Michael A. Lough: Addition to Georgia staff nice and easy

mlough@macon.comJanuary 15, 2014 

Georgia Pruitts Challenge Football

Jeremy Pruitt, left, is introduced as Georgia's new defensive coordinator by head football coach Mark Richt during an NCAA college football news conference on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in Athens, Ga. The former Florida State defensive coordinator, who helped lead the Seminoles to the 2013 BCS championship, said he would build relationships with Bulldog players to build their trust. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

DAVE TULIS — AP

Blood pressures and breathing returned to normal, albeit still too high.

After all, it’s still recruiting season.

So here’s a “thanks” to Mark Richt for not needing or taking a bunch of time to hire a new defensive coordinator. If he took too much longer, program sustainability would have been in jeopardy.

Granted, a raise of about $350,000 doesn’t exactly make the decision of Jeremy Pruitt to leave Florida State a terribly shocking move. It’s not as crazy as, oh, Lane Kiffin to Alabama.

College football jobs, head or assistant, are part of a career path, not a Keith Jackson-narrated ode to the sport in the 1970s and ’80s.

The same people cementing Pruitt as the answer cemented Todd Grantham -- ohhhh, the NFL experience, the Saban background, the emotion -- as the answer.

And, of course, Grantham’s numbers compared more to Willie Martinez’s than Erk Russell’s or even Brian “I don’t care that we just unpacked, there’s an opening where?” VanGorder’s. It is highly likely, however, that Pruitt will be a step up in just about every phase.

The fact is that Pruitt might have the least major-college football experience of any coordinator in the SEC. He has eight high school seasons to five college seasons on the field, which is notable, a statistic that might also be proven irrelevant long-term, ala Gus Malzahn and Art Briles.

And Georgia needs some good long-term, not short-term, unless the Bulldogs win the national championship within the next two seasons and Richt retires, making happy the pro-Richt and anti-Richt camps. Finally, unification.

The best thing about hiring Pruitt so quickly is the accompanying absence of Kirby Smart’s name from conversations in the state of Georgia for awhile. As it is, the final two games of Alabama’s season allowed Smart’s cell phone more rest in December and January than in years.

Unless something is going on internally in Tuscaloosa, Smart wasn’t coming to Georgia unless Richt noted his own retirement timetable.

Of course, Richt doesn’t hire head coaches, and he won’t hire his replacement. The athletics director does and will.

Smart is Alabama’s Mike Bobo: the coordinator working under the executive coordinator and with a hard-to-discern own identity. Both are attached at the hip with their bosses.

That doesn’t necessarily get one hired as a head coach much among SEC powers.

There are many reasons coaches don’t go back to alma maters: They’ve moved on with their lives, and maybe the alma mater isn’t as great a job -- perish the thought -- as supporters think.

Few places -- Northwestern, with ex-linebacker Pat Fitzgerald as head coach -- are unique to the point where it’s actually a legitimate advantage.

Is there much difference between most SEC programs, most Big 12 programs, most ACC programs, etc.? No.

For one, remember Ray Goff?

Nick Saban didn’t hit the South until the LSU job. Only two of his assistants are SEC alums (Georgia and South Carolina). Jimbo Fisher has two Florida State alums on staff, matching the two Tennessee alums.

Other than yearning for the past, it’s hard to figure out why this remains an obsession.

It was bigger back in the 1970s and early 1980s, with the raving success of Jerry Claiborne at Kentucky (41-46-3), Foge Fazio at Pittsburgh (fired at 25-18-3) and the overrated Terry Donahue at UCLA (perennial national contender with a quality 151-74-8 record and all of four top-10 finishes in 20 seasons).

Phillip Fulmer was a success at Tennessee, but that was a soap opera and he got fired anyway. Earle Bruce at Ohio State and Frank Solich at Nebraska won and were scooted on out. Anybody recall the Mike Shula and Mike DuBose experiments at Alabama?

Steve Spurrier is the rarity to do well at his undergrad home.

We’ve long lost the Hallmark-card era of college football, where the ol’ alma mater was of such a major impact and tugged so successfully at the heart strings.

Pruitt has found his sixth home since the century turned. And in sports, home is where the paycheck and best chance for success, now and later, are.

Contact Michael A. Lough at 744-4626 or mlough@macon.com.

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