Georgia’s new defensive coordinator is Jeremy Pruitt, a fast-rising assistant in the college ranks who was plucked off the national championship staff of Florida State.
Pruitt ran the Seminoles defense for one season as its coordinator after spending three seasons as secondary coach at Alabama.
Georgia coach Mark Richt had a succinct statement about the hire when the school made it official Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said.
Richt landed Pruitt in warp speed, less than 48 hours after news broke that Todd Grantham was leaving after four seasons to become defensive coordinator at Louisville.
Florida State led the nation in scoring defense last season (12.1 points per game), ranked tied for second in turnovers gained (35) and third in total defense, (281.4 yards per game).
“This is an outstanding professional and personal opportunity,” Pruitt said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to meeting the current players and getting on the road to visit with recruits.”
With a recruiting contact period starting Thursday, Pruitt will do just that. First, he’ll meet with the media at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Pruitt, 39, is a former defensive back at Alabama under Gene Stallings.
“He was a quality, quality individual,” Stallings said Tuesday. “I think they’re getting a good man, I really do. I’m sure he’s very knowledgeable about what he’s going to be working with. Most of my guys were pretty knowledgeable about football. I was into techniques a whole lot more than I was schemes. If you’re looking for a good football coach, you better be a good technique coach and I think Jeremy will do an excellent job at techniques.”
Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend was teammates with Pruitt at Alabama. Pruitt transferred there from Middle Tennessee.
Like Grantham, he worked under Nick Saban in a base 3-4 scheme so the Bulldogs shouldn’t need an overhaul on defense.
Pruitt also served under former Georgia defensive back Kirby Smart, the Alabama coordinator who Georgia pursued in 2010 when it had a coordinator opening and was a popular choice by some fans to take another shot at landing this time around.
Pruitt was hired onto Saban’s staff as director of player development in 2007 after serving as an assistant coach at Hoover (Ala.) High and before then at Fort Payne (Ala.) High under his father, Dale Pruitt.
“It’s been eight years ago I’m lining off fields, I’m washing practice uniforms, I’m going to pick up guys,” Jeremy Pruitt told reporters before the BCS national championship game in Pasadena, Calif. “I’ve been very fortunate to be around really good programs, a lot of good guys.”
Pruitt, a finalist this year for the Broyles Award for nation’s top assistant, coached on staffs that won the national title the last three years.
“BIG hire for the Dawgs!!!,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbsteit tweeted when asked about the Pruitt hire.
Pruitt will take over a Georgia defense that ranked tied for 78th in scoring defense, 45th in total defense and 109th in turnovers gained, but returns 10 starters from an 8-5 team.
He coached defensive backs at Florida State. Georgia has posted an opening on the university website for a linebackers coach (Grantham coached the outside linebackers). It’s not certain if inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti and defensive line coach Chris Wilson will be retained. Secondary coach Scott Lakatos resigned last Thursday.
Pruitt should get a hefty boost in compensation by coming to Georgia. He was earning $503,450 at Florida State and will owe Florida State $75,000 as a buyout, according to USA Today.
Grantham was making $850,000 a year under a three-year deal and Pruitt could get a similar salary.
“That doesn’t hurt,” said Rush Propst, who Pruitt worked for at Hoover. “When you’re in this profession, you have to strike when the iron’s hot. That additional $300,000 or more that you make, if you take it over a three year span, that becomes a million dollars. … It’s very hard to stay on top and as an assistant coach. It’s harder to stay on it then it is to get to it.”
Georgia and Pruitt have agreed to terms verbally, athletic director Greg McGarity said, but the program has not released the length of the contract and his total compensation nor if Georgia will pay Pruitt’s buyout to his former school.