Bulldogs land stellar class despite defensive staff overhaul

Bulldogs land stellar class despite defensive staff overhaul

February 6th, 2014 by David Paschall in Sports - College

ATHENS, Ga. - Compiling a top-10 recruiting class is nothing new for Georgia.

Performing the feat after losing the entire defensive coaching staff, however, makes this year's touted class of signees a bit more appreciated. Georgia had not sustained an entire defensive coaching overhaul since Vince Dooley arrived in 1964, but that's where the Bulldogs found themselves last month with the departures of coordinator Todd Grantham as well as Scott Lakatos, Kirk Olivadotti and Chris Wilson.

Two days after Grantham's departure, Georgia head coach Mark Richt hired Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to the same position on his staff.

"When you have coaching changes, you lose some relationships with some of the recruits, but you gain some relationships, too," Richt said Wednesday. "One of the first things Jeremy did was look at all the commitments we had, and then he started looking at every recruit that was on the board. A lot of the guys on the defensive side of the ball didn't flinch.

"Some wondered who the next coach would be, and some didn't care who it was. It was nice to know we're that type of university."

Richt singled out defensive end Keyon Brown of Wauchula, Fla., as a commitment who expressed his trust in Richt and Georgia no matter who the defensive replacements were.

Unlike Grantham, who had spent more than a decade in the NFL before joining Georgia's staff after the 2009 season, Pruitt arrived with a background heavy in both high school football and in the Southeastern Conference. He was Alabama's secondary coach from 2010 to '12 before becoming Florida State's defensive coordinator.

So recruiting for the Bulldogs would not be much of an adjustment, especially within the Peach State.

"At Florida State and at Alabama, we all recruited Georgia heavily," Pruitt said, "as did Clemson, South Carolina, Auburn, Tennessee and Florida. The best high-school football is in the state of Georgia, hands-down to me, when you talk about the amount of athletes who sign Division I scholarships every year. We've got to do a great job of evaluating the talent, and if we can do that, we won't have to leave the state a whole lot."

Pruitt was named the nation's best recruiter by 247Sports.com for his efforts with Alabama's 2012 signing class. He led the Crimson Tide's drive for tailback T.J. Yeldon, but he said then that such recognition was a shared effort.

On Wednesday, Pruitt was quick to praise Richt for keeping this class together.

"When you recruit these kids, they should choose a school based on the school itself, based on the head coach and based obviously on getting a degree," Pruitt said. "Sometimes people get caught up in the assistant coaches, but to me, the most important thing is the school itself and the head football coach."

Richt since has hired Tracy Rocker and Kevin Sherrer to Pruitt's defensive staff and said the final defensive hire would be coming soon.

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