Your Georgia Bulldogs had no defensive coordinator, and a lot of names out there rumored to be involved in the search. Now, suddenly, the search is over. Multiple sources are reporting that Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will be named to the same position at Georgia. We'll have more later, but for now here's a brief sketch of what Georgia is getting with Pruitt.
The Pruitt File
If former USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast was the most outside-the-SEC coach whose name has been floated for the vacant Georgia defensive coordinator's position, Pruitt is about the most SEC name out there. He played in high school under his father Dale Pruitt, a longtime northeast Alabama high school coach, then moved on to Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro. While there he was moved from quarterback to defensive back. After two seasons with the Blue Raiders Pruitt transferred to Alabama, where he played two more seasons as a walk-on under Gene Stallings, and roomed with current Bulldog offensive line coach Will Friend.
Pruitt spent one season as a graduate assistant at Alabama, then went to work for his dad at Plainview High School in Alabama. He bounced over to West Alabama to get his degree and serve a stint as a defensive backs coach, then back into the Alabama High School ranks, where he eventually landed a job as the defensive backs coach and eventually defensive coordinator at Hoover High for current Colquitt County head coach Rush Probst. This was during the time that MTV followed Hoover around for the television show Two-A-Days. Viewers of the show will likely remember the highly enthusiastic Pruitt.
After the 2006 season Pruitt moved up to the big show, taking over as "Director of Player Development" for Nick Saban at Alabama. At the time Pruitt was the only Alabama assistant with strong ties to the Yellowhammer State, and it probably wouldn't be overstating it to say that Saban realized having an assistant coach with family connections to the state's high school coaches, connections to the state's then top high school program, and who had recently been on a television show watched by a lot of high school recruits wouldn't be such a bad idea.
However Pruitt wasn't a nepotism/crumb to the locals hire. In fact, he moved out of his player development role and eventually into the defensive backs coach position, which he held from 2010 through 2012. It's worth noting that a lot of those defensive backs executing the Alabama defense coordinated by Kirby Smart were coached on a day-to-day basis by Jeremy Pruitt.
Most recently of course, Pruitt was the first year defensive coordinator at Florida State during the Seminoles 2013 national title run. For those keeping count, this means that Jeremy Pruitt has 4 BCS national title rings from the past 5 seasons. Correlation isn't causation. Having Pruitt on your staff doesn't guarantee you a national title. But it's accurate to say that he's been around an awful lot of winning football over the past few years, not even counting the success as a part of Probst's high school staff.
See above. Pruitt has a track record of being involved with winning programs. While he doesn't have a long track record as a coordinator, his 2013 FSU defense led the nation in scoring defense, giving up a stingy 12.1 per game despite playing in a lot of blowout wins which should have inflated that number. His contribution to Alabama's defensive dominance under Nick Saban is perhaps under-recognized. He's an excellent recruiter, having secured top players from Georgia, Alabama, and Florida over his career. Bottom line, Mark Richt's hiring of Jeremy Pruitt as his defensive coordinator is an absolute home run hire. He's a proven winner who's on the rise in coaching circles.
As noted above, Pruitt recruits hard, and that's not always made everyone happy. For example, there was the case of Darius Paige, a Pensacola high schooler who transferred to Alabama's Foley High, coached by Pruitt's former fellow Hoover coach Todd Watson. Paige's coach said that Pruitt told his star player that Foley could "take care of him" academically. Of course that could mean that Pruitt thought the student/teacher ratio, counseling services, and course offerings were better at Foley. Or it could have meant something else, something more.
Paige ended up signing with Alabama, by the way, though he got the old medical disqualification as a freshman. All of which sounds vaguely unsettling to opposing fans. That being said, neither Foley High nor Pruitt were ever cited for any sort of Alabama high school or NCAA misconduct as a result. Even if Pruitt did encourage Paige to transfer to a more Tide-friendly school, that in and of itself happens all the time, and doesn't violate any rule. But the point is that Jeremy Pruitt is a guy who will ruffle some feathers. Many Bulldog fans would view that as a huge positive. But you can expect to hear this incident resurrected in the coming days by your fellow SEC fans. Be ready.
The Bottom Line
In the end, this one makes no sense to me, but I don't really care. As recently as 4 hours ago, when the heavy Pruitt rumors started breaking, I didn't believe them and assumed he was about to get a raise. He currently makes $500,000 per year and is already in line for a raise at Florida State, though exactly how much of one was still up for discussion when this move happened. Florida State isn't Texas in terms of disposable cash, but it's not exactly cash-strapped either. One thing is for sure, Bulldog fans who wanted a big name hire just got it. We'll have more on the hire as official info becomes available. Until then...