New UGA defensive coordinator Pruitt: We want to make the other team earn it

When just hired Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt walked into a meeting room — along with fiancée Casey East — 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.

“I’ve never seen that happen in a meeting since I’ve been coaching for 30-some years,” said coach Mark Richt, who hired Pruitt after one season as defensive coordinator on the Seminoles national championship staff. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to win a bunch of games, it doesn’t mean anything other than I think we got their attention. I think they’re excited.”

Pruitt joined Richt Wednesday for an introductory news conference where a bank of cameras recorded it all as reporters filled into the front rows.

“It looks like Georgia football is alive and well,” Richt said. “A lot of people in the room.”

Pruitt’s 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.

“You know you’re 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,” Pruitt said.

Pruitt has been on staffs that have won the last three national titles — two at Alabama and one at Florida State — but said he won’t wear the bling that comes with it.

He wants to earn more rings in Athens.

“I feel like this is a championship staff,” Pruitt said. “I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t believe in Coach Richt and what he stands for and where this program’s going.”

After three seasons as secondary coach at Alabama, Pruitt guided a Florida State defense that led the nation in scoring defense last season.

“Just thankful we got him,” Richt said. “It was kind of a no-brainer on the résumé part.”

Richt called the former Alabama high school assistant coach a “tremendous ball coach, obviously, but just as good or better person.”

Pruitt will run a 3-4 defense that he said will be multiple, not dissimilar to what Grantham ran for four seasons.

“We want be sound, we want to be aggressive, but we want to make the other team earn it,” the 39-year old Pruitt said. “There’s a fine line of being aggressive and giving up plays.”

Richt said the players asked Pruitt about his defense and he told them it is “simple enough where you guys can turn it loose and play some football” and if “you can’t execute it, we’re not going to call it.”

Grantham spent 11 years in the NFL before coming to Georgia and his defense may have been too complicated at times for Georgia’s young players this season.

Georgia will run a base 3-4 defense, but will be flexible enough to have multiple looks.

“We’ll figure out who are best players are and figure out a way to get our best guys on the field,” he said.

Richt expects similarities in the defensive scheme.

“They’ll be some terminology issues and he’s going to decide whether he’ll learn a little bit of how our guys are used to it or have everybody learn it his way,” 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’s 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.

“Well coach Pruitt we meet again lol,” Bellamy tweeted Tuesday.

The warm reception Pruitt got in January may not always be there, like if he’s chewing some out on the practice field come spring ball but for now it’s honeymoon time for Pruitt and Georgia.

“It made me feel good, it really did,” he said. “Just 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.”

Follow marcweiszer

marcweiszer

On further review, Richt actually said Todd Gurley is “about 90, 95 percent,” healthy. Now needs to get in top condition.

8 hours ago