Sunday, November 29, 2015
How good was Pruitt...really...?
This post was originally going to be a feel good piece about why there's plenty of reason to look forward to next season. I was going to heap heavy praise on Jeremy Pruitt for his work with the defense over the past two seasons, and I was going to talk about how 2015 would become another blip on the radar for Mark Richt's historical career.
That's all over now.
And to be honest, maybe that's a good thing. I'll admit I'm a bit lost today. I'm not happy at all about what happened with Mark Richt, but I will support the next coach whomever he may be (even if he happens to be a former graduate assistant for whom I have no personal love).
With pained eyes, I did a little research into Pruitt's 2015 season. I'll admit I didn't dig deeply into 2014 or how the numbers stacked up against Grantham. Maybe I would have done that if I were trying to glean excitement for next season. But, since I don't know who the head coach is going to be (though I think 99% of Dawg fans have an idea), and since I don't know who that coach will select as DC (though I have little reason to believe it will be Pruitt, since he was pulled from the recruiting trail), I won't bring that kind of enthusiasm. I'll just lay out the raw Data, and talk a little about what I found:
In the sheet above, what you'll find is our opponents' average offensive performance for the season as well as how they performed against UGA. The green that you see is where Pruitt's defense did a markedly better job at stopping the opposing offense. Yellow is where you see a marginal difference (either positive or negative). Red is where the UGA defense performed markedly worse than the field against our opponents.
As you might expect, in our three losses, we surrendered more points than the field against our opponents.
I found it interesting, though, that there only three games in which our Defense performed drastically better than the field in all three categories. By our raw statistics, we are a "top 10" defense... but the eyeball test didn't really give us that against the true competitors on our schedule, and this quick look doesn't give me that feeling either. It's fair to think ULM would have done a little more damage to these stats if the game had gone the distance. Vanderbilt and Tennessee both did a good job lighting up our passing defense. I dare say Alabama didn't get more yardage...simply because they didn't have to.
Part of me wants to believe that Pruitt really had our boys moving in the right direction - that we were coaching them up well, and that we were on the cusp of being where we needed to be in as much as a Championship Defense is concerned.
But in our three losses, the eyeball and the statistical test gives me problems with that thinking. Yes, I know that against AL and TN there were breakdowns on offense and ST that are included in the Score numbers - but they aren't included in the other numbers (rushing/passing). Not only that, but if you're going to be Championship Defense, your defense shouldn't hope to be "doing what the field does" against opposing offenses. Your Defense had better be stifling the opposing offense... because if your defense is "just as good as the average" you ain't gonna win a title.
If Pruitt was truly just aided by a better schedule, then perhaps the writing was already on the wall for Richt. Since the beginning of his career as an HC, Coordinator hires have been where he's caught the most flack. Martinez, Grantham, Bobo (great OC, but maligned by the fanbase), Schotty... that's not a great track record - if Pruitt was simply gilded and not solid gold, then perhaps it's best we're starting anew - because we weren't headed where we wanted to go anyway.
Or perhaps it was only the second season for Pruitt...and his (very young) boys were learning... and holding Kentucky, Auburn, GSU and Tech FAR below their season averages shows just where the D was headed.
I guess the question shouldn't have been "How bad were the offenses we faced in November" but rather "How much WORSE did we make them look?"
Kentucky, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, on average, scored 3 TDs more against the field than they did against UGA. Auburn, on average, scored 2 TDs more. That's the kind of performance you expect out of a Championship Defense.
Either way, it's this Dawgfan's belief that the point is moot. Pruitt is likely gone. If the last month of the season is any indication, though, the cupboard is stocked with guys who can shut offenses down. The question will be - can the new guy coach 'em up? Pruitt could.