ATHENS — Jeremy Pruitt spoke up about Georgia’s facilities when he was on staff with the Bulldogs, and on Monday night he explained why the school is at another disadvantage with its scheduling model.
Pruitt, who is taking a year off from coaching after leaving the New York Giants, talked Monday about how Kirby Smart gives the Bulldogs a winning edge like few other programs.
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Pruitt, like Smart, has a uniquely qualified perspective to understand the Georgia program’s strengths and weaknesses having coached for the Bulldogs as well as rival programs.
That’s why Pruitt can explain why playing a designated home game 340 miles away in Jacksonville could be costing Georgia even more elite players.
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“I do know that just from a recruiting standpoint if I’m one of the top players in the country …. (Florida) is going to be a game that’s going to draw some of the best players in the country,” Pruitt said of the Georgia-Florida rivalry.
“These prospects are going to choose the games and decide what game do I want to go see Georgia play? What game do I want to see Alabama, maybe Clemson, LSU, whoever?”
This season is an example: The Bulldogs have only three SEC games in Athens: Auburn, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
The other games in Athens — Samford, Kent State and Georgia Tech — aren’t likely to attract elite recruits, either.
“That (Florida game) may be the only time that maybe if it’s a Georgia home game that they possibly could get one of the best players in the country on their campus to see what a game-day atmosphere is in Athens,” Pruitt said.
“And let me tell you from experience, Athens is one of the premier places in the country when it comes to hosting a college football game. So you want the top players to experience that.”
Smart reiterated last fall the Bulldogs sacrifice a lot by giving up what would be a marquee SEC home game at Sanford Stadium.
Some Georgia fans and even local recruiting analysts have suggested Georgia is so good it doesn’t need to be on a level playing field with Alabama and Clemson to recruit.
But Smart has pointed out for years that is flawed logic.
“We don’t look at things from the scope of, well we had the No. 3 or No. 2 or No. 6 or No. 10 recruiting class, that doesn’t matter,” Smart said. “How do we improve at recruiting? Getting opportunities to present, to put your best foot forward, to have people into your home.
“We’re trying to figure out how to get better, and the best way to get better is to have opportunities to present in front of those kids.”
There’s no interest in Georgia bringing recruits to the game in Jacksonville because there’s no time for the coaches or players to visit with them, and those recruits aren’t going to drive 340 miles to visit the UGA campus or facilities that weekend.
Some recruits who attend the game, may, however, drive 69 miles to Gainesville to the Florida campus.
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Second-year UGA athletic director Josh Brooks said at the SEC Spring Meetings the school is considering extending the current contract, which runs through 2023.
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Georgia President Jere Morehead, through his work with the NCAA board of governors and board of directors, has a much clearer understanding of what Smart is up against with the NIL now part of the process, too.
If Morehead and Brooks decide it’s in the football program’s best interest bring the Bulldogs’ home game with Florida back into the state of Georgia, this could be the last time UGA plays fewer home games than other SEC teams.
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Florida has indicated it will continue to play its games with Georgia in Jacksonville regardless of what the Bulldogs decide to do with their home game.
This isn’t the first time Pruitt has spoken out on the competitive interests of the Georgia football program.
Pruitt called attention to the Bulldogs’ major disadvantage with facilities while serving as an assistant to Mark Richt.
Pruitt knew from his time at Alabama and Florida State that poor facilities were used against Georgia in recruiting.
“What they (recruits) say is, ‘how important is football at Georgia because they don’t have an indoor practice facility,’” Pruitt said in 2014.
“As a football player, you aren’t going to get better if you aren’t practicing every day and bowl practice and offseason and all that.”
Pruitt said he realizes now he shouldn’t have spoken out of turn, but as a member of the Georgia staff he was eager for the Bulldogs to get on equal footing.
“I was just speaking from the heart and from the experience of recruiting against Georgia, and Kirby knows because he recruited against Georgia and we talked about it when we worked at Alabama,” Pruitt said.
“But man, what facilities they have now, and from my understanding, they have built another piece and they are starting another.”
Indeed, Georgia has added more than $170 million in facilities in Smart was hired as head coach in 2016 and recently announced plans for a $68.5 million addition.
“They have done a fantastic job and Kirby is going to continue to do that,” Pruitt said, “because he knows it takes really good facilities, and that the best players want to play for the best coaches and the people who have the best stuff.”