Georgia Introduces Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt

By Kevin Kelley -
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Jeremy Pruitt-Mark Richt

Courtesy of UGA Sports Communications

ATHENS, Ga. – Georgia head football coach Mark Richt and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt met with the media on Wednesday morning. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt
“Well it looks like Georgia football is alive and well. A lot of people in the room and I appreciate everybody coming. We are very excited to have this press conference to let you all meet Coach Pruitt. Jeremy Pruitt obviously is our defensive coordinator and we’re just thankful that we got him. His resume really speaks for itself. He’s a tremendous ball coach obviously but just as good or better person. I think he’s going to be very excited about being here, and I’m very excited he’s here because I know he’s going to do things the Georgia way. It’s going to come real natural to him because he’s just that sort of person, so I’m just thrilled to introduce Coach.”

Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt
“Well first thing is that you know you’re at the right school where football is important when you’ve got as many folks here today as you did at the national championship game press conference. I’m excited to be here and the first thing I want to do is to say thank you to Coach Jimbo Fisher who gave me a chance at Florida State. It was a great staff to work on and he gave me a great opportunity to be here before you today. I’m excited to be a part of the University of Georgia. I said this before to a couple of people: in 2003 I was a high school football coach at Fort Payne High School and I brought some prospects over here to Georgia and I had the opportunity to sit down with Coach Richt. That was the first time I ever met him, and when I walked out of that room 30 minutes later I was wowed. My father looked at me and said, ‘That’s what college football is all about.’ I said right then and there if I ever had the opportunity to work for him that I wanted to be a part of his staff. I’m just thankful that I got the opportunity to come to the University of Georgia, and hopefully we’ll get this thing going where Coach Richt has a vision for it going.

On if Coach Richt remembers that meeting…
Richt
“I’d be lying if I said I remember it distinctly. I think it was a summer camp and we had a chance to sit together. I think it was in the stadium. Was it in the stadium?”

Pruitt
“It was in the stadium, in a room up top in the stadium.”

Richt
“We had one of the camps where we had practice in the stadium and then we had pizza and kind of hung out with everybody. I wish I could say I remembered that moment but I’m glad the moment happened, I can tell you that.”

Pruitt
“You can tell the kid didn’t sign with Georgia or he’d have remembered it [laughing].”

On the last few days…
“One thing that probably everyone in this room will realize shortly is Will Friend is one of my best friends. We were college roommates and we stay in touch, we talk weekly for the last 15-20 years. There’s not a week that goes by that we don’t talk. Obviously when the job came open in the small talk we have weekly he mentioned it and asked me if I would be interested. This is the University of Georgia – who wouldn’t be interested in this job? It’s absolutely one of the premier jobs in college football, and the opportunity to work with Coach Richt is something I just couldn’t turn down.”

On leaving Florida State…
“If you follow this business there’s highs and lows everywhere. For the seven years prior to this year the SEC has won national championships and FSU’s on top right now, so there’s never an easy time to leave a place, especially a place where you have such good friends and the place that gave you an opportunity. But the opportunity to come to the University of Georgia and the opportunity to work with Coach Richt – well there’s a lot of folks who would like to be sitting in this chair today.”

Richt
On the importance of making a quick hire…
“It’s always important to hit the ground running once you’re allowed to make contacts again in recruiting. Within the time that Coach Grantham told me he was moving, within 30 minutes I’d heard from prospects, prospects’ parents, current players and media. I heard from a massive amount of coaches who were interested in the opportunity. My phone was blowing up and there were a lot of questions that needed to be answered. The first thing I did was grab a flight back to Athens. I was at the national coaches convention at the time, and one of the first things I wanted to do was meet with our defensive football team at the time and let them know everything is going to be okay. What’s most important is to get the right person, no matter how long it takes, but if you can get the right person in the timeframe like we did, I’m not sure there wasn’t some divine intervention in the whole thing. It worked out great. Coach is able to hit the ground running in recruiting tomorrow. He can call prospects, and he can do every function that he would normally be able to do. It got done in a really rapid fashion and I was thankful to our administration and the cooperation we got in that regard. We had a 4:00 meeting with the defensive players on Monday, the day after Coach Grantham told me, and then in 24 hours we had another 4:00 meeting and I introduced Coach Pruitt to the players. It did happen fast and I’m glad it did, but I’m most thankful that we got the right man for the job.”

On how soon Coach Pruitt was contacted…
“I don’t know exactly when but I had a symposium with some former NFL players who are trying to get into coaching that morning and I was spending time with them. I was about to jump on a plane at about 11:00, so it was probably sometime before 11:00 in the morning.”

Pruitt
On the number of players coming back on defense and playing a 3-4 scheme…
“First thing is I’m not really familiar with what was done here before, but we are and will be a 3-4 defense. However, in this day and time when you look out there, you’ve got people who say they’re 3-4 or 4-3 but at the end of the day, you watch teams play and there’s so much difference. One week you might play against a team that has two tight ends and one running back, and next week it might be one running back and four wide receivers. So teams that are 3-4, you’ll see them line up in 4-3 defenses and teams that are 4-3, you’ll see them line-up in odd defenses. I think you’ve got to be able to do both. That’s what we’ll do. We’ll figure out who our best guys are and we’ll get our best guys on the field.”

On turnover margin…
“I think you have to practice it. To me a lot of people try to make football harder than it is. It’s the details, it’s blocking, it’s tackling, it’s fundamentals, it’s getting off the blocks. If you want to create turnovers you have to practice turnovers. There’s more to it. You can put yourself in position to finish on an interception but you’ve got to actually catch the ball, you’ve got to watch it all the way to the tub. When the ball is on the ground you’ve got to secure it, you’ve got to get your hands underneath the ball and you’ve got to recover a fumble. There are a lot of details to it that I think get overlooked, and I think with my background in high school you’re sitting there teaching junior high kids about the fundamentals of how to play the game and how to get in a stance. That’s how I’ll coach, and that’s my approach so I think when you put emphasis on turnovers hopefully you get the results.”

On whether or not the secondary contributed to his decision…
“It had no factor in my decision in coming to Georgia. The man sitting here beside me [Coach Richt] and I actually got to meet the real boss yesterday in Mrs. Katharyn [Richt], but we’re really excited to be a part of this family and that’s why I wanted to come to Georgia.”

Richt
On the status of Coaches Olivadotti and Wilson and if they’ll remain on staff…
“If they want to and as of right now I think they want to. If Coach Olivadotti and Coach Wilson want to be with us then that’s the plan for them to be with us.”

On whether or not he keeps a list of people he’d like to hire if the opportunity arises…
“You try to have a rough idea of what you might do at any position, but I can’t say I have a list of names tucked away at every position. You kind of watch and pay attention because it is possible that coaches go, and they go for a lot of reasons so you want to have a rough idea. One thing I’ve learned being here for 13 years is that if a job opens up at Georgia, we are so blessed that it’s going to be a massive amount of people who want to be at Georgia. I don’t want to be real rigid and sit there and say ‘This is going to be the guy I go after,’ when you know that it becomes common knowledge like it did so quickly. I knew there were going to be some people whose names were going to cross my desk that I might not even have had on a list. I wanted to be open-minded when they happened but still have some guys that you keep an eye on throughout the year.”

On if he kept up with Coach Pruitt at Florida State at all this year…
“I knew that the last three years he coached high school football as a defensive coordinator they won three state championships back-to-back, didn’t you coach?”

Pruitt
“Two – we were beaten in the last one.”

Richt
“So they lost in the last one but played in three and won two and then of course he spent time at the University of Alabama as the defensive backfield coach and they do a tremendous job. How he coached and went about his business there…and then obviously to go to Florida State and have them play as well as they did and win a National Championship, it was kind of a no-brainer on the resume part. One thing I like to do before I hire guys is to find out what he’s about and the only way you can do that is to hopefully know someone who knows them. Obviously he knows Will Friend, he knows Mike Bobo, he knows Bryan McClendon, and so you want to talk to people who really know him. I know he can coach ball – that’s obvious – but tell me what kind of person he is. Is he going to do it the way we want to do it around here? Is he going to take care of these players the way they should be taken care of by disciplining them in love and taking care of business and knowing that academics is crucially important and knowing that we want them to grow up to be a better man? He just has to be himself to get that done, I’m 100 percent convinced of that. That makes me more excited than anything when I talk about doing things the Georgia way. He just has to be himself, and it’s going to come natural.”

On how the he thinks the transition will go…
“I think there are similarities between what Coach has done and what we do. There will be some terminology issues, but he’s going to decide if we do a little bit of how our guys know it or if we do it his way. One thing that he did say to the guys that I will make mention of: the first thing the guys said is, ‘What are we going to do scheme wise?’ And he said that we’d be multiple to be able to play whomever we play and that whatever group shows up, we’ve got to do that. He also said that we’re going to be simple enough to where guys can go and play some football, and he said if we can’t execute it we’re not going to call it. I think that gave those guys some peace that it won’t be rocket science and they’ll all be able to learn it well enough to play fast enough to prove what they can do.”

On filling out the rest of the staff…
“Right now we’re still discussing all of that, but the natural thing would be to get an outside linebackers coach. There’s only one more spot on the defensive staff at the moment.”

Pruitt
On how the defense will play…
“The first thing is that we want to be sound. We want to be aggressive, but we want to make the other team earn it. There’s a fine line between aggressive and giving up plays, and we want to be as aggressive as we can possibly be but we want to make the other team earn it and make them drive the distance.”

On his message to the defense…
“I think the biggest thing is that I need to get to know the guys. I think it’s important that you build a relationship with the players. The players have got to trust you and that’s not something that happens overnight. If you’re going to get the most out of an 18 to 22-year-old guy, he’s got to believe in you and I think it’s important the guys get to know me and know what I’m about. They need to know that I’m going to be there for them not just in the football part but any other time. I think that goes back to getting into education. I think back to 2001, 2002, and 2003 – I was a K through third grade elementary PE teacher so when you see kids and you don’t know where they lay their head at night or when they had their last meal, you realize there are a lot more important things than football. Hopefully I can have a positive effect on these guys outside the football field.”

On his progression from high school to college coaching…
“It’s kind of funny. In 1997 Neil Callaway was the offensive line coach at Alabama. Will Friend and Freddie Kitchens – we flopped down on the couches in his office and hung out with Coach Callaway a lot and he’d sit there and say ‘Alright guys, you want to be ball coaches? I’ll give you one piece of advice: make sure you stick with good people.’ That’s one thing that has stuck with me. Before I took a job anywhere, I made sure I was going with the right folks, and I think that’s helped get me to where I’m at today – it’s being with good folks.”

Richt
On who he spoke to during the process…
“Very few people. I was collecting a lot of information. Every name that came through, my assistant, Ann Hunt, was documenting it, making a file, trying to get as many bios as possible off of a resume just to see what each person had done. There was very little conversation. I’m not going to say who, but there was one person in particular that I did speak to but other than that it was mostly just collecting information. Obviously it happened fast, and when I knew there was interest that became priority one, period. Thankfully planning worked out.”

Pruitt
On whether or not he brings his BCS National Championship rings on recruiting visits…
“I don’t wear rings. I put them in my safe deposit back and don’t ever touch them. To me, I’m not looking in the rearview mirror. I’m looking straight ahead, and hopefully there will be more to get.”

On his previous perceptions of Georgia…
“First off, for me making a decision on where I want to work and what staff I want to be a part of, I definitely don’t want to go backwards. I feel like this is a championship staff, and I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t believe in Coach Richt and what he stands for and where this program is going.”

On the most important defensive stat…
“The most important (stat) is a win. If we give up 30 and they (the offense) score 31, we’ll take it. If we don’t give up any and beat them two to nothing, we’ll take that. To me, that’s the most important stat. Sometimes we get caught up in the stats of how many yards we give up or the turnovers or this and that, but it’s a team game. It’s the greatest game because it is a team game. I think that’s the most important stat.”

On whether Florida State counter-offered…
“First of all, me and Coach (Jimbo) Fisher are very good friends, and I decided that this is what I wanted to do. I let him know and that was it.”

On the SEC…
“There’s no doubt that this is the best conference in the country, and I feel like the University of Georgia is the best school in the conference. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t think so.”

On the biggest challenges for defensive backs…
“Eye control. I think it’s the most important thing that defensive backs have to have. They have to have great eyes, and they have to have the discipline to know where their eyes should be. If you’re running 4.4 and you’re running in the wrong direction, you’re getting a long ways from where you’re supposed to be in a hurry.”

Richt
On what he learned from the previous coaching search for a defensive coordinator…
“Well, like I said last time, the goal is to find the right man for the job. That’s really what we found. There’s risk in talking to guys that are at a Florida State or at whatever school. If you’re looking to get the best, it’s going to be tough to get them out of there. What happens sometimes is that even though someone has a sincere desire to be at Georgia, or to maybe be on this particular staff, it’s still very difficult to make that move, especially if you’re at a great place. So you take a risk if you shoot for the stars, so to speak, in that a guy might be totally sincere and then at the moment of truth, he’s not able to do that, and for good reason. There are a lot of good reasons as to why guys change their mind at the last moment. If you do a lot of that, it can prolong your search. Thankfully, Coach (Pruitt) was very sincere in his interest and very sincere in following through with what he said he wanted to do. I’m very grateful for that, and because of it we are here as quickly as we are right now.”

On the coaching staff…

“With special teams, I’ve got some things in mind, so I really can’t say exactly what I have in mind, but I do have some things in mind for that. I think it’s going to be helpful. I want Coach Pruitt in his hire to get what he wants and what he feels he needs, but my guess is that whoever it is will have a strong special teams background, as well. That’s not a prerequisite for getting the job, though.”

On the potential of being able to have 10 coaches on staff in the future…
“That’s been in the works. I don’t think it’s going to happen this year, but I think in time, the 10th coach will come. It may be sooner than later. It may not be this season, but it could possibly be the next go around of legislation. I know I’m behind it and I’m for it. Most every coach that I’ve talked to is for it. So if that happens, that would probably free up a lot of people to say that all one guy does is special teams now. In the meantime, we’re going to have something that I think is going to be very exciting for us to get better in that area. The other thing, too, that I’ll say right now is that Coach Pruitt said, ‘Hey is it okay if I help coach some special teams?’ That was music to my ears to hear the defensive coordinator say that he’s not necessarily going to head up a team, but…you’ll have one guy head up a team, but one guy doesn’t coach it all. That’s the common misconception sometimes. There are special teams coordinators all over the nation that coordinate the meeting time or the practice time, but they don’t coach every team and they don’t coach every guy on every team. It’s impossible. There are always going to be other coaches helping, and most people divide the special teams by different coaches. One coach may have two teams, and the other has one, but rarely does one guy have every single team and coach every single guy. It just doesn’t happen. Coach Pruitt has experience in coaching some facets of special teams, and he’s already said that he’d like to get involved in it, which he will get involved with. When your defensive coordinator has that mentality, it becomes even more important for everybody to get on board. I think that’s going to be really helpful for us.”

On plans to have anyone named as Associate Head Coach…
“Not right now.”

Pruitt
On playing time…
“There’s one thing about football coaches. Everybody may not agree with who we always play and all of that, but I think we always try to play the best players. We’ll do that, and we’ll give everybody an opportunity. I think competition is great. I think it’s great, so we’ll try to figure that out. The thing about it is that the guys who are the best in the spring aren’t always the best in the fall, so it’s who can do it over time. We’ve never arrived.

Richt
On playing time…
“Coach (Pruitt) told the guys that, ‘I’m not going to give you what you want – I’m going to give you what you earn.’ I think that resonated with all of the guys in the room, and I think they were very excited about it. I’ll say one more thing about the meeting, and that’s it. When Coach walked in the meeting with his fiancée, the guys broke out in applause when he walked in the door. They were really excited about what was happening and that it was him. They’re very grateful that in some way, shape or form, he believed in those guys in the room already and he hadn’t even met them. When he left, they broke out in applause again, and I’ve never seen that in a meeting since I’ve been coaching for thirty-some years. It doesn’t mean we’re going to win a bunch of games. It doesn’t mean anything other than I think we got their attention, and I think they’re excited. Coach Pruitt and his staff here will decide who needs to play and who needs to start, but again, we expect our guys to earn it and that’s music to their ears. We’re excited about it.”

On talking to the other coaches on his staff about bringing in a new coach…
“Everyone was spread out all over the place. Some guys were at the convention and some guys were not. For me, if a coach is not at the convention, I don’t expect him to be at the office from morning until night. I hope he has time to spend with his family. So everybody was kind of spread out, and with things happening as fast as they did, I wasn’t communicating with everybody the whole time.”

Pruitt
On his reaction to the applause from the players when he entered the room…
“It made me feel good, it really did. Some of them were old faces. Some of them are guys that I recruited, and I think that helped in the room with some of them because there were relationships there from when I recruited some of those guys.”

On his recruiting strengths…
“When you’re a high school coach, there’s a lot that you do besides coaching. You’re picking them up, you’re taking them back and forth between school, you’re a psychologist. I think it’s relationships – that’s what it is all about. It’s getting to know the guys and guys knowing that you truly care about them on and off the field. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

On the high school talent in the state of Georgia…
“I think there are so many good players in the state of Georgia that probably the hardest thing to do is to just take 25. I promise you from being outside of the state and recruiting the state of Georgia that they all want to go to Georgia. A lot of them do. You have to figure out who are the best 25 that fit your program.

Richt
On the high school talent in the state of Georgia…
“Plus, there are probably 150 recruits that are major Division I guys, but you’re not going to get them all. You can’t get them all. A lot of these guys do grow up wanting to be a Bulldog, and the key is to evaluate quickly, thoroughly, and to make sure you get the offer out in time to make them feel like they’re being loved up enough. I think sometimes other coaches come in and throw out offers like candy sometimes, and then they may not stand by their word. I’m hearing that there are some non-committable offers and that kind of stuff – I don’t even know what that means, so it’s a little bit of a wacky world, but I think Coach Pruitt has a really good eye for talent. The first thing he wanted to do is to start watching film of recruits that were on our board and recruits that were in the state of Georgia that were committed to other schools. He just wanted to start looking at other players to see what type of interest he could generate with the new change here at Georgia.”

On recruiting…
“There are still some guys that are out there. Obviously, signing day is signing day. You sign, and then it’s over. Recruiting doesn’t end until that happens. The biggest thing is that I wanted Coach to really have a good understanding of who we had in the building, and I wanted him to look at what he felt like the greatest needs were as far as recruiting. There may be a few little changes here and there about who we’re going after or who we’re not going after and all that type of thing. I’ll say this to any parent out there and me being a parent of a kid that went to college – you want the school that you go to to want you. You want that coach to want you and say that I’m the one that evaluated you and said I wanted you to be there. If your son goes to a place and he’s only there because the coach before said so and the new one doesn’t have quite the faith, then it’s not a healthy situation for that guy. There may be a few tweaks here and there, and there may not be. I’m not saying there is, but it could happen.”

On Coach Grantham’s move to Louisville…
“I don’t want to speak too much for Todd, but he gave me some clue that there was an offer on the table and that he needed to think about it for a day or two. He said he’d let me know Sunday what he was going to do, but I think probably the biggest thing that swung it for Louisville was not only Coach (Bobby) Petrino’s reputation as a great coach and all of that, but he was able to hire his brother. In the state of Georgia, we have nepotism laws that would keep that from happening, and I think when it all got weighed out at the end, for him to have the chance to coach with his brother who is an outstanding coach, and to be with family, that swung it.”

On allowing coaches to look at other jobs…
“Coach (Bobby) Bowden allowed me to look, if I chose to look. I think every man deserves a chance to see what might be in the best interest of him and his family. It’s just like when we’ve had players transfer. I’ve never said that you can’t go here or you can’t go there. I think life’s too short. I want them to be happy. I want them to be where they need to be. I want what’s best for them, so I feel the same way about the coaches.”

On advice for Coach Pruitt regarding the move from Tallahassee to Athens…
“It’s like I said before – sometimes you want to sit whatever new staff you have down. We have a coaches mission statement. It’s kind of the baseline of how I want things to be done around here and at Georgia, just so they understand before they take the job. It’s kind of what I expect and how we’ll all go about it. After talking with Will (Friend) and Mike Bobo about him and some of the finer points of talking to him on the phone, I was 100 percent convinced that I wasn’t even going to have to show him the darn thing. I knew that he was going to do and has been doing the things the way that I would like them to be done. I just think he needs to be himself and get to work.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Zippity doo dah, zippity a….my, oh my, what a wonderful day, plenty of sunshine coming our way…..zddza….or….Happy days are here again the skies are clear are blue again!

    All of what has happened the past couple of days has made me feel like singing and dancing the latter of which would not make my daughter happy. I can’t wait for spring practice and then the fall. It’s great, I said it’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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