It’s the offseason, when a frustrated Dawg fan’s heart turns to fancy. We relive last season’s flaws, whether they’re of the tactical, talent, attitude or any other variety that comes to mind, and we grasp at whatever straw we think is the perfect remedy.
We appreciate new straws the most. Novelty is exciting. Novelty is promise. Novelty is hope. (Not to mention there are only so many times we can be assured that this is the season some flaw is really going to be fixed before tuning out altogether.)
Jeremy Pruitt is this year’s straw, baby. The question is, how different a straw is he from his predecessor, whom, you may recall, was a pretty hot straw for us, too. Seth Emerson gets at that some here:
But when Pruitt walked into a team meeting at Georgia in January, minutes after being hired as defensive coordinator, he received a standing ovation. It wasn’t so much for his credentials, though by then many players were aware of them. It was more because he represented a new start, something Georgia’s defense desperately needed.
“A lot of guys probably needed a fresh start,” senior cornerback Damian Swann says.
Before getting into why Pruitt is seen as the right guy at Georgia, it’s important to know the state of the defense — both playing-wise and emotionally — after last season.
Todd Grantham had his good moments in four years as defensive coordinator, especially the first two. He brought a much-needed fire to the defense, which was one of the best in the nation in 2011. But the unit struggled the following season, which was a surprise given all its talent, and last year it struggled even more, crippled by youth and inexperience.
Yeah, there’s that. But Grantham got plenty of mileage out of Willie Martinez’ failings, too. So why aren’t we more cynical about what Pruitt’s up to?
I would suggest that one reason is Pruitt appears to have a low tolerance for bullshit. Some of that can be gleaned from the offseason departures from some of last year’s defensive starters. There are also stories like this:
… No player on the roster would say Georgia is better off without those guys. However, there has been an increased sense of resolve among the players I spoke to, as you can see here and here. Even the incoming freshmen can tell that there has been a paradigm shift with the new coaches. I overhead this conversation two weeks ago:
Player 1: “Coach [Jeremy] Pruitt doesn’t talk to anybody…”
Player 2: “He hasn’t spoken to Lorenzo [Carter] since he got here.”
It was off the record so I omitted their names. We may never find out if that was a real thing or just an exaggeration. The point is, Pruitt doesn’t appear to be a player’s coach. He is tough, demanding and doesn’t coddle anyone. In the short run, the team has been hurt by transfers and dismissals, In the long run, the team will be strengthened. The players still on the roster keep telling me they love Tracy Rocker, Kevin Sheerer and Mike Ekeler, but I think there is more respect (and a little bit of fear) when it comes to Pruitt.
Now this may turn out to be little more than myth-building. (Which is not to say that myth-building can’t be an effective motivator.) But in any event it has a different feel to it than what we’ve been accustomed to for a while. I’m almost tempted to say it’s VanGorder-esque, except even VanGorder didn’t run players off the way Pruitt’s been willing to as a price for his demands. (VanGorder wasn’t the recruiter or team player Pruitt has demonstrated himself to be, but that’s a subject for another story.)
I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out. But I’m not gonna get too crazy about it yet. I don’t think Pruitt would approve.