The number of players gone from the Georgia defense this offseason has been a growing storyline.
during Georgia football practice on Thursday, April 10, 2014, in Athens, Ga. (AJ Reynolds/Staff, @ajreynoldsphoto)
Many of those remaining that Jeremy Pruitt will try to mold into a championship unit in his first season as Bulldogs defensive coordinator have transformed their bodies.
They have a different look from the end of spring practices to when they official report for preseason camp on Thursday.
That’s the way Pruitt wanted it, especially on the defensive line, under the version of the 3-4 scheme he is putting in place.
“When you’re looking at them, they’re moving around much better,” Pruitt said Wednesday of the guys in the trenches. “Probably as a whole I would say each one of them lost at least 10 to 15 pounds, some of them a little bit more than that.”
He said linebackers and defensive backs also have slimmed down or added weight depending on what was needed.
Outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins has dropped 20 pounds to 250 and is moving around better. Georgia now lists defensive lineman John Atkins at 299, down 23 pounds from a year ago.
“I think they feel better,” Pruitt said of the defense across the board. “They’ve got a little bit more confidence in their abilities to do some things. I think they can sustain and practice at a higher level for a longer time.”
Pruitt wasn’t lingering on the attrition on defense, which since spring included the dismissals of safety Tray Matthews and defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor and the transfer of cornerback Shaq Wiggins to Louisville.
“To me, I don’t know what went on here last year, but everybody had a chance to start over,” Pruitt said. “To me, it’s not losses. We’ve got the guys we’ve got, and that’s what we’re going to go with.”
There’s bonding going on this summer between players and a coach who arrived in January from winning a BCS title at Florida State.
Pruitt served up hamburgers, hot dogs and sausage this week to some of them at his home.
“We’ve had, the last three nights, guys over to the house just sitting around talking,” Pruitt said. “I can see it in their eyes. They’re eager to get started and that’s exciting to me.”
He indicated he was talking about the defensive backs, the position he coaches directly.
“My guys can eat,” he said. “They’re all right. Not many of those guys need to lose weight.”
And he added: “They’ve got to enjoy themselves some, too.”
Pruitt had 15 spring practices to get the players up to speed on his system and the packages he would like to run.
He was asked how comfortable he is to roll in players who grasp the scheme.
“Right now, I’m not very comfortable at all,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of guys that don’t have playing experience. Some of them it’ll be their first practices at Georgia this week. So we’ve got to figure that out. We’ll do what we can do. We would like to be able to match up and do some things as far as personnel, but we’re only going to try to get the guys on the field who have proven that we can trust them to play. If that’s 11, it’s 11. If it’s 30, it’s 30. So over the next few weeks, time will tell.”