Mike Ekeler, previously of USC, took over inside linebackers; Kevin Sherrer, defensive coordinator at South Alabama last season, coaches strongside linebackers and nickel backs; Tracy Rocker came from the Tennessee Titans to coach defensive linemen and weakside linebackers.
Players got some idea as to what their new coaches were like during offseason workouts. Assistants are permitted to be present during some conditioning work, such as the Bulldogs’ mat drills. There also are limited meeting opportunities.
But it wasn’t until they got together on the Woodruff Practice Fields this week that players and coaches could really start learning about each other.
“We were feeling them out during mat drills,” said Wilson, who led the SEC in tackles last season, with 133. “We had kind of a feeling, but they’re showing their true selves now. And they ain’t playing.”
In most cases, the players described their position coaches as more intense. In some cases, less.
“Coach (Chris) Wilson did a lot more yelling,” defensive tackle Toby Johnson said of his previous coach. “It’s not a bad thing. Most D-line coaches are crazy. Coach Wilson did a lot more yelling and stuff, but coach Rocker is more laid back, and he teaches. That’s what I say. It’s not necessarily better, just different. I like it, though.”
Ramik Wilson’s position coach is Ekeler, who has a reputation as one of the more over-the-top coaches in America in terms of excitability and intensity.
“He’s crazy,” Wilson said, laughing. “He’s passionate, real passionate. He’s hyper, very hyper. But he’s a real good coach, and he’s going to help me become a better player. He’s going to make us the best linebacker corps in the country.”
Google pictures of Ekeler coaching during games at USC or Nebraska, and you’ll likely see him jumping several feet off the ground. Wilson said he hasn’t seen that yet.
“Probably when we get in pads he’ll start doing that. Right now he’s just screaming,” Wilson said.
Meanwhile, some players are getting their first work on defense, period. Former tailback J.J. Green and former receiver Tramel Terry were moved to the secondary to help improve speed and athletic ability there.
That means they’ve been placed squarely under Pruitt’s tutelage. And he easily has been the most vocal — and loudest — of the new assistants on the field.
“You could say intense,” said Green, who is playing cornerback and nickel back, which also is called the “Star” position. “Coach Pruitt wanted to make a point that first day of practice that he was all about his business, but it went well.”
Moore said most of Pruitt’s intensity comes from him trying to get his points across. It’s a teaching method, if you will.
“He’s not going to move on to something else if you don’t get it,” said Moore, who’s slated to start at one of the safety spots. “He wants to make sure everybody gets it and is on the same page. Just being real, that was a big issue last year, communication.”
Said Wilson: “I think he might be a little more mean than coach Grantham. For real. You better learn it. It’s crazy.”