ATHENS - Jeremy Pruitt found himself saying some nice things about his secondary's debut performance - few mental errors, good communication, good effort - and decided he needed to pull the reins back a second.
"We've still got a long ways to go. I mean, basically all we've done is guarantee that we can go 1-11. That's all we've done," Pruitt said. "I know that y'all want to keep blowing smoke and all that. But we're 1-11, and we're working from there."
Pruitt's first game as Georgia's defensive coordinator and secondary coach went swimmingly: After a shaky first half, Georgia held Clemson to all of one first down and 15 total yards in the second half. Todd Gurley and the offense handled the rest for a 45-21 victory.
But Pruitt, speaking to the media Tuesday for the first time since the win, didn't want to get carried away.
"For the first game, it's a starting point," Pruitt said, adding later: "We're not satisfied with how we played defensively at all. We gave up 21 points. We very easily could have given up more than that. ... We played better and executed a little better in the second half. But still, when you look at the second half, we're nowhere near where we need to be."
Pruitt said he was happy with the effort of his players. But there were still mistakes, and "a lot of them," according to Pruitt. Some were technical and some were mental. To hear Pruitt tell it, the Bulldogs got lucky on a bunch of plays.
"The tape doesn't lie. There's a couple times if you watch tape there's guys running open, and some of the guys win up front so the quarterback doesn't get the ball off," Pruitt said. "There's times in the back end where somebody guarded their guy really well, we don't have the right pass rush lanes, and the guy scrambles. So it takes 11 guys doing the right stuff all the time. Our guys understand that."
Pruitt's analysis was a lot less cheery than that of his players inside the locker room after the game. That's mostly to be expected, given the euphoria of the moment, and the motivational techniques of coaches.
But considering he inherited a defense that struggled so much last season, Pruitt was also asked if he had to maintain a balance: Keep the fragile confidence going, but not let it go too far?
"If you're going to play this game, you'd better have some confidence. You'd better have confidence in yourself and the people around you," Pruitt said. "But at the same time you've got to be realistic. I mean, we've played one football game. I hope our expectations here are to win and dominate our opponents each and every week. I hope that's the expectation here at Georgia. You look and we're all excited because we won a game. It's one football game. I mean, that's what we're supposed to do."
Two new starters had big roles in Pruitt's secondary on Saturday night, but they weren't the two many had expected would this summer. Aaron Davis, a redshirt freshman, had an interception, and freshman Dominick Sanders played well at the star position. But junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng only played on special teams, while freshman Malkom Parrish did not play.
"They weren't ready to play," Pruitt said. "If they were ready to play I wouldn't played them."
Fenteng's missed practice times were a factor, according to Pruitt, pointing out that he missed about 20 practices. Parrish is a true freshman, who "aren't supposed to play," according to Pruitt, while granting that Dominick Sanders did play and start.
Sanders impressed Pruitt early in preseason practice, when the team first went full pads.
"He's kind of wired 220," Pruitt said. "You don't have to get him going, he's going when you hit the field. Now is he always right, no. Should he playing as a true freshman, probably not, but right now he's one of our better players." Good time for a bye?
There's a school of thought that Georgia played so well that the bye comes at a bad time, stifling momentum. But Pruitt said he likes it, pointing out that last year, when he was at Florida State, the Seminoles also had a bye after beating Pittsburgh the opening week.
"Usually in football you improve the most from your first game to your second game," Pruitt said. "I like having the bye week in between because for us in a new system it gives us an opportunity to go back and make a lot of corrections, get back to kind of the fundamentals. They can kind of see theirself, it kind of lets us see where we're at and where we've gotta go."