UGA DC Pruitt keeps it simple for secondary – ‘attack the ball!’

Safety Corey Moore is entering his senior season at Georgia, but Jeremy Pruitt has taught him that even a veteran Bulldog can be taught new tricks.

UGA DC Pruitt keeps it simple for secondary - 'attack the ball!'
Marc Weiszer

Moore brings up a play in a game last November against Appalachian State when he was ejected for targeting on a sideline pass that the Bulldogs’ new defensive coordinator would have preferred he did things differently.

“Instead of going for the man, I could have went for the ball and that’s one thing he emphasizes,” Moore said. “I’ve added that to my game a whole lot better. He emphasizes ball first.”

Pruitt is taking over a Georgia defense that ranked tied for 108th in the nation in passes intercepted with seven after coaching a Florida State defense last season that led the nation with 26 passes picked off.

Moore said Pruitt is doing a great job with individuals breaking down what they need to do with the ball in the air.

It can be seen on the practice field at Georgia this preseason.

“Go attack the ball! Go attack the ball!” Pruitt called out to the defensive backs in a recent practice drill. “Hands on top. Go get it!”

Freshman cornerback Shaq Jones has heard a lot of that: “Basically, what Coach Pruitt is telling us is just to attack. Just attack every play.”

That didn’t translate to any interceptions in Georgia’s first scrimmage, but there was a forced fumble recovered by the defense.

“We’re stripping at the ball when we’re going against the offense, we’re ripping it out,” cornerback Damian Swann said. “We’re trying to make it habits where we can create turnovers, where we can get the offense the ball back so they can go score or we can take the ball and go score with it. That’s one of the keys to winning in this league, you’ve got to be in that top bunch when it comes to takeaways.”

Georgia ranked second to last in the SEC last season in turnovers gained with 15. SEC East champion Missouri led the league with 32. BCS title game runner-up Auburn had only 19.

In Pruitt’s one season at Florida State, the Seminoles tied for second in the nation with 35 turnovers gained a year after they ranked 66th with 21.

“If you want to create turnovers you have to practice turnovers,” Pruitt said on the day he was introduced as Georgia’s defensive coordinator. “There’s more to it. You can put yourself in position to finish on an interception but you’ve got to actually catch the ball, you’ve got to watch it all the way to the tub. When the ball is on the ground you’ve got to secure it, you’ve got to get your hands underneath the ball and you’ve got to recover a fumble. There are a lot of details to it that I think get overlooked.”

Those details are being taught in practice by Pruitt on a daily basis.

“That’s something he really emphasizes playing the ball, but right now we’re just really focusing on getting lined up and following through with our assignment,” walk-on safety Lucas Redd said. “The rest will take care of itself. We’ll be able to play the ball because we’re going to be in the right spots once we have a better idea where we’re supposed to be lined up.”

Pruitt said that redshirt freshmen safety Aaron Davis has good ball skills.

Two players that Pruitt had a hand in recruiting could also help.

Teammates have mentioned freshman safety Dominick Sanders as having a good knack for making a play on the ball. Pruitt said on signing day that Jones, who had three interceptions in his senior year, has “great ball skills.”

Early this preseason, Pruitt laid it out in simple terms on increasing interceptions: “If you’re not in the right position, it’s going to be hard to play the ball. I’d say you’ve got to be close to the guy they’re throwing it to if you’re going to get one of them.”