“To see him come in and to see his hunger to get this program better and install his defense and his philosophy around here — it was just a great experience,” then-FSU defensive back Lamarcus Joyner said in 2013 before the Seminoles’ ACC championship game win over Duke. “It was like almost that love‑at‑first‑sight thing, just meeting him and just speaking with him, just the intelligence he has and the care and the love he has for the game and to make kids better around him. It was kind of easy for all the guys buy into it.”
Eleven players from that Florida State defense later would be drafted into the NFL, with nine being selected in the first three rounds.
Pruitt left Tallahassee after that season to take over a Georgia defense that had far less talent than that 2013 FSU team and the two defenses he has led at Alabama. Still, under his leadership, the Bulldogs’ defense was much improved.
Under Todd Grantham in 2013, Georgia ranked 45th in total defense and 78th in scoring defense. In Pruitt’s first season, Georgia was 17th in total defense and 16th in scoring defense. His defense improved in 2015, ranking seventh in total defense and eighth in scoring defense. He replaced Smart at Alabama following the ’15 season.
2. Elite recruiter
Pruitt was an assistant at powerhouse Hoover (Ala.) High when he was hired in 2007 to be director of player development as part of Saban’s attempt to overhaul Alabama’s recruiting.
Pruitt had been a defensive assistant for three Alabama high schools during a span of nine years. He got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant at Alabama — his alma mater — in 1997.
Pruitt’s dad, Dale Pruitt, has been a high school head coach in the state since 1982, and between the younger Pruitt’s connections and his father’s influence, Saban knew Pruitt could be a difference-maker in recruiting. And he has been.
Twice he has been named 247sports.com’s national recruiter of the year — once at Alabama and once at FSU. He was the lead recruiter for, among others, Reggie Ragland, T.J. Yeldon, Jalen Ramsey, DeMarcus Walker and Derrick Henry.
Players point to Pruitt’s deep knowledge of the game, his enthusiasm and his ability to relate to them as reasons he has success on the recruiting trail and as a coordinator.
“He’s a great motivator,” Florida State All-American defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan said before the Seminoles’ 2013 national championship game against Auburn. “He’s a great teacher. I look forward to going into meetings every day and just figuring out what I can learn from the guy and what else he has in store for us to learn.”
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