Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Jeremy Pruitt, a hearty welcome

Still a little in shock. Mostly because I doubted it could happen. But also because I just couldn't put together a scenario where Athens would be attractive as a lateral move. Just off a national championship season...heavyweight in the mostly meek ACC...2013 Broyles Award finalist. Versus, inheriting a new roster for the second time in as many years...going against SEC teams loaded with future NFL arms and legs.

The wife (like myself) was still trying to wrap her mind around it late last night. It wasn't about money. And Pruitt isn't running from a bad situation professionally. He just wanted to be here. Perhaps a lot of that had to do with his old teammate Will Friend. Perhaps it's just like ol' Joe Waterloo reminded me - Athens is just better than anywhere else.

Regardless, I wanted to look at what we have in place now. As well as some of the questions that linger. But before we dive into that, here are some stats I pulled that likely made Pruitt pretty attractive to Richt from the get-go:
Opponents' pass efficiency - Georgia, 84th ... FSU 2nd
Turnovers - Georgia, 109th with 15 ... FSU 2nd with 35
Redzone defense - Georgia 86th ... FSU 24th
3rd down defense - Georgia 66th ... FSU 10th
Tackles for loss - Georgia 50th ... FSU 22nd
Sacks - Georgia 28th ... FSU 30th

Florida State's talent aside, pretty staggering considering that was with his first coordinating gig. It also speaks to Pruitt's willingness to embrace a challenge.

Now some thoughts and questions.
  • What happens to Olivadotti and Wilson, the lone defensive staff holdovers from Grantham's regime. Wilson's name has been out there since Sunday's news and Olivadotti has only stated that he wasn't moving to Louisville. We will certainly get some clues, if not outright answers, at Pruitt's first press conference this morning.
  • I'd like to see both retained. I'd also like to see Pruitt work closely with the defensive backs. Will be interesting to see how the staff is structured.
  • And that brings us to the base defense. I mentioned earlier this week that I wasn't concerned about moving back to a base 4-3 if necessary. But Pruitt obviously has been groomed from Saban's defense just as Grantham had. Yet another reason this was such a great fit for both parties.
  • The recruiting angle is worth noting as well. Three weeks before signing day (and the window for communication reopening tomorrow) makes the swiftness of the hire important. I'm not the one to delve into recruiting much, but the early temperature check from both current targets and commitments has been from good to outstanding.
  • The guy held Clemson to 14 points! On the road!
  • And the national championship game is one I wish I had recorded. My two takeaways from that game now, in hindsight, is that Malzahn had Pruitt's number early on. But after halftime was a much different story.
  • As Scarbinsky mentions, Famous Jameis made the winning throws at the end, but the Seminole defense made those throws meaningful. Auburn's third down offensive stats - two first downs off of 45 yards and 12 plays.
I'll close with a snippet from that same piece:
Pruitt gets it, though sometimes you have to listen carefully to appreciate it. During a media appearance before the BCS Championship Game, he was asked about Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall's improvement throughout the season in running the read option, especially in deciding whether to keep the ball or hand it off.
Pruitt said he believed a good number of those plays weren't true reads but were preordained calls. That's the kind of attention to detail that matters in a coordinator.
It may feel like I'm putting too much emphasis on one common opponent. But I think the point is important here. Auburn only scored seven more points against Georgia than they did FSU. But in the end the Seminoles did enough to win. And that's what it's all about.