As it turns out, Jeremy Pruitt becoming Georgia's defensive coordinator was a decade in the making.
At his introductory press conference in Athens on Wednesday, Pruitt recalled his first meeting with Bulldogs coach Mark Richt in 2003, when the then-high school coach in Fort Payne, Ala., brought some of his players to a camp at UGA.
“I had the opportunity to sit down with Coach Richt. That was the first time I ever met him, and when I walked out of that room 30 minutes later I was wowed,” Pruitt said. “My father looked at me and said, ‘That’s what college football is all about.’ I said right then and there if I ever had the opportunity to work for him that I wanted to be a part of his staff.”
Of course, it helped that Pruitt's close friend and college roommate at Alabama, Will Friend, is Georgia's offensive line coach. So over the course of one of their regular chit-chats, Friend naturally reached out to his friend -- whose suffocating Florida State defense just served as a leading factor in the Seminoles' BCS National Championship run -- when defensive coordinator Todd Grantham left Richt's staff to take the same position at Louisville.
Less than two days later, Pruitt became the newest member of the Georgia staff.
“This is the University of Georgia -- who wouldn’t be interested in this job?” Pruitt asked. “It’s absolutely one of the premier jobs in college football, and the opportunity to work with Coach Richt is something I just couldn’t turn down.”
Richt joked that divine intervention might have been a factor in such a quick hire. Whatever influenced the decision, Richt has hired a coach whose star quickly rose within the profession.
A former defensive back at Alabama, Pruitt coached the secondary for three seasons with Nick Saban's Crimson Tide and helped them claim back-to-back BCS titles in 2011 and 2012. He then moved to Florida State, where in his one season as defensive coordinator the Seminoles ranked first nationally in scoring defense (12.1 points per game) and third in total defense (281.4 yards per game) and won a national title.
Georgia will stick with its base 3-4 scheme, although Pruitt emphasized that the Bulldogs will be able to play multiple styles based on opponents' schemes. The main point he emphasized in his introductory meeting with the team was that he plans to keep things simple in order for the Bulldogs to play fast on defense.
“He also said that we’re going to be simple enough to where guys can go and play some football, and he said if we can’t execute it we’re not going to call it,” Richt said. “I think that gave those guys some peace that it won’t be rocket science and they’ll all be able to learn it well enough to play fast enough to prove what they can do.”
Pruitt will take over Scott Lakatos' position as defensive backs coach in addition to his role as defensive coordinator, leaving one spot on Georgia's coaching staff still unfilled: outside linebackers coach. Richt said he expects inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti and defensive line coach Chris Wilson to remain on staff.
He added that Pruitt should be able to hit the road recruiting on Thursday, attempting to hold onto the group of defensive verbal commitments the Bulldogs have already attracted and wrap up Georgia's recruiting class with national signing day only a few weeks away.
The message the new Georgia coach will impart seems clear.
“There’s no doubt that this is the best conference in the country, and I feel like the University of Georgia is the best school in the conference,” Pruitt said. “I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t think so.”