ATHENS – Davin Bellamy was leading the charge eight days ago. He was among the many Georgia defensive players – and even some offensive – tweeting out “KEEP PRUITT.” He repeated it in person to media members as he left a team meeting the night of Mark Richt’s firing.
By Monday, however, there seemed a tone of resignation when it came to defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who seems unlikely to be on new head coach Kirby Smart’s staff.
“You always want some coaches to stay. You develop a relationship with people. But at the end of the day we know Georgia’s going to do what’s best for us,” Bellamy said. “This team knows that we didn’t have the season that we wanted to have this year. We’re just ready to lock in and go.”
Bellamy, a sophomore outside linebacker, was one of five Georgia players made available to the media following Smart’s introductory press conference. The only other defensive player was junior safety Quincy Mauger, who also had Pruitt as his secondary coach the past two years.
Mauger said he would support whatever decision was made on Pruitt “100 percent.” But he also made the case for continuity.
“We’ve grown the past two years, I can say from stats, from one of the worst secondaries to one of the top secondaries in the country,” Mauger said. “We’ve definitely progressed in the last couple years, and we’re just ready for the next step.”
Georgia finished the regular season with the nation’s top-ranked pass defense, and ninth-ranked defense overall, as judged by yards allowed.
“That’s out of our decision, who stays and who’s leaving,” Mauger said. “But we’re not really focused on that. We’re focused on the guys that are in the room. Player to player. We’ve just gotta stay focused on the bigger task, which is winning this last game and sending out the seniors with 40 wins, and staying focused.”
Georgia’s senior class would reach the 40-win mark for their careers with a Gator Bowl win over Penn State on Jan. 2.
But as they prepare for that bowl the Bulldogs will be working for coaches who may or may not be back, with their incoming head coach (Smart) still coaching at Alabama. Bellamy was asked why players would go as hard for coaches that may not be coming back?
“If someone says that then they’re not playing the game for the right reasons,” Bellamy said. “You go out there and you play hard every time you get a chance to play. Because it’s a blessing to be in that position. So I know this team is gonna go out there and we’re gonna play hard for the G first.”
And with Pruitt appearing to be on the way out, where does that leave the players who had pushed so hard for him to return?
“It leaves us chopping wood and trying to get back to work,” Bellamy said. “We all know that this is a business that we’re in, and certain things happen. But at the end of the day we’ve just gotta play football. We’ve gotta represent the G.”