UGA defensive staff to undergo major overhaul

Jeremy Pruitt will have a chance to craft his entire Georgia defensive staff.

The Bulldogs won’t have a single assistant coach coming back on that side of the ball for the first time in a half a century after two more departed this week.

Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti and defensive line coach Chris Wilson completed the wave out the Butts-Mehre building following coordinator Todd Grantham and secondary coach Scott Lakatos last week.

Georgia hasn’t had such an overhaul to its defensive staff since Vince Dooley’s first season in 1964, according to research provided by the school.

Olivadotti is returning to the Washington Redskins, who announced his hire as inside linebackers coach Thursday and Wilson is heading across the country to coach the defensive line at Southern California.

There had been mixed signals on Wilson wavering to go to USC, but he tweeted a goodbye Friday morning: “I want to thank Georgia, Mark Richt, the players and his awesome staff for the privilege of being a part of UGA! Be blessed. #GoDawgs”

Grantham was officially named the defensive coordinator at Louisville on Thursday after four seasons in the same position at Georgia. Lakatos resigned as secondary coach on Jan. 9.

So the dead period in recruiting that ended on Thursday began with Georgia having only one defensive staff member available to hit the road to talk to prospects and that was Pruitt, who was hired on Tuesday from Florida State.

Graduate assistants Christian Robinson, Mike Macdonald and Daniel Inman were certified by the NCAA to allow them to have recruiting roles during the contact period.

Georgia has a handful of official and unofficial visits this weekend.

“It is full speed, green light and go this weekend for the University of Georgia,” said Daryl Jones, Georgia’s director of on-campus recruiting.

The Bulldogs haven’t had to replace their entire defensive staff since Dooley replaced Johnny Griffith.

Dooley tapped Erk Russell from Vanderbilt as his defensive coordinator, Cecil “Hootie” Ingram from Virginia Tech as defensive backs coach and Jim Pyburn from Columbus High as the defensive line coach. That staff featured three defensive coaches, three offensive coaches and three freshman coaches.

Pruitt is coach Mark Richt’s fourth defensive coordinator, but former line coach Rodney Garner, a holdover from Jim Donnan’s staff, served under every previous coordinator: Brian VanGorder, Willie Martinez and Grantham before Garner left after the 2012 regular season.

Grantham will coach the safeties at Louisville, according to the school. His brother, Tony Grantham, will coach the inside linebackers and be special teams coach after coming from Navy.

“What appealed to me most was being able to team up with coach Petrino and what he does but also the vision of the athletic director and if you look at the things he’s done,” Grantham said at a Thursday news conference. “To win a championship, it takes a lot of different elements. Andthe first thing it takes is to have an athletic director that has a vision for the resources needed moving forward. And you obviously have that.”

Grantham said he thought Petrino pursued him after seeing what Georgia’s defense had done while Grantham was there.

“Two of the last three years we’ve won the SEC East,” Grantham said. “We really have been the backbone of getting to those conference championships. I think the ability to see how we changed an identity and develop some mental toughness and physical toughness there and develop players.”

Georgia’s defense was considered by some to have underachieved in 2012 with a roster stocked with NFL talent and the Bulldogs ranked eighth in the SEC in total defense and 10th in scoring defense, 78th nationally, this past season.

“I’m really excited about bringing a title to Louisville,” Grantham said.

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