SEC Notebook: UGA gets defensive


Georgia coach Mark Richt fields questions at SEC Media Days on Thursday.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 3:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 3:49 p.m.

HOOVER, Ala. — Usually strong on offense, the Georgia Bulldogs are hoping their defensive problems from a year ago will be solved by new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and an entirely new defensive staff.

Pruitt won a national championship at Florida State last season. The other new members of the staff — Mike Ekeler (inside linebackers), Kevin Sherrer (outside linebackers) and Tracy Rocker (defensive line) — also have been on national title teams.

“Coach Pruitt, he's a proven coach,” UGA coach Mark Richt said Thursday at SEC Media Days. “He's won everywhere he's been. Not only Coach Pruitt, but the rest of our staff. We have brand-new coaches all the way across the board.

“They know how to take a kid from ground zero. They know how to teach fundamentals extremely well. They've all been on college teams that have won national championships. There's a lot of credibility as they come in.

“These guys know what it looks like to win big, and they've put in a system of how we're going to go about our business. The guys are responding well to that. There's a lot of accountability that goes along with it as well.”

Ekeler won a national championship at LSU, Sherrer at Alabama and Rocker at Auburn. Pruitt was on national championship staffs at both Florida State and Alabama, where he was the secondary coach before joining the Seminoles before the 2013 season.

Saban's lifetime allegiance

Saban said those rumors that he was offered the Texas job earlier this year are not true, and that he has no plans to leave Alabama. Ever.

“Nobody offered me anything,” Saban said. “I'm very happy at Alabama. Miss Terry (his wife) is very happy at Alabama. We certainly enjoy the challenges that we have there, the friends that we have established there.

“This is where we just choose to, you know, end our career someday.”

Not Coker's job yet

Although many have already penciled in Jacob Coker as Alabama's starting quarterback, the FSU transfer still has a lot of work to do to earn the job, Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

“That's not internally the perception by me, our staff or our players (that Coker is the starter),” Saban said. “Jake has the opportunity to come in and compete for the position. Blake Sims has been competing for the position.

“There's going to be a competition there. We really can't make that decision or prediction as to what's going to happen at that position.”

ESPN car wash

SEC coaches will participate in ESPN's annual “car wash” – in which guests appear across multiple programs and platforms – on Monday and Tuesday. UF coach Will Muschamp is scheduled to visit the ESPN campus in Bristol, Conn., on Tuesday.

Gurley stiff-arms Heisman

There's a lot of Heisman Trophy talk swirling around Georgia tailback Todd Gurley, but he doesn't seem to be paying much attention to it.

“I'm not really big on it,” he said. “People say it a lot, but it's not the thing I'm going after. I feel like the Heisman is a team award. You could be a great player, but if your team's not winning, you're not going to get the award.

“It would be great to win it, but I'm just happy to play the game of football. I don't do it for all the awards.”

Tough start for 'Dogs

The Bulldogs should know early how their season is going to set up.

They open with Clemson at home, then travel to South Carolina following a bye week.

“We lost to Clemson last year. We have a chance to redeem ourselves,” Gurley said. “They get to come to Athens, so people are really going to be pumped up about that. Then we go to South Carolina, and that's always a good game.

“That game is always for bragging rights because a lot of guys from Georgia are on the South Carolina team. The whole state of Georgia and the state of South Carolina get excited for that. To win those two games against that state would be good for us.”

'Dogs visit Hogs

Going into his 14th season at Georgia, Richt is the SEC's most tenured coach. But he will be making his first trip to Fayetteville this fall.

“I'm excited about it,” he said. “I really don't know what to expect. I don't know enough about it. I know it's a special place for Arkansas to play a game. I'm glad to experience one more thing.

“The only team I guess now that I've not played as a coach at Georgia would be Texas A&M, and it's going to be a little while before that happens.”

Rebels ready to rock?

Many are predicting that Ole Miss is a legitimate dark-horse contender in the powerful Western Division. Senior Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace seems comfortable with that.

“We are confident that we can get into late games with those teams (Alabama, Auburn, LSU),” said Wallace, the top returning QB in the SEC. “That is our goal, to get late into the fourth quarter and see what happens.

“We are a dark horse and we know that we're working every day to try and win an SEC championship.”

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze was asked if he feels his program is on schedule heading into his third season.

“To be very candid, I think the journey that we've been on, I think it's faster than I thought possible,” Freeze said. “I said on day one that my expectations were to make Ole Miss very relevant in the West, and I think this year we should be that. My expectation is we should be competitive in every single game.

“There's no question in my mind we're a better football team today than we were in year one and year two, and we should be very competitive.”

Daddy's girl?

Freeze said his 15-year-old daughter Ragan keeps a ranking of the SEC coaches. Her favorite, however, is not her father.

“If you're at any of our games viewing her an hour before game time, she's at midfield trying to find the other head coach,” Freeze said. “I don't know if I'll give you the whole ranking. But No. 1 in her book is (Les) Miles.

“In Baton Rouge (two years ago), he spent 10 minutes talking with her. Then last year when (the Tigers) came to our place, she was out there without me talking to him. To her, that's her favorite.”

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Freeze played golf with Steve Spurrier and Auburn coach Gus Malzahn at the SEC spring meetings, and Freeze said he lost a bet to Spurrier.

“My hair is quite shorter than normal today. Spurrier takes credit for that,” Freeze said. “If he won our match, come to Media Days, you had to buzz cut your hair. That's why my hair is so short today.

“Really, there is some truth to that and there's another story behind it, too. But we'll give Spurrier the credit for that.”

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