Jeremy Pruitt was associated with Alabama football from the time Nick Saban arrived until the end of the 2012 season. From 2007-2009, he was director of player development, whatever that means. I think it means he was an assistant coach, but not really an assistant coach. In 2010 he became the secondary coach, until he became Florida State defensive coordinator in 2013.
We know about him since then.
A lot has been made of the impact Jeremy Pruitt has made on the Georgia football program, from helping push facility upgrades, to details as specific as routines for practice and game days, and even big picture aspects such as the overall culture of the program.
If you hear some people talk, he is basically the head coach, and Mark Richt is the figure head. I think that is overblown, and Richt does deserve some credit, if for the very least not letting his ego get in the way of stopping the changes. Being willing and able to adapt and change is the reason Mark Richt is still head coach at UGA today, and not forced to depart after 2010. That is why Mack Brown, (soon to be)Steve Spurrier, Phil Fulmer and others are no longer coaching.
However, I believe Jeremy Pruitt has had an immeasurable impact to this defense and this program.
You notice how the defense is changed. Yes, I know last season there were some ups and downs. In the three losses, the defense was shaky. I will say, though, that every coordinator struggles the first time they see Georgia Tech’s triple option offense. Even with their struggles so far in 2015, I’d suspect that the Georgia defense will do better against Tech in Year 2 of Pruitt.
Since Jeremy Pruitt’s departure from the Capstone, in three seasons Alabama’s once invincible defense has given up 40+ 4 times, only winning one of those games (Auburn last season).
Also, is it a coincidence that since Coach Pruitt left, Alabama has had a rash of player arrests in recent season, including 5 in the past calendar year, while Georgia has seen that problem all but disappear? I believe the last player to run afoul of the law was Jonathan Taylor, who was also infamously admitted (and famously dismissed) by Alabama.
But the defense has really made the biggest strides. You can see the big difference. I told someone I was sitting with during the Louisiana-Monroe game that the defense plays with disciplined aggression. You don’t see stupid penalties (except in Nashville where BS targeting calls appear), but they are fast and hit hard.
Could you imagine how much better this unit would be if Shaq Wiggins, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Tray Matthews and the aforementioned Jonathan Taylor would have had their heads sewn on straight?
If you want to know the difference of the game this Saturday, the Pruitt affect will be it. For as good as Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Malcolm Mitchell, the offensive line and the others on offense are, even without Jeremy Pruitt Alabama still has a great defense. Sure, they have been susceptible to give up big plays and a lot of points in recent years, but that says two things. One, offenses in college football are just better than they were 5 years ago. They just are. It is an offensive-centered game now.
But the teams that Alabama has struggled with defensively are teams that run the spread or have a mobile quarterback. Texas A&M, Ohio State, Auburn, Ole Miss-these teams present a different look compared to what Georgia likes to do. Against comparable pro-style teams, Alabama still plays good defense. Against LSU, Arkansas, Wisconsin, etc. they continue to play very well.
Now, I don’t think it is entirely fair to put a once size fits all pro-style label on Georgia’s offense. For those of us who follow the Dawgs closely, and watch a lot of other college football, that is oversimplifying it. We have speedy play makers, go up-tempo, and quite frankly Nick Chubb is unlike any other running back in America, with apologies to Leonard Fournette.
But to expect Georgia to score 30 points against this Alabama defense is living in the clouds. If they do, I will dance an Irish Jig all the way back to the car.
Conversely, Alabama’s offense is good. Really good. They have problems at quarterback, but against Ole Miss, even with 5 turnovers, they scored 37 points and ran 100 plays! Lane Kiffin gets a lot of the attention, mostly negative, much like Mike Bobo. But Kiffin has done a hell of a job there, and while I don’t think Alabama’s offense is as good this season as it has been, don’t be fooled. They can still score points.
It is hard to gauge this early in the season because the level of competition has been so weak across the board. Last year, for all the different narratives, Alabama’s offense still scored 37 ppg. That was the same as Mississippi State and about the same as Auburn and Texas A&M. Matter of fact, it was more than everyone else in the conference other than Georgia’s 41 ppg (Blame Bobo!).
So you want a key to the game this Saturday? I think it is easy.
Of course, you get the stock answers like turnovers, special teams, blah, blah, blah.
The intangibles are even. Georgia is at home, has revenge on its mind, and will be fired up to prove it belongs among the elite of college football. Alabama will be fired up to prove it deserves to stay among the elite. Win or lose for either team, and I think both are still really good teams. Although Alabama does have a much smaller margin for error.
No, the key to the game will be Georgia’s defense against the Alabama offense. It will be if Georgia can put pressure on Coker, force him to make mistakes, stop the run and not let the dink and dunk passes move the chains. If there has been a weakness in this Georgia defense since Pruitt’s arrival, it has been getting gashed in the running game and being exposed in the passing game.
Alabama’s defense is still good. Georgia will have a hard time moving the ball, I think. I think they can, but it won’t be easy.
But can we stop this offense?
The Pruitt affect will decide if Georgia wins or loses.