ATHENS — When Jeremy Pruitt was at Alabama, he helped convince tailback Derrick Henry to flip his commitment from Georgia to Alabama. That was then. Now Pruitt is Georgia’s defensive coordinator, so he was asked Tuesday:
Does he, uh, regret recruiting Henry?
“I regret recruiting a lot of them,” Pruitt said, smiling.
It’s been less than three years since Pruitt left Alabama, so the relationships and connections abound. He played there, coached there, and one of his mentors is Nick Saban, the head coach who earlier this year called Pruitt “one of the best assistants I’ve ever had.”
Pruitt, who hadn’t made a media appearance since Georgia’s season began, opted to make one this week. No use ducking the big storyline as his old program prepares to visit Saturday.
“When you stay in this business for awhile you develop friendships, and I’ve got a lot of friends on the staff there,” Pruitt said. “A lot of relationships I developed in recruiting, some of the guys are there. There’s good friends there, there’s guys that gave me opportunities that I’m very thankful for. But I’m not gonna be playing any plays. It’ll just be another game.”
Pruitt worked under Saban for six years: From 2007-09 as a staffer who helped in the weight room, academics, and player development, and then from 2010-12 as the defensive backs coach. Along the way he got three national championship rings.
Earlier this week Saban complimented Georgia’s defense, saying he saw a lot of similar characteristics to Alabama’s strong defenses of past years. Pruitt, not surprisingly, downplayed it and turned it back into a compliment of Saban.
“There’s not a whole lot of body of work. You’re talking about three or four games,” Pruitt said. “That’s the one thing coach that Saban’s teams have done, is they’ve done it over and over and over. And that’s what’s hard to do.”
Alabama has changed some offensively since he was there. Lane Kiffin is in his second year as the offensive coordinator. Pruitt had an interesting point about how the Crimson Tide look now: While they still have a lot of the zone reads, they also do run-pass options, use screen passes and get the quarterback on the perimeter for easier throws.
“To me it looks like they’re doing a little bit of things that hurt us in the past defensively when I coached there,” Pruitt said. “A little copy-cat plays.”
There’s another major connection between Pruitt and Alabama that actually didn’t occur while he was at Tuscaloosa. While at Florida State in 2013 he helped recruit quarterback Jake Coker, who ended up transferring to Alabama after losing the quarterback job to Jameis Winston.
The race between Coker and Winston was “tight,” Pruitt recalled.
“You probably don’t realize this: He was the Mobile basketball player of the year. I mean he is a really good athlete,” Pruitt said. “A really good competitor. Jake can make all the throws. All the throws.”
Coker has actually looked uneven so far this year for Alabama. It will be Pruitt’s job to make sure it stays that way, rather than looking like another five-star who Pruitt regrets signing.
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