The complete makeover of Georgia’s defensive coaching staff came at a critical time during the recruiting process. But even though defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt started his new job in Athens just three weeks before National Signing Day, there seemed to be little or no negative impact on the Bulldogs.
“Well when you have coaching changes, you lose some relationships with some of the recruits, but you gain some relationships, too,” UGA head coach Mark Richt said. “I know that one of the first things Jeremy did was to come in and start looking at every commitment that we had, and then he started looking at every recruit that was on the board. Even if a guy was committed to another school, let’s look at him anyways. Let’s see if there may be some interest.”
When NSD 2014 was in the books, the Dawgs had secured one linebacker, two defensive ends, three defensive backs and one defensive tackle.
The top prize was 5-star recruit Lorenzo Carter out of Norcross, a defensive end who could play outside linebacker once he dons the Red and Black.
At Norcross High Carter finished his senior season with 132 tackles, including 40 tackles for losses and six sacks.
“The biggest thing was evaluating the guys who were committed,” Pruitt said. “I had to figure out who we’ve got, what we need and who we have a chance to get.”
Richt said, for the most part, the early commits stuck with Georgia. While most were recruited by Todd Grantham, now the DC at Louisville, the incoming staff made a positive impression.
Aside from Pruitt, who will also coach the secondary, the new coaches are defensive line and Will linebacker coach Tracy Rocker, Kevin Sherrer, who will coach Sam and nickel backs, and inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, who was hired on Thursday.
“I know coach Sherrer had a relationship with (defensive back signee) Shaquille Jones,” Richt said. “Part of that process was the relationship that Kevin had with him, and then the ability for us to really evaluate that film and make a determination if he could be a guy that can get it done for us. We feel like he can, and so we’re very excited about Shaq.”
Richt said another assistant will be hired soon, one who will work with inside linebackers and likely have a role is special teams.
But when it came time to pick a school, the Bulldogs’ 2014 recruits didn’t need a full staff to make their decision.
Richt said UGA sold itself.
“A lot of the guys that were on the defensive side of the ball didn’t flinch,” he said. “Some of them were wondering who was going to be the next coach and all of that, but some of them didn’t care who it was. They said, ‘I’m coming to Georgia.’ It’s nice to know that we’re at that type of university where guys believe that we’re going to bring in great coaches and they want to be at Georgia because that’s just where they want to be, period.”
Noted: The addition of Ekeler completes the coaching staff. He worked at Southern Cal in 2013 after previous stints as linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator at Indiana (2011-12) and linebackers coach at Nebraska (2008-10).
“I was extremely impressed with his knowledge and energy during the interview process,” Richt said. “He was highly recommended by many coaches and administrators with whom I talked and we’re very excited that he'll be joining our staff.”