- What exactly happened with Jeremy Pruitt and Mark Richt during Pruitt's time in Athens? Does Arizona State have any hope in Herm Edwards's first year? Answering that and more in this week's mailbag.
We have our first blazing take of Talking Season, and you have questions...
From @HistoryOfMatt: What happened during Mark Richt's final two, Jeremy Pruitt-filled seasons at Georgia? The hints and innuendo are driving #DawgNation insane. This has to be the greatest book about college football no one's yet written, right?
Matt is referring to former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray unloading on current Tennessee coach and one-time Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt during an interview Tuesday at SEC Media Days with Nashville radio station 102.5 The Game.
"I don’t know if his personality is fit to be a head coach. I don’t," Murray told the station. "As a head coach, there’s so many things that go into it. It’s not just going out there and coaching. You have to deal with front office. You’ve got to go talk with the president of the university. You have to deal with boosters. You have to deal with the offense, the defense. It’s not just going in there and dealing with the kids and scheming up. There’s a lot that goes into it.
"I don’t think he’s the right guy to kind of be the CEO of a corporation. He’s really good managing just a defense and being a defensive coordinator. He needs to prove to me that he can handle the whole ship. For right now, I don’t think he can. We’ll see what happens this year. I don’t think it helps that he doesn’t have a lot of talent at Tennessee.”
These comments didn’t surprise me because Murray said a lot of the same things—albeit in a slightly less forceful manner—when we cohosted a radio show together a few weeks ago on SiriusXM. (Murray, who also is doing work for CBS Sports Network, is going to be great at radio and television, by the way.) And as far as Matt’s book idea, this isn’t really a case of hints and innuendo. The broad strokes of what happened during Pruitt’s two seasons as Georgia’s DC are pretty well known.
Pruitt was hired at Georgia in 2014 after helping Florida State win a national title as its DC in 2013. Prior to that, Pruitt had worked his way up through Nick Saban’s organization at Alabama. When Pruitt was hired at Georgia, he also got input on other hires. That included strength coach Mark Hocke, who was hired prior to the 2015 season after working under Scott Cochran at Alabama. The idea was that Pruitt would help bring the Saban mentality to Georgia, and if a coach gets that kind of input on something as big as a strength coach hire, he’s probably going to believe he has a mandate to influence how the program is managed.
This arrangement was what guy-who-gets-things-done Mike Ehrmantraut called a “half measure” on Breaking Bad. As such, it was doomed to fail.
Pruitt clicked with Jimbo Fisher’s staff at Florida State because Fisher ran his program exactly like former boss Saban did. And Pruitt would have clicked at Georgia had Saban or one of his disciples been the head coach. But Richt was the head coach, and his management style is drastically different from Saban’s. That produced clashes between Pruitt, who thought he was hired to bring Saban’s style to Georgia, and Richt, who had won a lot of games using his preferred style. Murray, being a Richt guy, is understandably going to take Richt’s side.
After Richt was fired following the 2015 season, Georgia opted for the full measure. The Bulldogs hired Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, a former Georgia safety who was even more schooled in the ways of Saban than Pruitt. “[Smart] needed to educate us,” Georgia thletic director Greg McGarity said, “about what it meant to go big-time.”
Smart brought in an entire staff that preferred Saban-style management. There were no clashes because everyone was on the same page. And in year two, Georgia won the SEC title and played for the national title.
So do Pruitt’s clashes with Richt mean he’ll make a lousy head coach? Not necessarily. Presumably, he stocked his staff with coaches who are accustomed to his blunt management style. The man who hired him, Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer, is a former football coach who had some cutthroat moments during his highly successful career. Pruitt may not be the ideal personality type to gladhand boosters, but Saban and Fisher also are averse to the kind of posterior smooching some schools expect from their football coaches. (And, to be honest, the kind of alpha personalities who make enough money to make huge donations might find more common ground with someone like Saban or Pruitt.)
There are multiple ways to lead effectively. Richt has enjoyed great success doing it his way, and he understandably didn’t appreciate a subordinate trying to change the tone. But the results of the way Saban, Fisher and Smart lead are undeniable, and that’s why Pruitt has a chance to lead a program at Tennessee in spite of what happened at Georgia.
From Matthew: Will Arizona State win a game in a month not named September? ~From someone eyeing the under
I’m fascinated by the Herm Edwards experiment, and unlike some of my colleagues, I’m not ready to rule it a disaster before Edwards gets the chance to coach a college game. It is somewhat disconcerting that Sun Devils athletic director Ray Anderson hired Edwards with the idea that coordinators Phil Bennett and Billy Napier would help bring Edwards up to speed and Bennett and Napier almost immediately left. But I also think Edwards’s personality could make him a gifted recruiter.
The question is whether he can adjust to a game that is drastically different than the one he left in the NFL following the 2008 season. We’ll see how much Edwards was paying attention while working at ESPN when the Sun Devils open with UT-San Antonio. The learning curve gets much steeper the following week when Michigan State comes to Tempe. By the time Arizona State closes its non-conference schedule with a visit to San Diego State on Sept. 15, we’ll have a very good idea of just how ready (or not) Edwards was to jump into major college football.
From @GreenTreeeeee: What are your thoughts on basketball Jumpman logo in college football?
I know the schools that have switched to Jordan Brand (Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Florida) have a bunch of happy players. Monday in Frisco, Texas, Oklahoma players proudly wore the silhouette of Michael Jordan dunking on their polo shirts to Big 12 media days. The Florida uniforms that were unveiled Tuesday at SEC Media Days didn’t include any visible reptile scales, so that was a plus. Also, as a 1995-vintage Champs Sports employee who had to break the news to a lot of people that the black-on-black patent leather Jordans were sold out, I can guarantee the players are very excited about rocking these.
That said, I would recommend one small tweak. Put a football in Michael’s hand. He probably wouldn’t mind. After all, he did pick up a baseball bat.
From @SquareAlley: #DearAndy when will I be able to buy booze in SEC stadiums?
SI’s Ross Dellenger examined this in depth last month, and it looks like it could still be a while. While there is no logical reason to refuse to sell $11 Bud Lights to a captive audience, a certain Puritan faction still thinks a little hops and barley would introduce Satan to the holy grounds of the SEC. Never mind that anyone who has actually attended an SEC game knows fans will simply pull from a flask of brown liquor—which is far more dangerous from a binge-drinking standpoint—if denied the opportunity to buy beer in the stadium.