How Jeremy Pruitt Turned Todd Grantham’s Gruel into Prime Steak


Jeremy Pruitt was saddled with taking a defense that had lost its way (as well as several top players) and turned them into a feared defensive unit during his first season with the Bulldogs.

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Hey, let’s call a spade a spade. When Jeremy Pruitt arrived in Athens last season that defense was a mess. They had people playing out of position, rarely looked prepared (to the point of not even knowing where to line up just prior to the ball being snapped) and had a bevy of off-field problems as well.

Coming fresh off a national championship season at Florida State, the task before Jeremy Pruitt must have looked insurmountable. After the exodus of starters — via suspension, dismissal or transfer — Pruitt was left with what looked to be a ragged rabble of mixed talent in the secondary and a defensive line full of underachievers and backups.

Hey, but he had great linebackers at least.

So how did he take this band of football stowaways and turn them into a crew of seasoned defensive sailors and pirates? How did he take gruel, and turn it into prime, grade-A steak?

Sometimes the simplest of solutions can make the biggest difference. You know, like when the IT guy asks you, “Do you have the power turned on?”. Well, essentially the Bulldogs defense hadn’t checked that out yet. The power was off, and Pruitt turned it on.

He started by making guys accountable, and they knew it from early on.

“A lot of people care more, a lot of people give more effort, and a lot of people want to be great,” Ramik Wilson said of the defense and Pruitt at last year’s SEC Media Days. “We want to go down in history. Coach Pruitt pushes us, he’s not going to take nothing less than the best out of you. If you can’t give him your best, you’re not gonna play. He made that clear. He’s gonna play the best eleven guys. No matter walk-on or not, you’re gonna play.”

Pruitt simplified what was an over-schemed and undermanned defense put together by a wannabe NFL coach trying too hard to impress and setting his players up for failure. Grantham had good players, he simply didn’t make the system work to their advantage.

Nov 1, 2014; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Ramik Wilson (51) works out prior to the game against the Florida Gators at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With measurably less talent, and almost no time to prepare them, Pruitt took what was one of the worst scoring defenses in the nation (79th in 2013) and had them sitting at 16th by the end of 2014. Oh there were some bumps along the way, but when you watched his defense take the field you definitely got a sense of verging on greatness rather than budding catastrophe.

The new Georgia D.C. also made sure his players knew that no single man was greater than the team. The 2014 Bulldogs defense was a complete team effort, with all the players at every position working to pick each other up when needed.

There’s no living in the past with Jeremy Pruitt, he makes his players understand that what you’ve accomplished in the past year, month or week has no bearing on what you will do tomorrow. For this reason, his players will never see him flashing his bling — in the form of championship rings — to his recruits or players.

“I don’t wear rings,” Pruitt said in a January interview. “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.”

This is the type of common sense that Pruitt has brought to Athens, along with his exceptional defensive mind and outstanding recruiting ability.

The Dawgs went from slop in a bowl to prime rib last season, and 2015, with all its promising recruits and returning studs, may pan out to be even better.

Perhaps even a little more crowded in Pruitt’s safe deposit box.

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