ATLANTA — Jeremy Pruitt made clear that he wants to come back to Georgia, as does “our whole staff.” Georgia’s players wondered why it wasn’t Paul Johnson rather than Mark Richt on the hot seat.
Yes, Georgia capped off a nine-win regular season by beating its in-state rival Georgia Tech, 13-7. But with Richt’s bosses still not clarifying his status going forward – either because they didn’t think there was anything to say, or something else – it was still a heavy topic in media questioning after the game.
Pruitt, the second-year defensive coordinator who until this year was media shy, made himself available to the media afterwards yet again. Pruitt usually didn’t come to postgame media sessions unless his defense struggled, but on Saturday his unit once again carried the day, holding Georgia Tech to one late touchdown and 276 total yards.
Pruitt’s recruiting and the performance of his defense make him a hot commodity, but his strong personality – and Richt’s uncertain situation – has put Pruitt’s status in doubt as well. He was asked to what extent he and the staff had clarify on their status going forward.
“I want to be at Georgia and I think our whole staff wants to be at Georgia, so I hope that’s clarity enough,” Pruitt said.
Has he gotten any clarity from the decision-makers?
“No, I’m just a peon,” Pruitt said. “They don’t come to me about that. They just want me to stop them.”
Pruitt said his plan was to hit the recruiting trail on Sunday, just as Richt would say a few minutes later in his postgame press conference. Georgia has the nation’s fourth-ranked class right now, per the 247SportsComposite rankings of committed players.
“We’ve got a chance to bring in a really good class to go along with what we have here,” Pruitt said. “So that’s what I’m concerned with.”
Did he think he and his staff had definitely earned the right to another season?
“That’s not my decision,” Pruitt said. “What do you think?”
This reporter replied that he didn’t matter.
“I don’t either,” Pruitt said.
Neither do the players, presumably, but a few also made their feelings clear.
Senior linebacker Jordan Jenkins said he and the players “didn’t really think much about that at all,” and in fact thought the wrong coach was under fire.
“We figured that coach Johnson was in more under pressure than any of the other coaches were,” Jenkins said of Georgia Tech’s coach, whose team finished the season 3-9. “We weren’t worried about anything with our program at all. …
“We really haven’t been thinking about that all season or even leading up to this week. We saw the coaching situation at other staffs. We were thinking about the Les Miles thing and all the coaches left. We weren’t thinking about our coach at all.”
Jenkins acted as if he didn’t expect a change at the top.
“Coach Richt will probably live out his contract and whatever happens after that is up to the program and coach Richt,” Jenkins said.
Receiver Malcolm Mitchell, when asked for his feelings on Richt’s status, talked about his coach as a person.
“Coach Richt is one of the best men I ever met,” said Mitchell, a fifth-year senior who tore his ACL two years ago. “Personally he supported me throughout my time as an adolescent when I first got here through injury, and he watched me develop as a man. He’s by far one of the best people I know, as a coach and a person. So that’s how I feel about him.”