Coach Mark Richt's press conference this past week at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama, really stood out to me, especially compared to previous ones in recent memory. Here are just a few things I took from the conference:
Coach Richt ain't gonna dwell on the SEC Championship Game. CMR opened the press conference by addressing last December's crushing defeat in Atlanta. To me this says that those lousy five yards are to be used as motivation for this year's team to get over the hump once and for all. However, he made it clear to a reporter from Montgomery when asked about the loss that he did not, and will not, dwell on the loss, coolly insisting that he reviewed the film and immediately moved to bowl preparations. I'm not going to pretend that Coach Richt was not crushed by this loss for at least an evening, but man, I'm glad I'm the head coach at Georgia. I still get bleary-eyed when I think about that cursed evening in December. OK, enough on that. Tears are welling up...
You gotta earn it! via matchbin-assets.s3.amazonaws.com
Coach Richt is letting this year's roster form itself. Those who love to attack CMR for playing favorites will have a little less ammo this year if this perception of mine holds true. Coach made it clear that no one is guaranteed a starting spot, stating that the boys are hungry this year and ready to prove that they belong on the field. We've seen this philosophy at work already this spring with John Theus struggling to take his starting OT job from Xzavier Ward.
Coach Richt has regained his sense of humor. Or at least he has been working on his delivery in the offseason. CMR was comfortable enough at the podium to jest that he would be open to giving Zach Mettenberger's mother Tammy, a UGA Athletic Department administrative assistant, a week off before the LSU game. He also laughed off Jadeveon Clowney's not-so-facetious comment that opposing quarterbacks, including Aaron Murray, are scared of him by joking that he, in fact, would be scared of the one-man show in garnet and black.
If all I'm reading about this young man is true, I'm not as worried about the secondary via img.bleacherreport.net
Coach Richt is working them hard. CMR mentioned a race to be in mid-season form by the game against Clemson on August 31. Refusing to pay any mind to the relative lack of experience on this year's team, especially on the defensive side of the ball, Coach Richt said that this race started in January and that the boys will be ready to go when they hit the Death Valley turf. They're going to have to be. I do not doubt the talent of young stars like Tray Matthews (pictured above); if the early enrollees are putting in the work, as CMR insists they are, the Bulldog defense might not be as porous as some are suggesting.
Coach Richt is not resting on his laurels. He said it himself: "Last year's success doesn't guarantee it this year. It's a new day. It's a new year." I like this quote. We had a great team last season that, by a horrible stroke of bad luck, was kept out of the national championship game, by five.. OK, I have to stop again...
Despite the success the Dawgs enjoyed on the football field last season, there is still some work to do to bring home the trophy. This kind of non-complacent mindset can only help as Georgia sets out to bring home the first BCS national title in over 30 years.
Coach Richt ain't bowing to the Armani Bear. When asked by seasoned provocateur Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel to comment on Nick Saban and Alabama's perceived divine invincibility, CMR was cordial and respectful, acknowledging the Alabama program's success and calling the Armani Bear and his staff "tremendous coaches," but also saying what has been on the minds of many in 49 states over the past two years- Alabama has had a little help.
Elaborating on his point, CMR recalls that only two teams from the SEC's current seven-year streak of winning the national title were undefeated when they hoisted the crystal ball and that sometimes "you just hit it right." Specifically in the case of 2012, he points out that had The Ohio State not been on probation that they would have played Notre Dame for all the marbles and that it took Kansas State losing to even make room in the national championship game for the SEC winner. As we have argued here at Dawg Sports, sometimes it takes, in Coach Richt's words, "a little bit of fortune" to go to the dance and that is exactly what the folks from Tuscaloosa have been enjoying. I'm not trying to discredit the "Big Crimson Machine," but was encouraged by CMR's answer to this question and refusal to grovel before the man perceived as the best coach in recent college football history.
All in all, I was impressed and encouraged by Coach Richt's cool, calm and collected demeanor and thought he looked about as excited at this obligatory shindig in suburban Birmingham as I can remember. I noticed a certain swagger in CMR's approach to this press conference, a certain swagger notably absent in recent years past. Does this bode well for the fortunes of the 2013 Georgia football team? It's far too early to tell, but I like what I saw and heard from the man in charge of our football program.
What about you? What were some of the things you took from Coach Richt's annual press conference?