With Jeremy Pruitt leading the charge, it’ll be pretty tough to laugh at the expense of the Georgia Bulldogs defense in 2014.
In fact, fear, panic and intimidation are more suitable emotions that will be synonymous with future opponents.
Georgia hit a home run when it announced that Pruitt would become the team’s new defensive coordinator. He would be replacing Todd Grantham, who left to take on the same role at Louisville.
It’s a move that should have an immediate impact.
Given the Bulldogs’ struggles on defense in 2013, that’s pretty tough to imagine. In 13 games, the team ranked No. 79 in scoring defense (29.0 PPG) and No. 45 in total defense (375.5 YPG).
Still, believe it or not, Georgia will finish with one of the top—no, elite—defenses in the nation.
Resume for Success
If Pruitt’s name sounds familiar, that’s because it should.
The 39-year-old has been on the coaching staff of the last three national champions. He served as Florida State’s defensive coordinator last season and as the defensive backs coach for Alabama from 2010-12.
At both stops, Pruitt helped make significant improvements on defense.
In each of his three seasons in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide ranked in the top 10 in passing efficiency defense. In comparison, last season—Pruitt’s first year away from the team—Alabama ranked No. 26.
The success continued in Tallahassee with the Seminoles, as he led a unit that finished No. 1 in scoring defense (12.1 PPG) and No. 3 in total defense (281.4 YPG). Under Pruitt’s guidance, the unit stifled most offenses, holding seven opponents to seven points or less and 12 to under 20.
That includes limiting four Top 25 opponents—Clemson, Miami, Duke and Maryland—to a combined 35 points.
Pruitt may come with a lot of hype, but he also has the numbers to back it up.
Surrounded by Talent
No matter how much championship experience Pruitt has under his belt, he’ll only be as talented as the coaching staff alongside him.
Thankfully, he’ll be just fine in that department.
Not surprisingly, the Bulldogs decided to clean house on the defensive staff following last season. Aside from Pruitt, the team also brought in Tracy Rocker, Kevin Sherrer and Mike Ekeler.
All together, the quartet should breathe new life into the Georgia defense.
|Georgia's 2014 Defensive Staff|
|Name||Years of Experience||Position|
|Jeremy Pruitt||7||Defensive Coordinator/Secondary|
|Tracy Rocker||20||Defensive Line/Will Linebacker|
|Kevin Sherrer||3||Sam Linebacker/Nickel/Star|
|Mike Ekeler||6||Inside Linebackers|
Pruitt gets someone with playing and coaching experience at both the collegiate and pro level with Rocker. Sherrer brings familiarity—played and coached alongside Pruitt at Alabama—and is coming off a successful stint as South Alabama’s defensive coordinator last year. Ekeler has the enthusiasm and knowledge that had head coach Mark Richt swooning over him.
The Bulldogs couldn’t have asked for a better defensive coaching staff.
Experience cannot be overstated enough.
Regardless of how the unit performed a year ago, returning all but one starter on defense is huge heading into 2014. Not to mention, both Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews will be fully healed and ready to go.
Furthermore, it certainly helps that the Bulldogs are set to welcome in plenty of new talent as well.
According to 247Sports’ team football recruiting rankings, the team’s class ranked No. 8 in the nation. Among Georgia’s 21 commitments, 10 were rated as 4-star prospects and three were 5-stars.
That list is headlined by 5-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter and also includes four 4-star defensive prospects.
Needless to say, Pruitt will be taking over a defensive unit with enormous potential. Paired with Pruitt’s track record, only good things are expected to follow.
Carter seems to agree.
“He (Mark Richt) did a great job and he got the hire with (defensive coordinator) Jeremy Pruitt,” he said, per the Athens Banner-Herald’s Ethan Burch. “That defense is going to be nasty, so I plan on being a big part of it.”
A top-10 defensive ranking will be the least of this unit’s worries in 2014.
Instead, an SEC championship and national title will be firmly within their sights.