Q&A WITH GEORGIA’S JEREMY PRUITT
Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt finally talked to reporters after Tuesday’s practice. This is significant because the Bulldogs’ first-year defensive chief hadn’t “met the press” since Aug. 15 and didn’t stick around after the Bulldogs’ 45-21 win over Clemson to talk about the game this past Saturday. He wanted to meet instead with recruits.
So not knowing if and when we might get the Georgia’s mercurial assistant coach again, I thought I’d just share the entire exchange I had with him (before peeling off to talk to some other coaches) during that interview opportunity.
So here it is. Let me know your thoughts afterward. …
Q: One would assume you were not so happy with the first half on Saturday and pretty pleased with the defense’s play in the second half. Obviously there were some adjustments in between. What was the difference in the way the defense played in the two halves?
A: Well, I would say the biggest thing is you usually don’t play as good as you think you do and you don’t play as bad as you think you do. That’s probably the way it was in the first half. We probably didn’t play as bad as it appeared. We didn’t make some plays; Clemson did and you’ve got to give them credit. In the second half, we probably didn’t play as good as you think we did. Some of it is just the way the ball bounces. But I did think we played with effort the entire game.
Q: Players say your philosophy is to play fast, think later. Is that true?
A: I think you’ve got to be able to play fast. If you don’t play fast you ain’t got a chance. We’ve tried to keep it simple for our guys. We’ve had to in fall camp trying to figure out who the best players are and just to give the young guys a chance. So we’re not playing who knows the most; we’re actually playing the guys who made the most plays during camp.”
Q: Did you think the defense played well its first time out?
A: Well, you know, when you grade tape you grade based off technique, production and effort. One thing I felt like we did do is we played with good effort. We had some mental energy and that was throughout the game. Now our execution wasn’t exactly where we needed it to be the whole time. Some of that had to do with Clemson. But for the first game it’s a starting point and we’ve got to continue to progress and get better every day.”
Q: It seemed like your front seven played particularly well in the second half and helped cover up some of the secondary’s deficiencies. Is that accurate?
A: The way the game goes, a lot of it is about third down and getting off the field on third down and in the first half we didn’t get off the field on third down, so it extended drives. The second half we did. I would say that was the biggest thing. But if you look at the third downs in the second half, on first and second down we put them in some little longer yardages. In the first half there were several third and ones and third and twos.
Q: A lot of players played in a lot of different places in the secondary. Have you settled on who’s going to playing where?
A: I think we know who we need to coach and our players know we need to get better. We need to get better in a hurry. We’ve got a long ways to go. Our guys understand that. Watching the film, they saw the mistakes we made in the game, which was a lot. Some of them were technical, some of them were mental. You can’t win games just by playing tough and playing with effort. You’ve got to be able to think. When teams are presenting multiples, you’ve got to be able to handle it. There were a lot of lessons to be learned from Saturday.
Q. Did that second half give you some positives to build on?
A: I don’t think you can be results-oriented. You’ve got to look and see exactly how you played in the game and I think our guys are starting to understand that. I mean, the tape don’t lie. There were a couple of times you can see on tape there are guys running open. Some of the guys were winning up front so the quarterback didn’t get the ball off. There were times on the back end that somebody guarded their guy really well but we didn’t have the right pass rush lanes and the guy scrambled. It takes 11 folks doing the right stuff all the time and our guys are understanding that. We’ve just got to pay attention to detail and continue to work hard every day to get better.”
Q: You substituted a lot on Saturday. Is that the way it’s going to be all year or was it just a response to the heat and humidity that day and the style of play of the opponent you were facing?
A: I think there are a lot of guys that deserve a chance to play on our football team. Some of it has to do with it’s not clear-cut who the best guys are. You know, we said when fall camp started if we feel like we’ve got 11 guys that deserve to play, we’ll play 11; if we’ve got 18, we’ll play 18. I don’t know how many we played the other night but we played the ones we felt like were ready to play.”
Q: Speaking of that, Shattle Fenteng and Malkom Parrish are two first-year defensive backs that we projected would likely play. It looked like they didn’t play at all. Was that the case and, if so, why?
A: They weren’t ready to play. If they were ready I would’ve played them. … They’ve been hurt some in fall camp, and some guys played that weren’t ready to play. You can say that, too. But those guys are working hard. Malkom is a true freshman, and true freshmen aren’t supposed to play. Shattle got here in the middle of July and he hurt his shoulder in camp. He probably in the first 28 days of camps he might not have practiced but six or seven times because of his injury. So it’s not fair to put him out there when he’s not ready. … It’s kind of new for us. We’ve got a lot of younger guys and we moved some folks around from spring to fall. Then you have injuries in fall camp. You’ve got to make decisions and see in practice. We’re practicing guys in different spots, just trying to find the right combinations. But when it gets game week, we’ve kind of have to pick a lane and say, ‘OK, we’ve got to train these guys this way.’
Q: One true freshman who played a lot was nickelback Dominick Sanders. When did you know he was a guy who needed to play right away?
A: Probably the first day we put pads on. He’s kind of wired 220. You don’t have to get him going; he’s going when he hits the field. Now is he always right? No. Should he be playing as a true freshman? Probably not. But right now he’s one of our better players and we’ve just got to keep coaching him up and he’s got to keep working hard every day to get better.
Q: Do you like the timing of the bye week or would you rather jump right into another game against another opponent?
A: I like it; I like it. It’s the same thing that happened last year when I was at Florida State. We played Pittsburgh the first week (then were off). Usually in football you improve the most from the first to second game. I like having the bye week because, for us, in a new system, it gives us an opportunity to go back and make a lot of corrections and get back kind of to the fundamentals. They can see themselves and where we’re at and where we’ve got to go, which is a long way.”
Q: Linebacker Amarlo Herrera was named the SEC’s defensive player of the week after recording 12 tackles and two sacks. Did he grade out as high for you as it would appear?
A: The way football games go on defense, some weeks you may get an opportunity to make a lot of plays. The plays may present themselves to you. The next week you may be playing the same position and you hardly ever get the same opportunities. That’s just kind of the way the game works. He had the opportunity to make some plays and he made them. But we had some other guys that I thought played pretty good on the inside. I thought Reggie Carter played well on the snaps he played. I thought (Tim) Kimbrough played well. I felt like Ramik Wilson played like a guy that hadn’t practiced for two weeks, and he knows that. I think he’ll play better when he gets in better condition so he can play at a high level all the time.”
Q: How did you feel the secondary did?
A: We didn’t have many mental errors back there. We weren’t cutting people loose. They did a really nice job communicating considering they’ve played in a bunch of different combinations since I’ve been here. The guys have really good attitudes. They’re working hard. We still have a long ways to go. Basically all we’ve done is we’ve guaranteed that we can go 1-11. That’s all we’ve done.
Q: Do you expect Saturday’s outcome to help with confidence going forward?
A: To me, if you’re going to play this game you better have confidence. You better have confidence in yourself and in the people around you. At the same time you’ve got to be realistic. I mean, we’ve played one football game. I hope our expectations here are to win and dominate our opponents each and every week. I hope that’s the expectation here at Georgia. I mean, if you look at it, we’re all excited because we won a game. It’s one football game. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”