When just hired Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt walked into a meeting room ‚Äî along with fianc√©e Casey East ‚Äî on Tuesday to address Bulldogs defensive players for the first time, applause broke out.
The players erupted again when the assistant who had just jumped from Florida State was done addressing the guys he will now coach.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve never seen that happen in a meeting since I‚Äôve been coaching for 30-some years,‚Äù said coach Mark Richt, who hired Pruitt after one season as defensive coordinator on the Seminoles national championship staff. ‚ÄúIt doesn‚Äôt mean we‚Äôre going to win a bunch of games, it doesn‚Äôt mean anything other than I think we got their attention. I think they‚Äôre excited.‚Äù
Pruitt joined Richt Wednesday for an introductory news conference where a bank of cameras recorded it all as reporters filled into the front rows.
‚ÄúIt looks like Georgia football is alive and well,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúA lot of people in the room.‚Äù
Pruitt‚Äôs hire, which came just two days after Todd Grantham told him he was leaving for Louisville, has been well-received by Georgia fans and those in the college football world.
‚ÄúYou know you‚Äôre at the right school where football is important when you got as many folks here as you did at the national championship game for the interviews, for our press conference,‚Äù Pruitt said.
Pruitt has been on staffs that have won the last three national titles ‚Äî two at Alabama and one at Florida State ‚Äî but said he won‚Äôt wear the bling that comes with it.
He wants to earn more rings in Athens.
‚ÄúI feel like this is a championship staff,‚Äù Pruitt said. ‚ÄúI wouldn‚Äôt be here today if I didn‚Äôt believe in Coach Richt and what he stands for and where this program‚Äôs going.‚Äù
After three seasons as secondary coach at Alabama, Pruitt guided a Florida State defense that led the nation in scoring defense last season.
‚ÄúJust thankful we got him,‚Äù Richt said. ‚ÄúIt was kind of a no-brainer on the r√©sum√© part.‚Äù
Richt called the former Alabama high school assistant coach a ‚Äútremendous ball coach, obviously, but just as good or better person.‚Äù
Pruitt will run a 3-4 defense that he said will be multiple, not dissimilar to what Grantham ran for four seasons.
‚ÄúWe want be sound, we want to be aggressive, but we want to make the other team earn it,‚Äù the 39-year old Pruitt said. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a fine line of being aggressive and giving up plays.‚Äù
Richt said the players asked Pruitt about his defense and he told them it is ‚Äúsimple enough where you guys can turn it loose and play some football‚Äù and if ‚Äúyou can‚Äôt execute it, we‚Äôre not going to call it.‚Äù
Grantham spent 11 years in the NFL before coming to Georgia and his defense may have been too complicated at times for Georgia‚Äôs young players this season.
Georgia will run a base 3-4 defense, but will be flexible enough to have multiple looks.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôll figure out who are best players are and figure out a way to get our best guys on the field,‚Äù he said.
Richt expects similarities in the defensive scheme.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôll be some terminology issues and he‚Äôs going to decide whether he‚Äôll learn a little bit of how our guys are used to it or have everybody learn it his way,‚Äù Richt said.
One of the things that Richt said he liked about Pruitt was his emphasis on fundamentals including when he helped powerhouse Hoover High School win two state titles before joining Alabama‚Äôs staff in an administrative role in 2007.
Pruitt said he wants to build relationships with the players, but he already has some through recruiting like redshirt freshman outside linebacker Davin Bellamy.
‚ÄúWell coach Pruitt we meet again lol,‚Äù Bellamy tweeted Tuesday.
The warm reception Pruitt got in January may not always be there, like if he‚Äôs chewing some out on the practice field come spring ball but for now it‚Äôs honeymoon time for Pruitt and Georgia.
‚ÄúIt made me feel good, it really did,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúJust seeing the group and some of them were old faces. I recruited some of them. I think that will help in the room with some of the relationships I built while I recruited some of these guys.‚Äù