As many know, 4th And Truth’s Chad Wyrick reported on his “4th And Truth” LIVE show on Periscope that Jeremy Pruitt was heard saying to Mark Richt, “Shut the fuck up and let me do my job, I think I know what I am doing here” during a game against South Carolina in 2014 where the Bulldogs lost 38-35 to the Gamecocks. More news is coming to light.
KNOXVILLE — When Tennessee distributed a “What they’re saying about Jeremy Pruitt” news release the day Pruitt’s hiring became official in December, there was an omission.
Pruitt’s former bosses at Alabama and Florida State — national-championship coaches Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher — were quoted praising Pruitt, as were players Pruitt coached during his stints as defensive coordinator at those schools.
But there was nothing from the school where Pruitt coached in between his national-title tenures in Tallahassee and Tallahassee.
Now it is increasingly clear why.
New details emerged Monday in a report from Dawg Post on the unceremonious end to Pruitt’s tenure as the Georgia defensive coordinator in 2015. The report detailed Pruitt’s conflicts with then-Georgia coach Mark Richt, shedding fresh light on why former Georgia players and current TV analysts Aaron Murray and David Pollack questioned Pruitt’s credentials as a head coach during SEC Media Days last week.
“The root of the problem was that Pruitt was running the show,” a former Georgia player said, according to Dawg Post. “Coach Richt is a non-confrontational guy. He didn’t check Pruitt, and it went from there.”
The article describes a scene in which Pruitt “lost his composure during a spring practice” as Richt and Pruitt disagreed over how to handle a fight that had just occurred.
Despite the internal turmoil, Georgia ranked seventh nationally in total defense under Pruitt in 2015. Georgia’s offense ranked 83rd nationally. The team finished 10-3, but Richt’s 15-year tenure was over before the season ended. Georgia hired Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to replace Richt, and Pruitt was hired to replace Smart at Alabama.
“The games in November 2015 were the final few games he would coach at Georgia,” according to the Dawg Post report. “UGA officials and many boosters had seen enough. It was time to move on from Pruitt — no matter Richt’s fate.”
Richt, now the Miami Hurricanes coach, demurred when asked about the controversy during ACC Media Days last week.
“I’m at Miami. He’s at Tennessee,” Richt told reporters. “I’m going to talk about Miami, and I’m sure he wants to talk about Tennessee. So we’ll leave it at that.”
The accounts of a rift between Pruitt and Richt align with popular perceptions about both coaches. Richt is regarded as a gentleman in the profession whose work is influenced by his faith. Pruitt is considered a hard-nosed defensive mastermind who would rather diagram blitz packages in a high school fieldhouse than fulfill the bureaucratic requirements of a college football CEO.
Still, Pruitt seemed mostly comfortable in his debut SEC Media Days appearance, responding coolly but sharply to Murray’s criticism and then waxing a creative answer to an inquiry about his relationship with Richt on the main stage inside the College Football Hall of Fame.
He answered the question by talking first about Saban and Fisher before noting how Richt’s background differed, as Richt trained under longtime Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden.
“I think I’m probably one of the few guys that has had an opportunity to work in both kind of family trees there,” Pruitt said. “You know, Coach Richt, the things he taught you, one thing, probably the biggest thing to me is there’s more to life than football.”
For their part, Saban and Fisher continued to be complimentary of Pruitt at Media Days, just as they were in the “What they’re saying” news release from Tennessee the day Pruitt was hired.
It also appears that the man who hired Pruitt, Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer, is content with the two-to-one recommendation ratio from Pruitt’s former bosses. Especially, perhaps, because the two won national championships with Pruitt on staff, while the one did not.
“He’s all football,” Fulmer said of Pruitt in April. “He’s all football and recruiting. That’s what we need right now. We don’t need any fluff.”