If there is one dominant theme through the early stages of Georgia's spring football practices, it's that the defense seems a lot more comfortable in the second year under coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
"It's a lot different," senior defensive tackle James DeLoach said. "You basically know what's going on this year, so you can fly around and have more fun. I think we're off to a good start, and we're working with the young guys, trying to teach them what they need to do."
The Bulldogs held their third of 15 practices Saturday, donning shoulder pads for the first time, and more than 150 former players attended. Practice will resume Tuesday.
Georgia must replace nose tackle Mike Thornton, defensive end Ray Drew, inside linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson and cornerback Damian Swann from the 2014 team, but there are plenty of familiar faces back. DeLoach has played in 25 career games but has yet to crack the starting lineup.
Returning defenders with starting experience include Sterling Bailey, Toby Johnson and Josh Dawson up front; Leonard Floyd, Jordan Jenkins and Lorenzo Carter at outside linebacker; and Dominick Sanders, Aaron Davis, Quincy Mauger and Devin Bowman in the secondary.
The defensive staff of Pruitt, Tracy Rocker, Kevin Sherrer and Mike Ekeler returned intact, but head coach Mark Richt believes this is still a time for fundamentals despite the familiarity.
"I don't think Coach Pruitt is looking to dial up a bunch of defenses and a bunch of blitzes and a bunch of stunts," Richt said. "I think he's really wanting to line them up and see who's tough and who can tackle and who can play ball for us. That's not to say we won't do multiple coverages and looks and things of that nature, but the goal is going to be lining up and seeing who is physically tough."
Georgia's defense is facing an offense looking to develop a new center, a new quarterback and several reliable receivers under new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
"The offensive players are just now getting a feel for it." DeLoach said. "I think they felt like we did last year."
Closing in on No. 2
Richt will enter his 15th season with a record of 136-48, with his victories ranking third in school history. Vince Dooley is Georgia's all-time wins leader with his 201-77-10 mark in 25 seasons from 1964 to 1988, while Wally Butts is second with a 140-86-9 record in 22 seasons from 1939 to 1960.
Should Georgia open its 2015 season with victories over Louisiana-Monroe, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Southern, Richt would get a first crack at moving into second on Georgia's coaching chart against visiting Alabama on Oct. 3.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.