Q&A WITH GEORGIA’S JEREMY PRUITT
ATHENS — Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt asked for video cameras to be turned off before he addressed the media after the Bulldogs’ practice Tuesday evening. It wasn’t that he was camera shy. He said he hadn’t had a chance to shave and was a little under the weather with cold and cough.
As it was, cameras weren’t needed for Pruitt’s points to come through crystal clear. The only disappointment in not having them there is his words are best appreciated delivered in his slow, deep, Alabama-honed Southern drawl.
Pruitt let it be known that he was not upset with the Bulldogs’ defense in terms of its effort against South Carolina or its attitude since the 38-35 loss in Columbia this past Saturday.
“The first thing is the guys played really hard,” Pruitt said. “They didn’t quit. They didn’t give up. It’s like I said the week before, it’s never as good as you think it is and it’s also not as bad as you think it is. It’s somewhere in between. And that’s where we are, somewhere in between.”
Pruitt the first thing he did Sunday morning was to head to the training room at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall.
“I wanted to see if we had the loser’s limp,” he said. “And we ain’t got it. Our guys were out there ready to go to practice and I’m proud to see that.”
No, Pruitt pretty much fell on the sword when it came to assigning blame for the loss. It was his defense that gave up 447 yards and 27 first downs to the Gamecocks and he’s the one responsible for making sure that doesn’t happen.
“I felt like there was probably 10 or 15 plays throughout the game where I put them in a situation where they didn’t have a chance to be successful, and that’s my fault,” he said. “I’ve got to do a better job with that. Now, our guys, they tried to play the plan. But we’ve really got to get where we can execute the details of the plan. That’s where we’ve got to really improve.”
As for all the heat that offensive coordinator Mike Bobo has been taking in the wake of the defeat, Pruitt was pretty much incredulous upon hearing that.
“Why? Why?” he said of criticism directed toward Bobo. “They ought to be raking me over the coals. You score 35 points, you’re supposed to win. My gosh! We’re all in this deal together. The bottom line is it’s all of us together. We don’t care if we win 110 to 107 or we win one to nothing. We just want to win. All right? That’s the bottom line. We’re all in it together. But I can tell you this: It’s really embarrassing for me to be a part of a team that scores 35 points and you lose the football game. That’s embarrassing. And I’ll be the first to say, I’ve got to do my part on this side of the field. That won’t happen again.”
Pruitt wasn’t available to be interviewed in the immediate aftermath of Saturday’s loss. But here’s his answers to some of the questions he fielded Tuesday night after a long, hard practice:
Q: What did you learn about your defense on Saturday?
A: “There’s a lot of lessons to be learned. In a game that tight, there are a ton of plays that could’ve gone either way and anybody on our team probably had a chance to be the difference in that game. … I’ve been really encouraged by the way our guys have come back, looked each other in the eye and went back to work. That’s one of the most encouraging things I’ve seen out of the group in a while.”
Q: What specifically would you like to do differently?
A: ” You always go back and say, hey, if you could do it again what would you do differently. Looking back, you’ve got to give South Carolina and Coach Spurrier credit for the way those guys played. They protected, they threw the ball well, they ran the ball well, too. So not to take anything away from those guys; they did a tremendous job. But I just felt like if I would have put our guys and a little bit better situation they would have had a chance to be more successful. Just some bad calls on my part. Just bad calls.”
Q: What’s the biggest area of concern coming out of that game?
A: “Our number one goal as a defense is we want to win. We want to win the game. But you sit there and you look at what our offense did to keep us in that football game, drive after drive, was phenomenal on their part. If score 35 points and you don’t win, then you’re not doing your job. I though our offense did a phenomenal job the way they fought through that game was outstanding.
Q: What can you say about matching wits with Steve Spurrier?
A: “He knows when he gets a look what he wants to do with the ball. He does a nice job of mixing up the run and pass. One thing everybody overlooks is how physical his teams are. They’re extremely physical. But he does a nice job knowing who his play-makers are and knowing when and where to get them the ball during the course of the game.”
Q: It appeared you guys mostly played a deep zone in the secondary. In retrospect, should you have played more man or a tighter or zone or simply just gotten more pressure on the quarterback?
A: “I would say we wouldn’t call the game much different. We didn’t play very good on second-and-long. Second-and-long we played very poorly in this game. We just didn’t execute very well at times. We had them a couple of times in some second-and-13s, second-and-eights-or-nines. When you look at the drive chart and you’re playing against a good team, they’d gain three or two or minus-one, and then it’s 22. There were a few times in there we had missed tackles, a few times. But not as many as you’d think. In the course of the game, we only had one bust in the secondary. Really only one. That was the second play of the game. That was the only true mental error we had in the game.
Q: Being at FSU last year and Alabama the two years before that, you haven’t lost many games in recent years. How did you deal with that?
A: “A lot of times you learn more in a loss than you do in a win. I can tell you this: The losses that I’ve been a part of over the last few years there have been a lot of lessons to be learned. A lot of times it’s the same message; it’s just different teams. So hopefully we can respond and do things the right way and learn from it. Sometimes you’ve kind of have to have your nose kind of rubbed in it a bit to get the picture. Maybe we’ll execute at a little higher level, maybe I’ll call a little better game, so they’ll be in position where they can execute it.
Q: It seemed you generally substituted less in this game. Is that true?
A: “That’s a mistake on our part. Going into the game we expected to play the exact same way. We got away from it a little bit. We’re going to get back to it because we feel like we’ve got guys who deserve to play.”
Q: What kind of impact do you expect to get from the return of outside linebacker Davin Bellamy (suspended first two games)?
A: “He’s never played here. He’s a redshirt freshman. But I think he was the scout team player of the year last year for the entire year. Since we’ve been here, the guys’ got a high motor, he likes the game, plays really hard. If he goes out there he’ll be like a deer in the headlights. It’ll be his first time playing. So, yeah, he’ll play. But it’ll be his first game, not his third game.”
Q: To what do you owe the lack of pressure and/or production from your edge rushers?
A: “Well, you’ve got to give South Carolina credit because they’ve got two pretty good tackles. Second of all, they played with some tight ends and kept them in on the edge some. They mixed up their protections and chipped a little bit with running backs. So those guys have got to learn from it. You know, when you have success like Leonard had the first week of the year and last year a little bit, that’s what people do to guys that can rush the quarterback. They have a plan for them. And the guy that was calling the plays for them (Spurrier), he’s one of the best in the business. He had a plan for them.