Appropriately enough, my 2006 Georgia football media guide was delivered on the same day that S.E.C. media days got underway.
How can I be The Man when Mark Richt is The Man?
Here are the highlights of Mark Richt's remarks, with emphasis added by me:
People are curious to know what I think about our team this season. I think that I'll say the same thing I said last year, which is I do believe that we've got just as good a chance to win this year as any season that I've been at Georgia. I think we've done a pretty good job of recruiting over the years, trying to find guys that can help us win when their opportunities come up.
I think the fans sometimes look at our seniors who are leaving and maybe our recruiting class and they tend to forget all those other recruiting classes in between, guys like Paul Oliver that have been in the program going into his fourth season ready to be a junior starter for us at corner in replacement of DeMario Minter. There's a lot of guys like that in our program that sometimes people tend to forget because they're going through the process of getting ready. . . .
I've been coaching quarterbacks for 20 some years. Coach Bobo is our quarterback coach and coaches them now. I still get involved. I still have to help make decisions on who should play and all. You just get used to the fact that you're going to have a new guy every once in a while. We've been fortunate to have David Greene and Shockley be ready to step in and help us win an S.E.C. championship. That's been wonderful. . . .
The fact that they do like each other and respect each other and realize that it's important to put the team ahead of their own personal agendas, I think it works for us. Sometimes it doesn't work.
If you got a guy griping all the time, causing a big stink about it, it can be a morale issue. Just like the David Greene and Shockley situation, we've cultivated an attitude of oneness and togetherness and team. I think it's carrying on through that running back situation right now. . . .
Here is the thing about quarterbacks. Usually if a quarterback makes a play to win the game, he's usually doing something that he does every day. He drops back, he hitches up, and he throws it on target. But what happens is he's usually doing it at the time of the game when it's so crucial that all of a sudden people consider it a great play, but in reality it's just the timing of it that makes it great. . . .
I hope I'm better. I think I'm better because our staff is better. We've got a lot of continuity. I think we understand what it takes to win. The transition from being head coach from an assistant coach, the buck truly does stop with you. Everybody expects you to have the answers. Everybody expects you to know what to do at the right time. It takes a lot of wisdom and a lot of courage to have that job. It takes enough wisdom to know you can't do it by yourself. I've learned to delegate more than I did in the beginning. But I'm just more comfortable that our staff really understands what we want. So it makes it a little bit easier and a little bit more manageable. . . .
I don't think the pressure to win is any greater now, in my opinion. When you first come in as a first-year head coach, you're hoping you can win one game. I don't see it as really being any different. If anything, there's a little bit more peace in knowing that you survived five years and actually had a good bit of success. You're thinking maybe some of the things we're doing are good. You always want to improve, but you feel like if we could do it last year, why can't we do it this year. Whereas before, we weren't sure what we could do.
I think we have more confidence that we're legitimate contenders for the league title in any given year. . . .
I think balance is crucial, whether you spread or not. I think you got to be balanced in that you can't rely just on the passing game or the running game alone. I think you got to keep defenses off balance. I think if they know you're a running team, that's what you're going to do, our defensive coaches in our league are too smart to allow you to do that. I think if all you're going to do is chunk it, they'll wear you out.
The balance is key. Whether you are spread or not, I think balance is more important than what formation you're in. . . .
Joe Tereshinski is the veteran. He's a fifth-year senior. He's had some playing time - more than the rest. He's an old-school guy. He's tough as nails. He's a team guy all the way. He's a winner. He's a competitor. He understands our system. He's an accurate passer. He's got a lot of the things that you're looking for, other than not a lot of experience.
Blake Barnes is a kid that's an outstanding passer, but in the spring he was hard to evaluate. He had a knee injury, he had some cartilage problems that every time he threw the ball, there would be a grimace of pain. He busted his thumb the last week of spring, was not able to play in the spring game. I think it's been tough to evaluate him.
Joe Cox, you know, fiery competitor, accurate passer. Kind of loves the game, not gonna back down to anybody in competition. He reminds me a little bit of Eric Zeier, former Georgia quarterback, in his size and his mindset maybe so to speak.
Then Matthew Stafford is a guy that is, you know, the biggest of the bunch. He's about 6'3", maybe 235, 240 pounds, true freshman. He wears it well. He has a tremendous arm. He's very intelligent, is trying to learn what to do, trying to keep pace as far as just understanding our system. That's his biggest downfall right now. We just can't play a guy based on potential right now. I don't want to look at our seniors and say, Hey, we're going to play Joe Cox or Stafford because we're going to get them ready for the future. No, we're not going to do that. We're going to try to win this year.
You have to like the attitude embodied in that last remark . . . but, then, Coach Richt has earned the right to talk that way.
Only six coaches in Southeastern Conference history have won two league titles in their first five years on the job: Alabama's Frank Thomas (1933 and 1934), L.S.U.'s Bernie Moore (1935 and 1936) and Nick Saban (2001 and 2003), Florida's Steve Spurrier (1991 and 1993), and Georgia's Vince Dooley (1966 and 1968) and Mark Richt (2002 and 2005).
A few more of these, please. (Photograph from Sports Illustrated.)
Only five coaches in Southeastern Conference history have led their teams to four consecutive seasons of double-digit victories: Alabama's Bear Bryant (1971-1974 and 1977-1980), Florida's Steve Spurrier (1993-1998), Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer (1995-1998), and Georgia's Vince Dooley (1980-1983) and Mark Richt (2002-2005).