Georgia ready to build on last year's impressive pass defense
When Georgia hired Jeremy Pruitt as its defensive coordinator prior to last season, the Bulldogs were getting a secondary ace. He came from Florida State, where he coached defensive backs on top of his DC role as the Seminoles won the 2013 national title. Before that, he’d coached DBs at Alabama, working with stars like Mark Barron, Dee Milliner and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as Alabama took home two national titles.
Upon Pruitt’s arrival at Georgia, he was faced with building up a defensive backfield that had suffered its share of losses. Three players had either transferred or were dismissed, leaving the Dawgs short on experience.
Despite some shakiness at times during the season, Georgia wound up having one of the stingiest pass defenses in the nation. The Bulldogs finished fifth in the country, allowing just 170.4 yards per game.
Things are a little different heading into the 2015 season. Damian Swann is off to the NFL, taking his 65 tackles and four interceptions with him. But the Bulldogs return the rest of their key players, with plenty of starting experience to build on last year’s impressive performance.
The expected starting group, which includes safeties Dominick Sanders and Quincy Mauger as well as cornerbacks Aaron Davis and Malkom Parrish, has plenty of experience. Sanders started all 13 games last year as a freshman, while Mauger has 14 career starts to his name. Davis made 10 starts as a redshirt freshman, and Parrish earned more playing time last year as the season wore on.
Despite returning so much experience in the back end of the defense, there’s still some work to be done. Both quarterbacks contending for the starting job picked the defense apart in the spring game, including two long touchdown passes from Brice Ramsey. Even with all the experience, the secondary knows it still has kinks to work out.
“On our back end, we had little mistakes here and there,” Sanders told OnlineAthens.com.
Even with those mistakes, Mark Richt sounds pleased with where his now second-year DC has the secondary.
“You can tell they’ve got a much greater understanding of what we’re trying to do, matching routes and things of that nature, being in the right leverage,” Richt said in the article linked above. “There’s a lot more guys that really understand what they’re doing this spring compared to a year ago.”
If Georgia’s secondary can match and improve upon last year’s performance, it could mean big things for a very talented defense. Georgia’s front seven is stacked; linebackers Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins both returned for their senior seasons, while Lorenzo Carter is primed to emerge as a pass rushing force. The Dawgs brought in a big haul along the defensive line, including one of the nation’s top recruits in defensive tackle Trent Thompson, and that group should make an impact early.
The back end of the defense will get a boost as well, giving the Bulldogs plenty of depth. Reggie Wilkerson is back from a torn ACL to play Pruitt’s Star, a nickel defensive back spot, as well as a handful of touted recruits coming in like four-star corner Rico McGraw and four-star safety Rashad Roundtree.
Even with the returning veterans, there should still be plenty of competition pushing the Bulldogs secondary, as well as Pruitt as a driving force. After rapid improvement last year, the Dawgs will aim even higher in 2015.