ATHENS — The trade is official: Jeremy Pruitt to Alabama, Kirby Smart to Georgia.
But Alabama gets its guy right away, while Georgia has to wait, at least on a full-time basis.
Pruitt was announced Friday as Alabama’s new defensive coordinator, replacing Smart, who was announced five days ago as Georgia’s new head coach. Pruitt had been the defensive coordinator at Georgia the past two years.
Pruitt’s move is immediate, a Georgia team spokesman confirmed, meaning he will not coach Georgia’s defense in the Taxslayer Bowl. There was no word yet on who will serve in the role for the game, though outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer was South Alabama’s defensive coordinator in 2013, so he would seem the most likely candidate.
Pruitt is expected to begin recruiting for Alabama immediately, and could even serve in an advisory role during practice and the coming playoffs.
Smart has said he will stay with Alabama through the playoff, and there have been no indications that the hiring of Pruitt would change that. The Crimson Tide would be taking a big risk in turning the defense over to someone who hasn’t been with the team this season.
Glenn Schumann, hired earlier this week to Smart’s new Georgia staff in an undefined role, would be a candidate to coach Georgia’s secondary in the bowl. But graduate assistant George Helow has also worked closely with the defensive backs this year.
“We are excited to announce that Jeremy Pruitt has rejoined our staff at Alabama as defensive coordinator,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said in a statement. “He did an outstanding job in the six years he was with us and did the same at Florida State and Georgia after that. Jeremy is obviously an excellent defensive coach, and also does a great job in terms of recruiting and developing relationships with players. We’re pleased and happy to have Jeremy and his family back in Tuscaloosa.”
Those familiar with the situation said Pruitt was ready to return to Georgia, but was not being retained by Smart. A return to Alabama is a wonderful fallback option, as he played there in the mid-1990s and coached there from 2007-12.
“This is a special opportunity for me to come back to the University of Alabama,” Pruitt said in a statement. “Growing up in the state and having played and coached here, I have a great appreciation for Alabama football. Coach Saban’s success speaks for itself and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the chance he gave me to join his staff back in 2007. We are excited to get back to Tuscaloosa and be a part of one of the outstanding programs in college athletics.”