ATHENS – To watch Jeremy Pruitt at football practice is to watch someone constantly in motion. Always talking. Never letting a rep go by without making a point to a player, whether it’s a harsh criticism, an attaboy, or a measured teaching point.
“If he doesn’t know it he’s gonna teach us,” sophomore J.J. Green said. “He’s gonna get in his little DB stance, shuffleboard, all of that. He’s gonna really teach us. Coach Pruitt brings a lot of energy.”
Or as senior safety Corey Moore said: “He’s more hands-on.”
Georgia hired Pruitt away from Florida State in January with the overall job of improving a Georgia defense that struggled last season.
But so much of that simply revolves around making the secondary better. After all, that was the glaring weakness last year, and Pruitt coaches the secondary.
Back in the spring, Pruitt made it seem like a Heruclian task, and that was before several potential starters were dismissed or transferred. Then on Tuesday, four days into preseason practice, Pruitt appraised his secondary this way:
"I feel like right now I've got one guy who's playing the way it's supposed to be played in the secondary. And we've gotta find a lot more than that," Pruitt said.
That player is senior cornerback Damian Swann, the coach said. It wasn't a startling revelation, considering Swann is the most experienced player of the bunch. But it was notable considering Pruitt's stinginess with praise thus far.
Swann is coming off a disappointing junior season. But the rest of the secondary is filled with youngsters and walk-ons, many of whom are going to have to play this season.
"I'm not disappointed in any of them," Pruitt said. "But we're talking about guys who can play winning football. That's what it's all about. Right now we've got one guy that can play winning football. We've got probably 10 or 11 other guys that possibly could. Are they there yet, probably not."
Swann and Moore are the only seniors in the secondary. Aaron Davis, a redshirt freshman walk-on, has a real chance of starting, even after moving to safety. (He had been the first-team cornerback entering the preseason.)
There are a lot of newcomers – junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng, and freshmen Malkom Parrish and Dominick Sanders – who also have a chance to play.
"We're gonna play the best players," Pruitt said. "So if they're freshmen or seniors or whatever, we'll see. So they've got just as good a chance as anybody else."
Pruitt was a bit more upbeat in general as his defense prepared for its first full-pads practice, later on Tuesday afternoon.
"You know, we've had four really good days. The guys are working hard. We've improved a little bit every day. So it's been real positive," Pruitt said, adding later: "When you look at the defense as a whole we look a lot better than we did in the spring. We're sustaining at practice, we're competing, we're chasing the ball better. Are we where we need to be, no, not yet. But we're going in the right direction."
Pruitt also had good things to say about the conditioning of his defensive players. That was a big emphasis for the new defensive staff, seeking to slim down most players and get them ready to sub in and out of games and play faster when they're on the field.
"They're being able to sustain at a higher level, especially the D-line. The D-line looks a lot better this fall," Pruitt said.