Former Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s history with Alabama was well known before he rejoined the Crimson Tide in 2016. Though the seven years he had already spent as an Alabama assistant helped in building his reputation, he had to go back to work to settle in.
Alabama junior cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick explained Pruitt made it a priority to get to know the players on the 2016 squad. Though Pruitt had been on staff four years earlier, Fitzpatrick said Pruitt took it upon himself to get to know his players leading up to his first season as defensive coordinator.
That, according to Fitzpatrick, meant a good bit of walking.
“He did something that not a lot of coaches do: He’d walk around with us,” Fitzpatrick said. “When we’d walk around the complex, he’d walk around. He’d be in the players’ lounge with us, the locker room with us and the weight room with us just trying to get to know us.”
It was clear Fitzpatrick found Pruitt’s interest in his new players as meaningful. Fitzpatrick said he knows it’s hard for coaches in Pruitt’s shoes who suddenly step into a new situation and do their best to settle in.
Based on the results, Pruitt’s efforts paid off. Alabama won 13 games in 2016 with the defense being at the forefront, finishing first in the SEC in scoring defense, rushing defense, turnover margin and sacks.
“He’s doing a great job,” Fitzpatrick said of Pruitt. “Him and coach (Nick) Saban, they put a whole lot of time in and effort in. They have great defensive minds. He’s out there making play calls. He motivates us a little bit before the game.”
With Pruitt’s second season on the horizon, Fitzpatrick made it apparent his defensive coordinator is already in his players’ ears about being just as productive this time around.
“He talked to us last week,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s about being a team and being a unit. Stuff like that is really important.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports