Mark Richt needs to send Bobby Petrino a thank-you note!

Jeremy Pruitt had a stellar year as defensive coordinator at Florida State. (Associated Press)

Jeremy Pruitt had a stellar year as defensive coordinator at Florida State. (Associated Press)

What a difference a day and a half can make.

Mark Richt entered the offseason presiding over a program that had failed to live up to its early-season promise, stumbling to an 8-5 record in part because of an inexperienced defense that didn’t seem to get any better as the season progressed. Despite strong sentiment among fans and boosters for a shakeup on the defensive staff, Richt said he didn’t anticipate any changes, touting the benefits of “continuity” — an idea that didn’t exactly sit well with much of the Bulldog Nation.

Then, suddenly, Richt’s program didn’t even have continuity, as two of Georgia’s more embattled assistants left. First, defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos quit for “personal” reasons, and then defensive coordinator Todd Grantham jumped ship Sunday to join Bobby Petrino at Louisville. With the dead time in college football recruiting about to end, the Dogs needed a Hail Mary.

Which Richt delivered Tuesday, stunning much of the college football world when he swooped down on his former employer in Tallahassee and stole defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt from the newly crowned national champion Seminoles in what Yahoo Sports called “the biggest hiring coup of the season.”

As a friend put it Tuesday afternoon once UGA had confirmed the hire first reported by the AJC’s Chip Towers, Petrino actually may have done Richt a big favor. Despite two straight years of disappointing results under Grantham, Richt obviously wasn’t going to make a change. Then Petrino forced his hand.

The landing of Pruitt — widely declared a “home run” for Richt by the nation’s sports media — looks to be an upgrade for the Bulldogs’ program in multiple ways.

Pruitt, a Nick Saban disciple who has coached on three straight national championship teams at Alabama and FSU and was a finalist this year for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach, spent three years guiding highly ranked Crimson Tide secondaries and also coached defensive backs in his year as defensive coordinator at Florida State.

The presumption is that he’ll do the same in Athens, where Lakatos’ players finished the 2013 season looking no better than when they started four months earlier. The Noles, on the other hand, finished the season ranked second nationally in team passing defense.

Plus, the hire fits well with Georgia’s recruiting over the past few seasons, as Pruitt also used a 3-4 as his “base” defense at FSU, though he presented offenses with multiple looks that sometimes had as many as six men on the line.

After being hired by Jimbo Fisher a year ago to replace Mark Stoops, now the head coach at Kentucky, Pruitt restructured the Noles’ defense, going with a much more aggressive approach that allowed Florida State to go from minus 6 in turnover margin the previous year to plus 17, with 25 interceptions — another area in which Georgia lagged under Grantham. In each of Pruitt’s three seasons as Bama’s secondary coach, the Crimson Tide ranked in the top 10 nationally in pass efficiency defense, top 15 in pass defense and top five in both total defense and scoring defense.

Also, while at FSU Pruitt was a big proponent of players learning two or more positions to deal with the various spread-style offenses played nowadays by so many teams in the college game, and he wasn’t afraid to move some defenders around — something we could see repeated in Athens.

Under Pruitt, the undefeated Seminoles defense ended the season ranked first in the nation in scoring defense (12.1 points per game), third in total defense (281.4 yards per game) and 18th in rushing defense (124.8 ypg). Under Grantham in 2013, the Bulldogs were tied for 78th in scoring defense, 45th in total defense and 109th in turnovers gained.

Mark Richt stunned the college football world with Tuesday's news. (Associated Press)

Mark Richt stunned the college football world with Tuesday's news. (Associated Press)

No wonder Richt described himself as “ecstatic” about hiring Pruitt.

On top of that, while Grantham’s reputation as a recruiter was somewhat mixed, Pruitt is considered one of the best young recruiters in the business and is expected to hit the ground running in pursuit of top-flight talent for UGA. Pruitt was raised in Alabama by a high school football coach father and honed his recruiting chops at Bama. After being hired at FSU, he immediately helped the Noles land several key late additions to their 2013 signing class — including Nate Andrews, who went on to lead the team in interceptions — and was named the National Recruiter of the Year by 247Sports. He won the same honor a year earlier while still on Saban’s staff.

Take that, Rodney Garner!

Any caveats? Well, the 39-year-old former Bama player (who roomed in college with UGA assistant Will Friend) has only spent four years coaching at the college level (plus three years before that as one of Saban’s off-field player development staffers) and isn’t that far removed from the high school coaching ranks — though, then again, neither is Auburn’s Gus Malzahn! And Pruitt has only been a defensive coordinator for one season and inherited a wealth of talent at FSU.

Then there are the concerns of some in the self-loathing corner of the Bulldog Nation, who figure that, if Pruitt was really any good, ole Jimbo wouldn’t have allowed Richt to steal him.

The reality is that Fisher couldn’t really afford to get into a bidding war with Richt. Pruitt had a base salary at FSU of $540,000 and, according to ESPN, will make about the same at UGA as Grantham did — $850,000 per year. In order to match that, Fisher would have had to use up nearly $300,000 of the roughly $490,000 in raises he’s been given to disperse among his staff, according to various Florida press reports, which wouldn’t have gone over big in the staff room in Tallahassee.

Of course, whether Pruitt can light a fire under UGA’s frequently late-to-the-play and out-of-position defense and have the same sort of success in Athens that he had in Tuscaloosa and Tallahassee remains to be seen. There are no sure things in college football.

But any way you look at it, on paper the hiring of Pruitt seems brimming over with promise. And there’s no denying that when it comes to generating buzz for his program, Richt’s blitzkrieg scoop of luring away the defensive coordinator from the reigning national champs beats the heck out the protracted search that brought a fourth-choice NFL position coach to Athens four years ago.

Go Dogs!

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219 comments Add your comment

Malinda

January 14th, 2014
11:14 pm

I am beyond excited about this! Happy days are here again!!

Cuz

January 14th, 2014
11:18 pm

XXXXOOOOO’s

VegasVinnie

January 14th, 2014
11:24 pm

1. Gene Chizit had 1 great year too.
2. Terry Bowden had 1 great year.

Grantham’s defenses finished top 35 in scoring in the SEC 2010, top 25 in 2011, and top 20 in 2012. He was a known commodity.

Does 1 great year make a great coach? We’re about to find out if he was lucky or good?

VegasVinnie

January 14th, 2014
11:26 pm

To be fair, he didn’t coach “the secondary” at Bama, he coached the safeties. Pretty sure the success of Bama’s defense has more to do with Nick Saban and Kirby Smart than a safeties coach.

if he’s so good, why didn’t Saban get him? Why didn’t FSU pay him more to keep him?

Castle pine canine

January 14th, 2014
11:32 pm

Looks like a good hire, I had heard that several coaches may be leaving due to the NCAA investigation. Jameeis scandal is the tip of the iceberg

VegasVinnie

January 14th, 2014
11:34 pm

A lot of team outrecruited him as fas as defensive backs go in 2013 like Ohio St, Bama, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Texas A & M, miss St, etc.

Skokie Dog

January 14th, 2014
11:34 pm

@Vinnie: Why didn’t you read Bill’s text above? He explained the financial limitations at FSU.

MelissaKnowsMore

January 14th, 2014
11:35 pm

BILL: He can thank McGarity! CMR can thank Jeremy!

MelissaKnowsMore

January 14th, 2014
11:36 pm

Natl Champ Motion in full force!

MelissaKnowsMore

January 14th, 2014
11:37 pm

CMR and BOBO on Offense..Jeremy on D! Saban and Shaw and Urban squirming!!!!

VegasVinnie

January 14th, 2014
11:39 pm

He faced 1 ranked SEC team, Auburn, and gave up 31 points vs them. Wonder how he’ll do in 2014 vs ranked teams like South Carolina, Mizzou, Auburn, etc.?

Goodness sakes, the schedule he played in 2013, only 2 good teams, clemson and auburn. Couldn’t stop Auburn, especially at the end of the game when it mattered.

Boston College scored 34 points on him. Boston College????

VegasVinnie

January 14th, 2014
11:44 pm

His secondary had ranked #12 in 2012 in interceptions, #43 in 2011.

UGA’s ranked #44 in 2012, and #5 in 2011.

He had 31 interceptions 2011-12 at Bama in SEC.
UGA had 33 interceptions 2011-12.

Upgrade? Looks exactly like Lakatos, maybe a little worse.

MelissaKnowsMore

January 14th, 2014
11:46 pm

And Granthams stats, Mr. Knowledge last year?

VegasVinnie

January 14th, 2014
11:49 pm

Boston College was the 70th ranked offense, they put up 34 points on this guy’s FSU defense.

Only Army and New Mexico St allowed 34 or more against Boston College.

Cuz

January 14th, 2014
11:49 pm

VegasVinnie. EMRBG.

Cuz

January 14th, 2014
11:51 pm

VV. Don’t you hate it when we get your coach and you just sank because of it? Laughing My @off at you.

MelissaKnowsMore

January 14th, 2014
11:52 pm

yawn…no substance from u……..

Cuz

January 14th, 2014
11:53 pm

VV, Just go ahead and say it. I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore.
Now, don’t you feel better?

Cuz

January 14th, 2014
11:54 pm

Only Perdue and Ball State allowed more tailgaters to eat more chicken wings. Details on Sports Center.

Cuz

January 14th, 2014
11:56 pm

I just want Martinez back, said every SEC school plus Yech.

MelissaKnowsMore

January 14th, 2014
11:57 pm

GUT woke up!! No sense.

Cuz

January 14th, 2014
11:57 pm

Okay I am done. Night folks.

MelissaKnowsMore

January 14th, 2014
11:57 pm

CUZ: What do u know bout UGA?

MelissaKnowsMore

January 14th, 2014
11:58 pm

roflmfao….trolls easy to spot!

VegasVinnie

January 14th, 2014
11:59 pm

gUY CAN’T STOP THE RUN, WON’T FARE WELL IN THE sec.

lOOK AT RUSH YARDS GIVEN UP BY fsu IN 2013?
182 bETHUNE cOOKMAN
200 bOSTON cOLLEGE
188 nc sT
143 sYRACUSE
232 aUBURN.

nOT GONNA GET IT DONE IN THE sec.

VegasVinnie

January 15th, 2014
12:02 am

I rated his recruiting of db’s in 2013 as 6th if he were in the SEC behind:
Bama, LSU, Georgia, Miss St, and Texas A & M

UGA just got bamboozled.

MelissaKnowsMore

January 15th, 2014
12:04 am

I JUST want Martinez back”..LMAO! Why? need stats!! Look at UGA’s at Stanfords Rush yds given up as well!

gnole

January 15th, 2014
12:06 am

He inherited one of the top defenses in the nation in 2012 at FSU and also was lucky to have collectively the best defensive recruits in the nation to work with in 2013 at FSU. I don’t believe this guy has really proven anything yet. Mark Stoops on the other hand rebuilt a mediocre FSU defense and in two years made it the best defense in the nation. Not saying he’s not a good coach just don’t see him as proven yet until he accomplishes what Stoops did at FSU. I think UGA is way overpaying this guy out of desperation. Don’t see any of the UGA coaching regime being around much longer if they can’t even win a conference title. UGA took Richt from FSU in 2000 and 14 years latter they have zero rings and zero conference titles. Be careful what you wish for.

VegasVinnie

January 15th, 2014
12:10 am

richt did well in the ACC too, but didn’t even finished in the top 25 3 out of last 5 years in the SEC hasn’t fared so well. A lot of his concepts don’t work in the sec, like trying to win the SEC passing the ball instead of finishing in the top 3 in the sec in rushing. might work in the acc, not in the SEC.

VegasVinnieisandIdiotTechFan

January 15th, 2014
12:10 am

That’s all!

VegasVinnie

January 15th, 2014
12:11 am

You don’t really see ACC coaches come into the SEC and dominate.

MelissaKnowsMore

January 15th, 2014
12:14 am

gnole: erase your post b4 you get caught by the Dawg or Intelligence Gestapo! ur so correct!!!!!

VegasVinnie

January 15th, 2014
12:20 am

this guy is about to find out what it’s like to play for a coach who turns the ball over on offense to finish 7th to 11th in offensive turnovers lost 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Mark Richt’s offenses just are careless with the football.

this won’t be like AJ Mccarron or Heisman winner James at FSU.

You’re looking at 2 years of 1st year starters in Mason in 2014, then who knows in 2015,

Richt with 1st year starters with little experience wins 6-8 games, look at Greene, Stafford, Cox, and Murray.

Hope this guy enjoyed his run at positive turnover margin. Welcome to Todd grantham’s nightmare trying to win games with an offense that thorws 4x more interceptions than Bama.

Richt will look for Pruitt to bail his offense out. Good luck.

MelissaKnowsMore

January 15th, 2014
12:28 am

Ya just proved your ignorance and the reason ya need to find another fun thing to do!

JRW7

January 15th, 2014
12:33 am

Bill King, this post has been hijacked by trolls, can you delete them, so we DAWG fans can appreciate the great hire of CJP by CMR!

1969 Graduate

January 15th, 2014
12:40 am

This looks like it might be a good hire. Given what we had almost anything is better. Of course, I saw it the same way when Willie was fired.

Still, I don’t see any reason at all not to celebrate this hire.

Go, Dawgs!

7576DAWG

January 15th, 2014
1:26 am

Auburn loses 9 games last year and nearly everybody is changed out. Texas loses 4 in 2013 and they get new Coaches and Alabama loses 2 games and Saban get’s rid of half the Coaches. Richt loses 5 games and the first thing he says is NO CHANGES. Are you kidding like it was all the players fault.
Thank goodness for Petrino , who I have no respect for as a man but is a good Coach. Grantham saw the writing on the wall, he would have never made it more than 1 more year at Georgia. Maybe now Richt will see why you change Coaches out on a timely basis if they are not getting the job done and that as CEO and Head Coach loyalty can go just so far. Loyalty to the University and Fan base come first since that is where his Salary come from.

Attn: Vega Weanie

January 15th, 2014
1:33 am

Why did FSU not try to keep him?

READ this piece. Jimbo Fisher took all the available funds with HIS salary boost. His lowly budget had to cover several coaches. UGA is BIG TIME$$$. Money talks and bull smoke walks.

Besides, Coach Pruitt wanted to get gone from the ACC and even lowly UGA was desirable to an
ACC school, EVEN the MN Champs!!!

NoAxeToGrind

January 15th, 2014
5:41 am

Best wait until after next season to praise or damn Pruitt,,,,and Richt as well.

Buzz-Off

January 15th, 2014
7:09 am

Great hire…..and to those who don’t have a clue, if UGa made a bad decision then you can say the same for Fisher and Saban. This is an incredible move by CMR, our only problem will be keeping him for 3+ years. Go Dawgs and congratulations!!!

JB

January 15th, 2014
7:15 am

JB

January 15th, 2014
7:19 am

All’s well that ends well……BUT, that being said, we had to let someone else do the heaving lifting in Athens as usual. Look, I’m very happy, but Richt should of released Grantham at the end of the year based on the last TWO years performances. You can tell by the NATIONAL media response to the the Pruitt hire that it screams ” IT’S ABOUT TIME”. The whole world saw it. Why Richt didn’t is why after 13 years he’s still a brides maid. Go Dawgs. I’m excited.

JB

January 15th, 2014
7:25 am

By heavy lifting I mean the luck of the Irish by Petrino swooping in to hire Grantham. Maybe, just maybe the ole lady luck thing in Athens is turning. We’ve had little the last 2 years. And don’t believe in Luck….Ask Auburn about 2 DB’s in position to KNOCK THE BALL DOWN and they didn’t….and your team goes on the NC game because of it…..THAT KIND OF LUCK !!!!!!!!!!

LHardingDawg

January 15th, 2014
8:11 am

Good hire by coach Richt.

old dog

January 15th, 2014
8:19 am

He certainly will do better than CTG. CTG could not teach/coach/recruit his system. therefore, whether it is a good one or not will never be known. Although the new coach has maybe a similar system, there are differences as well. And, he has shown he can tach it!!

Our Fanbase is filled with Morons

January 15th, 2014
8:29 am

Great hire
Great coach
Great recruiter

Now go win

dawgfan

January 15th, 2014
8:30 am

I’m worried we don’t have the players that he enjoyed at FSU, but we’ll see. I credit Mark Richt for thinking big for once.

You know where this could easily go don’t you Kool Aiders? Pruitt wins a NC at FSU but underperforms under Richt. It wouldn’t look good at all.

This could be the beginning of the end for Mark Richt. We’ll see.

JB

January 15th, 2014
8:43 am

Dawgfan……And All must realize that Grantham is walking into a situation to make HIM look good. A weak ACC schedule and a Offensive minded Head Coach who will have a good offense and the the gas peddle down in a game….thus Grantham looks good

I-DOG

January 15th, 2014
8:49 am

I was very concerned after the season when I heard we were going to stand pat and basically make no changes.

This is a game changer. Richt showed the door to the DB coach and the D Coordinator which only makes sense based on their performances. There is a strong possibility that Pruitt will coach DB’s as well as be the D coordinator since he did that at FSU and it worked out just fine. That opens the door for a special teams coach.

If and when UGA does that, they will have addressed many of the major problems with the program. It will be interesting to see how it works out, but there is now reason for optimism in Athens.

Helmand Dawg

January 15th, 2014
8:51 am

I would always rather have a career assistant or a failed head coach becuase therein lies the ultimate continuity, i.e Bud Foster, Ellis Johnson, Joe Kines, Dick Labeau, Monte Kiffin. Pruitt’s hire, however, hits all the wickets for an upgrade: better recruiter, better game planner, better game-time adjustments, better teacher and better face for the university (no “choke” gestures toward the opposing kicker). I think he’ll be successful but ultimately a short stopover toward a HC position.Go Dawgs, GATA