Highly-touted defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt had high expectations thrusted upon him when he was named Georgia’s defensive coordinator this past offseason.

Despite the talent of both Pruitt and his players, it wasn’t always a great performance out of the defense, who seemed to struggle against inferior teams at times during the season. But there is still room for plenty of optimism moving forward.

Here are the five biggest takeaways from Pruitt’s first year at Georgia.

  • Run defense can be inconsistent — For much of the season, Georgia’s run defense was one of the best in the SEC. But it was the Bulldogs’ pesky matchup against Florida that turned the tide for the run defense. After surrendering 418 rushing yards to the Gators, Georgia failed to recuperate in stopping the run. Kentucky and Georgia Tech both added their own big rushing performances (214 and 399 rushing yards, respectively) to close out some of the final weeks of Georgia’s season. With how many great rushing teams are in the SEC, stopping the run is crucial to any team’s success in conference play and Georgia will need to improve in this area for 2015.
  • Georgia showed flashes of greatness — There were plenty of times Georgia wasn’t perfect on defense, but there were also some games that really caught your attention. One of Pruitt’s most impressive coaching performances was against Auburn on Nov. 15. Regarded as one of the best offenses in college football, Auburn was surprisingly shut down by Georgia. Pruitt’s game plan was impeccable and UGA limited Auburn to just 292 yards of total offense and seven points. It was the worst offensive showing in the Gus Malzahn era at Auburn, further crediting Pruitt’s outstanding coaching ability. With a number of young playmakers throughout the defense, it was on Nov. 15 where we saw just how good a Pruitt-led UGA defense could be when everything goes right.
  • Pruitt’s not afraid to switch things up — In all 12 of Georgia’s regular season games, Pruitt put out 12 different starting lineups on defense. And considering the success the Bulldogs had this season, that’s an impressive feat to do that with new a new combination of starters every week. From a strategic standpoint, it also can benefit UGA in the sense that opponents won’t quite know what to expect when they take the field against the Bulldogs.
  • Forcing turnovers no longer a struggle — Perhaps the biggest weakness of Georgia’s defense in 2013 was the lack of turnovers forced. The Bulldogs were second-worst in the SEC with just 15 forced turnovers. Under Pruitt, that number changed dramatically with UGA forcing 26 turnovers in 2014 — a number only surpassed by Ole Miss and Georgia. The ‘Dawgs ability to force turnovers also led to the SEC’s best turnover-margin at plus-15.
  • The future looks bright — Georgia will withstand some tough losses on defense this offseason, but the future looks bright under Pruitt’s leadership. True freshman Lorenzo Carter displayed flashes of greatness when given the playing time, specifically against Kentucky. As a whole, the unit started seven non-seniors in Georgia’s final regular season game and four of them were freshmen. As this defense continues to practice and gain more experience, the ‘Dawgs will likely develop into one of the conference’s top defenses before too long.