The second-year defensive coordinator is saying that his side of the ball, which he admits is talented, is still going to need a little time to get where they need to go. The good news is that Pruitt and company don’t open up with Clemson and South Carolina, so learning curves this season likely won't result in losses in the first two games.
But by week three - South Carolina’s visit to Athens - Georgia’s defense needs to be ready to play at a high level. That doesn’t seem like asking too much, but even so, Pruitt is trying to slow down the narrative that this year’s bunch will be better than last year’s.
“Y’all are asking the questions, and I am answering them. When you lose three defensive linemen and two linebackers and a guy in the secondary who was drafted and played a lot of ball - that’s a lot to replace,” Pruitt said on Monday.
He’s right by the way. Guys like Roquan Smith and Trenton Thompson are going to be very good players - and soon - but Georgia is replacing some serious production at the linebacker spots, several defensive lineman and Damien Swann, who played quite well last season.
Those guys are not going to be easily replaced. Players like Reggie Carter, Jake Ganus and Tim Kimbrough have all played significant downs of college football, but what will they play like when Georgia is down late in the third quarter? Will they panic and try to make a play rather than play their position? Will the defensive line, which is not without skill, hold up a late charge in the run game from the likes of the Vols, Gators, Alabama and Georgia Tech?
Can the secondary, which is still quite young with at least two starters who are sophomores or younger, ball hawk the way it did last season?
There are questions about this defense. It is not perfect by any stretch. Will this group be better than last year’s? That’s the narrative, and that should be the case. But that’s not guaranteed. The defense should have played better against Florida and South Carolina last year, but didn’t.
That’s what folks are actually worried about - perhaps even Pruitt himself.
The real question is as follows: Will all of the changes in this program, many of which have Pruitt’s fingerprints all over them, finally result in a defense that is dominant? Because Mark Richt used to lift trophies biased on defensive production (2002 and 2005). He’s rarely (2011, 2012) had a dependable defense to lean on since 2006. There’s no telling how many more trophies he would have lifted by now with a defense of consequence playing in Silver Britches while the offense was scoring touchdowns left and right.
The focus might be on the quarterbacks this August, and with good reason, but Georgia’s defense will go a long way in this team’s success or failures.