Äôs what is happening right now.‚Äù
Inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera didn‚Äôt watch much of what Pruitt did with the Seminoles, but figured ‚Äúthey won the national championship, so he was doing something right.‚Äù
Herrera said he‚Äôs trying to figure out the plays and the ‚Äúnew scheme.‚Äù
‚ÄúToo much of the system won‚Äôt be new to me,‚Äù Swann said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs pretty much the same. A lot of terminology might be different, but I‚Äôve played before.‚Äù
Georgia is now calling the outside linebacker spots the Jack and the other still the Sam. The inside linebackers in the base package are the Mike and Will instead of the Mike and Mo. In the nickel package, the inside linebackers will be called the Money and the Mack and the Sam will go out and be replaced by the ‚ÄúStar‚Äù nickel back.
Swann said he can‚Äôt be sure how much change he‚Äôs in for until practices begin.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm excited to kind of see a new defense every day,‚Äù center David Andrews said. ‚ÄúIt should be interesting.‚Äù
Pruitt said he remembered a Georgia defense that nearly helped the Bulldogs win the SEC championship two years ago when he was at Alabama.
‚ÄúWhen you have a team like was here in 2012, there‚Äôs going to be some growing pains the next year,‚Äù Pruitt said. ‚ÄúThere were some.‚Äù
Now this Georgia defense is ready to grow up with nine starters back from last year‚Äôs 8-5 season.
‚ÄúRight now, I feel like everybody‚Äôs bought into the new program, a new fresh start, new faces,‚Äù outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. ‚ÄúEverybody is just trying to see the future. We all have the same mindset. We all want to make it to the championship, make it to the first playoffs in (FBS) history.‚Äù
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs an expectation,‚Äù Richt said, ‚Äúof things getting better.‚Äù
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