Here’s a rundown of Georgia coach Mark Richt’s comments:
* Richt said it’s an “exciting time at Georgia” and then discussed Boise State and South Carolina, his team’s first two opponents. “It has energized the program in a big way. I think that everybody understands what it’s gonna take preparation-wise and I think everybody’s been willing to pay the price. I say ‘everyone,’ but there’s been a few guys who’ve gotten off the bus, so to speak… a year ago, or in the last few months even, the last few days. Some guys have chosen to move on and a couple of guys got a little help, but the guys that are still here are excited about the future and are willing to pay the price to play the kind of football that everybody in our Georgia Bulldog Nation expects.”
* Asked if quarterbacks Aaron Murry and Tyler Bray (Tennessee) might be on the verge of a Danny Wuerffel-Peyton Manning year-in, year-out duel, Richt said: “I hope they’re both that good. I hope ours is better.” That got laughs. “Aaron is really a coach’s dream in how he approaches the game. He understands preparation. He understands team. His motivation is for Georgia to win. His motivation is to see his teammates have success. His motivation is not to promote self. And when you have a guy like that it makes your life so much easier.” Richt also credited Mike Bobo for working with Murray on protecting the football.
* Asked about the decision to play Boise State in the Georgia Dome, Richt said: “Where we were at that time was a decline in our record. A decline in how people perceived our program. A place that I didn’t really like, I wasn’t really comfortable in, wasn’t used to. And I said, ‘what better way to send a surge of energy into this program than to schedule a game like that.” Richt also said, “There’s risk in playing a team that can whip your tail because they might whip your tail. But in order for us to get back to where we want to be — which is highly ranked, highly thought of — we need to play this game.”
* Richt handles the media as well as any coach in the league. While some Georgia fans are turned off by his ever-cool demeanor, it serves him well when dealing with the press. Richt always seems to be in control of the room. Let’s see what happens when the hot seat questions come.
* Richt is excited about his defense in Year Two under Todd Grantham. Last year, his defensive players had to think too much about their assignments. This year they’re able to focus on technique. The coach also said he’s been able to recruit to the 3-4 now.
* Asked if Georgia’s Liberty Bowl loss to UCF was devastating to his program, Richt said, “Well, it wasn’t devastating. I mean it hurt real bad. I didn’t enjoy it. But devastation means you’ve blown up the program and it’s beyond repair, so I don’t think it was devastating. But it was awful, I can say that.” He also said, “Coach O’Learly outcoached me. They’re team played harder than we played. And they deserved to win. And we learned from that. … We learned to finish. We’ll see how well we learned it.”
* Laughing, Richt said, “I think our depth is fine… as long as we don’t get anyone hurt.”
* “The passion of the coaches and the players and the fans especially” is what separates the SEC from other conferences.
* Richt admitted that “right now” the West is stronger than the East right now.
* Sidenote — Worst thing about Media Days now compared to 20 years ago: You now hear “reporters” say “We” when referring to teams. If you’re pulling for a team in the league, you’re not objective and you shouldn’t have a credential. Period. There’s no room for “we” at Media Days. Just my rant.
* “College football is a grind. It’s a grind for the coaches. It’s a grind for the players. We love it, we’re not complaining, but anytime you can have some fun with your guys I think it’s good to do that and to wear those (Nike Pro Combat) uniforms I think will be something they’re really gonna enjoy.”
* Asked about the hot seat, Richt said: “I know that if you walk in the Butts-Mehre Building there’s not one sense of doom or gloom. There’s only excitement, only guys that are so thankful that we’ve got a new season and a clean slate and the ability to play some great opponents to start the year. Expectations are just as high as they’ve ever been going into any season. Our goal is to win the Eastern Division.” Nice dance around the job security question. “I don’t worry about all that. I worry about enjoying the ride. We’re in good shape.”
* “Six of our losses were within a touchdown in the fourth quarter (last year), we just finish better and we’ve have had a better season. We weren’t getting blown out of the water, we just didn’t win.”
* Richt pointed out that he’s getting commitments for 2013 and 2014 which shows people still have faith in Georgia’s program.
* One of Richt’s sons has the sickle cell trait and he says that’s led him to treat his players differently. Some players who have that trait are pulled out of certain drills. Interesting question from Rachel George of The Orlando Sentinel.
* On Will Muschamp, Richt said: “Well, I’m sure he’s gonna tell everybody in Florida that he’s Florida through-and-through and all that, but I guarantee you there’s a little bit of red and black in his veins.”
* Georgia center Ben Jones entered the writers’ room and was given a mic. Richt laughed and looked at the podium in a “here it comes” kind of way. “Do you trust the offensive line this year,” the player asked. Richt smiled and said, “You weren’t in here when I was bragging on the offensive line. (The writers) are worried about the depth on our line. … I think Ben Jones is the best center in America. I think he’s going to win the Rimington.” He drew laughs by saying, “Good question there, Ben.”
* Asked to talk about how tough it is to last 11 years at one school in the SEC, Richt said, “It’s not difficult if you win,” and then he laughed loudly. “It’s not difficult if you know you win 9, 10, 11 a year, and win the Eastern Division every other year, and win the SEC every three or four years. It’s not a problem at all. It’s when you go 6-7, that’s when it’s a problem. But greater days are coming, the best is yet to come.”
* Very, very hard not to like Richt.