Georgia defensive coordinator adapts to changes

rblack@ledger-enquirer.comMay 21, 2014 

Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt autographing a sock monkey for Patti Brown, Wednesday night at the RiverMill event center during the 2014 UGA Day Tour

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In the past three months, Georgia’s defense has parted ways with three players.

Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons was the first to go, dismissed in February for multiple violations of team rules. He promptly transferred to Louisville, reuniting with former Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Linebacker Paris Bostick was next, announcing in April that he would depart Athens in search of more playing time. Finally, there was cornerback Shaq Wiggins earlier this month. Like Bostick, Wiggins decided to start his career anew and transfer out of the program.

None of it has fazed Jeremy Pruitt.

To him, it’s simply the way college football works.

“There’s attrition on every team all over the country every year. It would probably be harder to find one where (there’s) not attrition than one that is,” the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator said Wednesday, prior to taking part in a UGA Day event in Columbus. “So that’s common in college football. A lot of guys come in and they have high expectations, and whether it’s academics or something off the field or coaching changes or things like that, you’ve got 85 guys on a team and it’s hard to keep 85 guys happy. All coaches, the guys that we recruit and the guys that are on our team, we want to keep them on. We want to help them get what they want. But sometimes it don’t happen that way.”

Instead, Pruitt said, the Bulldogs will work with what they have. And with summer workouts on tap, he already has a vision for what his unit will look like when it reports for fall camp.

“We want to be a little ‘twitchier’ on the defensive front, which is maybe a little bit different than the things were in the past. We have plenty of size. We need a little more twitch,” Pruitt said. “We want to trim up a little bit at linebacker so we can play all three downs. And in the secondary, all those guys are built a little different, so (director of strength and conditioning) ‘Coach T’ (Joe Tereshinski) sat down and he’s got an individual plan for all of them. We’ve got a plan. And the kids, we’re going to help them execute it during the summer.”

And in a change from the past, Pruitt will be able to have contact with his players during the summer. Coaches can now interact with their players eight hours per week, with two of those hours spent studying film. With this being the first year of the rule’s implementation, Pruitt said he’s talked with coaches from other schools during recruiting trips this spring, trying to figure out how to maximize this new time.

But Pruitt remained steadfast in one respect: Seniority means nothing.

“We played six true freshmen in the two-deep last year (at Florida State), so we’re going to play the best players,” he said. “And what they can comprehend, what they can get to know or figure out in our system, that’s what we’ll do. We won’t do something they can’t do. But we’re going to make sure we get the best players on the field.”

Many of the same players he wasn’t pleased with just one month ago will be back for the fall. When the Bulldogs handed out spring awards in April, Pruitt wasn’t enthused. If he’d been in charge, no one would have received anything.

“But that’s what they’ve been doing here at Georgia so that’s what we did,” he told the AJC at the time.

Pruitt’s tone was a bit softer Wednesday.

Worried? Alarmed?

Those words aren’t in his vocabulary.

“As long as you’ve got effort and attitude, you can overcome a lot of things. And that’s the big thing we’re going to focus on this summer: effort and attitude,” Pruitt said. “If you lack the skill set or anything like that but you’ve got good effort and good attitude, you’ve got a chance to overcome it. If you ain’t got that, you’re in trouble.”

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