Jeremy Pruitt Changing Georgia Bulldogs Culture

Jul 20, 2014 5:58 AM EST

Bad luck with injuries cost Georgia a shot at a national championship run last year.

The 2013 season was supposed to be an encore to 2012 when the Bulldogs were one play away from playing for the national championship. Instead, a national championship continues to elude head coach Mark Richt during his time in Athens.

The playoff era might benefit Richt. He certainly would have played for a shot at a national title in 2002 and 2007 if the College Football Playoff was around then. Nonetheless, Richt is the owner of the 2002 and 2005 SEC championships and knows that defense wins championships.

So with 14 years into his SEC-coaching tenure with the Bulldogs, where does the 54-year old Richt take the Georgia program next in the playoff era?

It begins with a 2014 Bulldog team that should get better with the hiring of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Pruitt has won everywhere he has been – from defensive coordinator at Hoover (Ala.) High School during their MTV “Two-A-Days” run, to being alongside Nick Saban and winning three national championships as defensive backs coach, to winning another national championship last year as Florida State's defensive coordinator.

Pruitt is a winner and Richt sees a good future ahead as Georgia tries to piece together their first true national championship run since 1980.

"He's a proven coach," Richt said of Pruitt at SEC Media Days. "He's won everywhere he's been."

"What I liked about Jeremy in regard to the secondary is that your defensive coordinator is a defensive backfield coach,” Richt said. “I think the fact that Jeremy coaches that position, understands it, I don’t think he’s going to call much at all that he doesn’t feel like the back end can handle at all.”

Georgia senior Ramik Wilson spoke at SEC Media Days to the changing culture in Athens under Pruitt’s presence.

“He wants the best out of you,” the linebacker said of the new defensive coordinator. “If you aren’t going to give your best, you aren’t going to play. He has changed our culture. He told our strength coaches we need to run more. This is the most we have ever run in the offseason and I think it will pay off. We are going to be much faster. Every defensive lineman dropped 10 to 15 pounds. Everybody is in shape."

Georgia was picked to finish second in the SEC East, behind South Carolina. Richt mentioned his displeasures towards the media's votes.

"We're not cheering about being No. 2,” Richt said before reminding the room that the media has correctly picked the SEC champion only four times in 22 years.

"Good. Now that I think of it, that's good."

Richt's displeasures could be from the result of others not realizing the impact Pruitt has brought to the Georgia program.

2014 Georgia Bulldogs Schedule Predictions

Wins: Troy, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Charleston Southern, Georgia Tech

Losses: South Carolina, Auburn

Toss-ups: Clemson, Tennessee