ATHENS - Jeremy Pruitt did not walk into his new job with a swagger. On the field, Georgia's new defensive coordinator has been focused more on technique and fundamentals.
And yet players say there is an obvious change in the mindset around Georgia's defense this spring. And it's not just defensive players saying that.
Quarterback Hutson Mason, who has gone against Pruitt's defense in every practice, said the changed mindset on defense is rubbing off on the offense.
“Coach Pruitt has kind of brought a new attitude to this defense and that kind of mirrors and reflects how the offense (plays)," Mason said after Friday's practice. "When one side of the ball is kind of dead, it’s kind of hard for the other side of the ball to feed off that. But when the defense is energetic and flying around it kind of motivates us to be energetic. It creates a lot of energy.
"So guys are kind of flying around to the ball. That’s not really something you saw last year. A lot more effort on both sides of the ball. We’re just trying to practice and preach the intensity of flying to the ball.”
Linebacker Ramik Wilson, one of the few entrenched starters on defense, said Pruitt's focus has been both on technique and evaluation of his players.
“He’s just trying to see who can cover and who can run,” Wilson said. “So he’s not really looking at me and (fellow inside linebacker) Amarlo (Herrera) right now. We’re doing our thing right now. But he’s trying to figure out his DBs. Because Swann’s playing linebacker in dime. So he’s just trying to get a feel for who can do what and when. So he’s gonna start changing things up real soon.”
Mason praises Rumph
Jonathon Rumph had a strong spring last year, and a good G-Day, but barely played last year, hampered by a hamstring injury and concerns about loafing in practice. So yes, skepticism is required this spring.
But Mason is impressed, for what it's worth, with his tallest receiver.
"Jonathon Rumph so far might be the MVP at receiver for spring ball," Mason said. "He's just night and day from last spring. He's always been that big body guy that you thought you could just throw up to and he'd go get it. But he's just flat-out making more plays this spring than last spring. And it's so great to see a guy who's that big, to have that big of a target that you could have that mismatch. He's a guy that we're always trying to encourage, because that's another weapon on the goal would be huge, and huge for him. It's such a mismatch with him being 6-4."
Rumph played in five games last season and finished with seven catches for 121 yards, but was slowed by a hamstring injury.
During the 2013 G-Day game, Rumph hauled in four catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
“Everybody expected a lot from me last year after how the G-Day game went, and I expected a lot of myself,” Rumph said. “I am trying not to put pressure on myself and just have fun. If I’m having fun, then I will have a better chance of making plays.”
Jenkins slims down
Jordan Jenkins is one of the many defensive players who is adhering to the slim-down approach. Pruitt said before spring that he wanted a lot of players to drop weight, and Jenkins, the junior outside linebacker, said he’s embraced it.
How? By eating Greek yogurt.
Jenkins, who estimated he played at around 264 pounds last season, said he’s down to about 250 now.
“I finally figured out I actually like greek yogurt,” Jenkins said. “I’ve been eating that with breakfast, and just trying to slim up a little bit, cut some fat weight.”
But does Jenkins find Greek yogurt to be too bland?
“I put some strawberries, pineapples, and granola bits in it,” Jenkins said, smiling.
O-Line shifting around
The two guard spots seem wide open right now, with yet another new candidate getting first-team snaps on Friday. Zach DeBell moved from tackle to guard, at least for Friday’s practice. In fact DeBell was working at first team left guard, with Mark Beard shifting to second team.
Offensive line coach Will Friend is moving players around on the line a lot. But sometimes outside forces have intervened: Brandon Kublanow, who was first-team at right guard last week, got the flu.
“One day I walked in the bathroom after practice and he was throwing up in the showers,” Mason said. “I’m like: Dude, really? We’re in the shower here, you couldn’t make it to the toilet?”
Kublanow is feeling better now, but Greg Pyke is getting first-team work at the right guard spot this week.
Another candidate, Watts Dantzler, missed Friday’s practice after taking a hit to the head near the tail end of Thursday’s practice.
Mason remarked that there are a number of linemen competing for spots who haven’t played much so far. And for some, such as Dantzler and DeBell, are nearing the ends of their careers. (Dantlzer will be a senior and DeBell a junior.)
“The clock is kind of running out for them. I can appreciate the position they’re in,” said Mason, who will be a fifth-year senior this fall. “They’re wanting to get out there on Saturdays too. It’s really about competition, when it comes down to it.”