ATLANTA – The first question Jeremy Pruitt fielded here Saturday morning at the CFP National Championship Media Day at Philips Arena concerned his former team, the Georgia Bulldogs.
Pruitt, who served as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator for two years under head coach Mark Richt before holding the same job at Alabama the past two seasons – after new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart brought Mel Tucker with him from Tuscaloosa to steer the Bulldog defense – is now of course the new head coach at the University of Tennessee, being recently named to succeed Butch Jones.
Pruitt was asked how it will feel Monday night when he goes against the defensive players he once coached in Athens.
“First of all, let me say this,” Pruitt responded. “The two years I spent at Georgia, I built a tremendous friendship there, recruited a lot of really good players. A lot of the guys on the staff there, I have a lot of good friends there and had a great time there. It’s exciting to me to see these guys have success because when I was there, a lot of the guys we talked to them about one day having the opportunity to do this (play in the National Championship) and these guys are having a chance to do that.
“Georgia has a great football team,” said Pruitt. “They are very well coached, have tremendous running backs and Jake Fromm has done a fantastic job leading the offense. He makes a ton of plays and gets them in really good run situations. He’s checking almost every snap. They’ve got four or five tight ends,” added Pruitt, “who are really good on the outside at wide receiver. So we’re going to have a tremendous challenge to try and slow these guys down. Jim Chaney (offensive coordinator) is getting the playmakers the ball and they’re not having any negative plays, they’re not turning the ball over and are playing really well up front. Georgia’s the best offensive team we’ve played this year.”
Pruitt said it’s no surprise to him that Bulldogs junior linebacker Roquan Smith developed into a unanimous All-America selection and the Butkus Award winner this season.
“Roquan, he was a pretty good one in high school,” said Pruitt. “He worked hard at it, he liked to practice. But he’s done a really good job and Coach (Glenn) Schumann has done a really nice job of developing him as a player. I’m excited to see the success that he has.”
Pruitt said it is a bit of an interesting situation in the fact that Georgia’s outside linebackers coach, Kevin Sherrer, will coach the Bulldogs for the final time in Monday’s national championship tilt before joining Pruitt on the Tennessee staff as defensive coordinator … just as Kirby Smart remained to coach the Alabama defense in their national championship game before taking over the Bulldog head reins.
“It’s interesting for sure especially when you throw in the fact Kevin Sherrer’s on that staff,” said Pruitt. “We talked last night for a little bit and I gave him a hard time. We were working pretty late and I told him I was going to call Kirby and tell him ‘we’re outworking y’all tonight,’” he said, smiling. “But all the guys on their staff, I know most of them and some of them I’ve had the privilege of working with before and we’re all very competitive but, at the end of the day, we’re all really good friends and it’s going to be fun and exciting and we’re going to try and get our teams ready to play.”
Alabama’s All-America defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, winner of the Chuck Bednarik and Jim Thorpe awards this season, voiced ample respect for the Georgia offense.
“I would say Georgia’s offense resembles LSU,” said Fitzpatrick. “They run the ball really well and have great running backs in the backfield and they have a quarterback that does the job. He manages the game, makes plays with his arm and has two receivers on the outside who can run block and they can catch the ball. So they can make big plays.”
Alabama’s leading rusher, Damien Harris, didn’t want to compare the Georgia defense to anybody the Tide has gone against this season.
“I wouldn’t compare them to anybody else,” Harris said. “We played a lot of great defenses this year and they’re not going to be any different. They’ve got a good front seven, guys in the secondary that can make plays.”
And Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts, a guy the Bulldogs will certainly have to hem up Monday night, echoed Harris somewhat by calling the Bulldog defense “one of a kind.”
“They do a really good job,” said Hurts. “I mean, they force a lot of interceptions and rally to the ball. They have a really good front seven and have a Butkus Award winner (Smith). They have it all so for us to be ready as an offense, we have to be ready to play against a top team.”
Recent Articles by Murray Poole