ATHENS -- Jeremy Pruitt was working his corner at Tuesday’s spring practice and working it hard. Georgia’s secondary, which Pruitt oversees, practices in a far corner of the team’s practice fields, and in the time since Pruitt took over the corner, it has been the most active and loud part of the field.
There were high school prospects at Tuesday’s practice. But Pruitt didn’t appear worried about scaring them off, riding his current players for lack of enough effort after one set of drills.
“If he doesn’t like it, he will get on you,” cornerback Malkom Parrish said. “That’s good coaching in my eyes.”
For all of Pruitt’s consternation at Tuesday’s practice, it seems things are in much better shape than this time last year. Back then, the first-year Georgia defensive coordinator and secondary coach was trying to mold together a young unit coming off a year in which it was the team’s weak link.
This year, despite the loss of its top player (cornerback Damian Swann was a senior) the Bulldogs seem to be settled down a bit in the secondary. Several proven veterans are aided by some up-and-comers, and a solid first season under Pruitt has led to some quiet confidence.
“I feel like they’re more knowledgeable,” outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said of the defensive backs. “Because in some of the meetings I can see Quincy (Mauger) or some of the older guys making corrections. Or sometimes even checking Pruitt on a play or two.”
So far, nobody has emerged as the clear successor to Swann, who was the team’s No. 1 cornerback but also was used at star and occasionally even safety. But Pruitt seems to have an emerging group of solid options.
First, the veterans: Dominick Sanders, who started every game as a freshman last year, is getting work at safety and the star. Mauger, who had four interceptions as a sophomore last year, is back at safety. Aaron Davis started 10 games last year as a redshirt freshman walk-on. Devin Bowman, a fourth-year junior, moved back to cornerback Tuesday after being with the safeties for a while.
“We all are comfortable. But we still don’t know who’s going to be put where,” Bowman said. “So we’re just working it out right now.”
Then, the up-and-comers: Early enrollees Jarvis Wilson and Jonathan Abram have received positive comments from veteran players, especially Wilson. There’s also Parrish, who ended up a first-team cornerback as his freshman year ended. He’s getting a lot of starting work this spring, too.
“He’s a really good player,” Bowman said of Parrish. “He’s physical, he’s smart, he knows what’s going on. So he’s going to bring something to the table this year.”
More players will enter the fray this summer, including freshman Juwuan Briscoe. And several veterans still have a chance to impress, such as Tramel Terry and Reggie Wilkerson, each of whom has dealt with knee injuries in recent years.
There’s still plenty of uncertainty, especially when it comes to who will play where. But last year at this time the situation bordered on chaotic. Now, after a season in which the Bulldogs improved in every important metric -- passing yards and big plays allowed, interceptions and third-down defense -- there is budding confidence.
Not that Pruitt will let his players think that.
“He has held us to a high standard,” Mauger said. “We have to focus on the minor details, going with technique, what to look for and just being very disciplined on minor details.”
Hence, the stern words at practice. But Bowman said it’s not so bad.
“I mean,” he said, “it’s kind of fun.”