HOOVER, Ala. - Ramik Wilson laughed when the question was presented: Has Jeremy Pruitt ever been nice to anybody?
“He shows flashes of it,” Wilson said.
Since being hired as Georgia’s defensive coordinator last January, Pruitt has created an image of a fiery, no-excuses coach who frankly doesn’t think much of the talent he inherited. He burnished that impression at spring practice, shouting at players and once even at the media.
But Wilson, the team’s All-SEC senior linebacker, spoiled the image a bit by revealing that behind the scenes – get ready to be shocked - Pruitt’s not so bad.
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“We all know he’s a great dude,” Wilson said Thursday at SEC media days. “If you want to go talk to him, he’ll talk to us. He’s willing to talk to us and go over plays with us. Just go up to his office. He means no harm. But that’s just his approach, that’s what his style is. We all understand that.”
Georgia’s defense wasn’t the most dominant subject as head coach Mark Richt and his player representatives made the rounds at the Hyatt Regency. Only one of the 19 questions to Richt during his main press conference was about Pruitt, and only a few more questions indirectly were about the defense.
Wilson was the only defensive player Georgia brought to Hoover, and he had the smallest crowd around him. But as he wrapped up his session Wilson dished out the optimism about the defense, crediting Pruitt with changing the culture on the unit.
And yes, Pruitt does it by not necessarily being nice.
“Coach Pruitt pushes us,” Wilson said. “He’s not going to take nothing. He’s not gonna take less from you, he wants the best from you. If you don’t give him the best, you’re not gonna play. He made that clear, he’s going to play the best 11 guys, he always say. It’s true, no matter (if you’re a) walk-on or not, he’s gonna play whoever makes the most plays and buys into his system. So he’s changed our culture quick.”
During spring practice Pruitt liberally sprinkled walk-ons and younger players into the first unit, especially in the secondary. The symbol of that became Aaron Davis, a walk-on who missed most of his final two seasons of high school because of an injury.
That was before cornerback Shaq Wiggins transferred and safety Tray Matthews was dismissed and cornerback Brendan Langley was moved to offense.
So, Wilson was asked Thursday, how can the defense be better without all the players that left, and starting walk-ons in the secondary?
Wilson put on his analyst cap.
“That doesn’t mean (the walk-ons) are gonna start. They’re pushing for a position,” Wilson said. “But we’ve got great freshmen who are making pushes, like Dominick Sanders, he’s been making a real good impression on everybody. We’ve got Shattle (Fenteng) who just came in, who’s looking real good. Malkom Parrish. We’ve still got Damian Swann, he’s gonna come back better. Corey Moore and Quincy (Mauger) are gonna come back better, they’re gonna learn the defense more.
“So based off on what we have talent-wise, I think we didn’t lose nothing at all. We’ve got J.J. Green too, who’s making big strides, he’s gonna do big things this year. So we’re not worried about that secondary, they’re gonna be just fine.”
It’s what you would expect a player to say. Optimism springs eternal during “talking season” as Steve Spurrier put it during his appearance.
But there hasn’t been too much optimism coming from Pruitt. His senior linebacker tried to fill the void.
“I think this is the year we do `it,” Wilson said. “There’s no doubt in my mind we should win every game. We’ve just gotta put the work in, and stay injury-free, and just buy into what these coaches are trying to do.”