published Saturday, April 12th, 2014

Pruitt center of Georgia's G-Day curiosity

  • photo
    New Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt walks the practice field during spring drills.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Spring football games may be for the players, but it's the coaches who have Georgia fans curious about today's G-Day contest at Sanford Stadium.

Georgia had a complete overall this winter on its defensive staff, the first such occurrence in Athens in 50 years. Four-year coordinator Todd Grantham left in January for the same position at Louisville, but Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt made a quick splash by luring Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Pruitt helped lead the Seminoles to last season's national championship, and he was secondary coach the previous two seasons for Alabama's 2011 and '12 national champs.

"I think fans will see more people on defense running to the ball and will just see a more active Georgia defense," junior outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said this week. "It seems like when someone makes a play, everybody else is pumped up about it. Last season, it seemed like one person would make a play and everybody else would walk back to the huddle.

"We've got more energy now, and it's more unified at this point. We got really caught up last season in trying to know what to do before the next snap."

This afternoon's game will begin at 1 on CSS, and it will consist of 12-minute quarters. The Red team will include the No. 1 offense and the No. 2 defense and will be headed by offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, while the Black team will feature the No. 1 defense and No. 2 offense and will be guided by Pruitt.

There will be no kickoffs at G-Day, which is free of charge, and each punt will result in a 35-yard change in field position.

Georgia returns every defensive starter except lineman Garrison Smith and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, so the Bulldogs will have more new defensive faces on the sideline than in the huddle. The other new assistants are defensive line/weakside linebacker coach Tracy Rocker, inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler and Kevin Sherrer, who will oversee the strongside linebacker and the "star" position.

Richt said this week at a news conference that the Bulldogs will not show a lot of things defensively considering the first two teams on the 2014 schedule, Clemson and South Carolina, each went 11-2 last season.

"I think we'll line up and play some good, solid fundamental defense," Richt said. "Being the fact that it is Jeremy's first year as the coordinator, people will be looking at our spring game. People will try and get clues as far as what they can try to figure out. Clemson and South Carolina will get our spring games, and we will get their spring games.

"We're not going to try and trick anybody. We just want to see who can play defense."

Today's game could shed some light on the backup to fifth-year senior quarterback Hutson Mason. Redshirt sophomore Faton Bauta began this spring getting second-team repetitions, but redshirt freshman Brice Ramsey had a significantly busier second scrimmage last Saturday in throwing the ball.

Quarterback Jacob Park, the program's only early enrollee this year, will make his G-Day debut.

There is always some sense of pride at stake in spring games, and that could be very evident today when the first-team offense and first-team defense collide. The Bulldogs have set notable offensive records each of the past two seasons, while last year's defense set a dubious program standard by allowing 30 or more points eight times.

"They've been doing some talking on that side, but I think we'll have some good conversations during the game," Jenkins said. "They've definitely been talking these last couple of practices."

Georgia's athletic association is again teaming up with the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia during G-Day to host a canned food drive. Canned food donations will be accepted at Gates 2, 4, 6 and 9, and the goal today is 14,000 pounds.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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