I love my players. I appreciate their hard work and investment in our program. I feel a responsibility and loyalty to protect and stand up for them. Also, I feel it is important to educate them on all areas of life.
While my intentions were genuine, I feel it was unfortunate that things escalated to a confrontation. These actions were not representative of what this institution stands for. However, I will use it as a learning experience for myself as well as my players so that we all become better men.
This is considerably more love than the Bulldogs earned in either of the mainstream polls, or in the preseason magazines, which have tended to account for a pair of red-siren "X-factors" – a redshirt freshman quarterback and a totally revamped defensive scheme under a new coordinator – by dropping the 'Dogs into the 20-25 range, or omitting them altogether. This is a rational response.
I find it hard to believe, though, that either fledgling QB Aaron Murray or Todd Grantham's trendy 3-4 scheme on defense will turn out to be a significant downgrade from departed QB Joe Cox and whatever it was former defensive coordinator Willie Martinez was doing to lead the D on a steady decline over the course of his five-year tenure. This is still one of the most talented lineups in the SEC on both sides of the ball, and Murray will be surrounded by nearly the entire 2009 offense, including first-rate target A.J. Green and all five starters on the offensive line (who, along with oft-injured Trindon Sturdivant, have combined for more career starts coming into the season, 155, than any other offensive line in the country). If any team is going to bust up the Gator-Tide duopoly at the top of the SEC, Georgia is the bet.
I'm among the overwhelming majority still conceding frontrunner status to Florida for the division crown, only because there is no obviously compelling reason to overturn the status quo. On paper, though, Georgia can answer the Gators points for point; with hyped new quarterbacks, solid backfields, intact offensive lines and new coordinators revamping defenses with vulnerable secondaries, they're almost mirror images of one another. Florida may get the benefit of the doubt by virtue of its ongoing status as division overlord (three division titles, two BCS titles in the last four years) and its total ownership of the series over the last 20 years. But there is too much talent on hand for Grantham to not get the defense headed back in the right direction, and it won't be an upset by any means to see the Bulldogs back in Atlanta on Dec. 4. UGA fans shouldn't be satisfied with less than a January bowl and a legitimate claim on the frontrunner role with another veteran lineup going into 2011.
Garrapiz breaks number 1 player in country in first game
Mark Richt is almost certainly not on any kind of real hot seat at Georgia, and doesn't deserve to be: Since 2000, he's ended the Bulldogs' 20-year SEC championship drought in 2002, added another conference title in 2005, led a struggling team out of a midseason slump to a No. 2 finish in the final polls in 2007 and won at least 10 games six times. The Bulldogs finished in the top 10 four years in a row from 2002-2005, the longest streak of the decade in the SEC and matching the Herschel Walker years from 1980-83 as the best run in school history. He's well on his way to becoming the most successful coach Georgia's ever had, and is already the longest-tenured boss in a trigger-happy league. . . .
The rational, skeptical half of my brain (the half I tend to trust) dismisses the Fulmer/Tuberville template as a timely but outlying coincidence, and negative recruiting as simply "in the game" – lord knows what the same coaches allegedly undercutting Richt were telling recruits about Urban Meyer's uncertain future at Florida. (And lord knows it didn't work.) At the same time, the credulous, pattern-seeking, "where there's smoke there's fire" half of my brain is thinking the perpetual hot seat is just "in the game" now, too, in a conference whose financial and emotional stockholders demand consistent returns from multimillion-dollar CEO coaches on their increasing investments in tickets, lavish facilities and outsized television contracts. With great salaries come great expectations, etc.
Richt is widely perceived as the most decent guy in the business, like Fulmer, a far cry from the burgeoning mercenary model that's paid such dividends for Florida and Alabama. If the defensive overhaul under new DC Todd Grantham doesn't take, or if new quarterback Aaron Murray struggles as a redshirt freshman, this could be the year we find out if nice guys can still afford back-to-back five-loss seasons at places with a bottom line like Georgia's.
Richt said he was pleased with the tackling effort, and the way the secondary attacked the ball. Safeties Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams each snagged an interception, Williams racing his to the end zone for a touchdown.
Get back in that huddle and do it right this time!
Georgia opens spring practice today, and all signs are the Bulldogs will be the next defense to jump on the 3-4 bandwagon, scrapping the standard 4-3 set for the leaner look preferred by new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. That shift means a slew of position changes -- tackles moving outside to end, ends moving to outside linebacker, etc. -- but the biggest change for UGA fans is still the absence of former coordinator Willie Martinez, whose unit declined statistically from the previous season in each of his five seasons.
Richt said he has done his best to soak in some new ideas that Grantham and fellow first-year assistants Scott Lakatos and Warren Belin have brought to the table, too.
"It’s a healthy exchange of ideas," Richt said. "A lot of times you spend a lot of money to fly around to different schools to get details of what’s going on, but how much can you get in a one- or two-day period compared to a guy just being there, living there."
Richt has already decided to implement two suggestions of his new staff.
First, he’ll be going back to a Monday through Thursday practice schedule, with walk-throughs on Fridays. Last season he had the team practice on Sunday and gave the players Monday off, but he’s since reconsidered the plan in light of some input from his new assistants.
Grantham also suggested revamping the daily meeting schedules, so rather than open with special teams work, Richt will address the entire team first, then break off into special teams and segment meetings. Richt said it’s a schedule used in the NFL and makes organizing meetings much simpler.
Coach Richt has been following my career for quite some time, and after he made the changes, a couple of people had recommended me to Coach Richt, and he followed through with that. After recruiting season was over, he contacted Coach (Bobby) Johnson to ask permission, and I came on the interview, had a really good interview with Coach Richt and Coach Grantham, and I'm excited to have a chance to be a part of this.