Wide receiver A.J. Green defends Richt
By FLETCHER PAGE
Special to the Ledger-Enquirer
HOOVER, Ala. — Despite 90 wins, two Southeastern Conference titles and dominance of instate rival Georgia Tech, Georgia football coach Mark Richt still is fielding questions about whether he is coaching for his job this season.
Welcome to the precarious coaching realm of the SEC.
While there is evidence to build a case against Richt — a 2-7 record versus Florida and last year’s eight-win season — the past decade has been one of the most successful eras in Georgia’s history.
For those arguing one way or the other, Richt said he isn’t paying much attention.
“Not really. I understand the business,” he said. “I understand just how things go. So I don’t worry about it. My goal is to focus on the important things and the things I can control. I can control my attitude. I can control my effort. I can control, you know, certain things. That’s what I focus on. Then the things I can’t control, I just trust the Lord with that. That’s kind of how I’ve been operating since 1986.”
Star receiver A.J. Green went to bat on his behalf.
“There is no pressure on coach Richt,” Green said. “There’s a bunch of rumors out there, like I said. coach Richt is a great guy. I believe there is no better coach in the country that has the character and the leadership that can really push a program like he has. He’s a great guy. He just preaches how to be a better person, how to be a better husband, better father and to be a better person to society. That’s really why I went to Georgia. He’s a high character man. You can’t really find another coach like that in the nation.”
The best athletes in the SEC are represented at media days, with three players from each team making the trip.
When reporters noticed a punter was scheduled to speak on Georgia’s behalf, many wondered aloud about the selection.
That is, until those questioning the selection realized Drew Butler was the Ray Guy Award winner in 2009, establishing the junior as the best punter in the nation.
“I don’t really recall the last time when a specialist came,” Butler said. “When I found that out, I was surprised. It’s an honor and privilege to be here. This is known as the start of the season. As far as specialists go, we’re football players, we’re on the field, so it’s an honor to represent them.”
Butler averaged 48.1 yards a punt last season, setting a Georgia record. Richt acknowledged he is proud of his punter, but added he hopes Butler doesn’t have to be employed in the same manner as last season.
“This year, my guess is he won’t have quite the average because I think and I hope he’ll be punting with less grass in front of him,” Richt said.
“Hopefully, he punts a lot less. I think his focus is going to be more on, you know, trying to pin people deep. His focus will be more on maybe some directional kicking if we’re trying to keep it away from a special return man. And then when there are times we’re back deep and we need help, he can still boom it out of there like he’s done in the past.
“He’s a tremendous weapon. He’s a guy that has nothing to prove other than he can do it again. He’s really worked hard to be great.”
Georgia’s young QB
Richt knows redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray is good at answering any question fired his way in the meeting room.
“But we’ve got to be careful, coach (Mike) Bobo and myself, not to get enamored with that and expect him to be able to answer the question quite so well as he’s on the field getting chased by a bunch of 300-pound defensive linemen,” Richt said. “He’s got to live the experience of being that quarterback.”
Murray enrolled in January 2009 and has been through two spring practices. He emerged from spring as the No. 1 quarterback.
“They respect this kid because he prepares, because he puts the team first, because he has talent,” Richt said.
Fullback Shaun Chapas called Murray “one of the hardest workers we’ve got.” Murray was a prep All-American at Plant High School in Tampa, Fla., and was rated the third-best quarterback in the country by Rivals.com and Scout.com.
“We’ve got 10 guys surrounding him who have all been there and thrown into the fire,” Chapas said. “When he’s in the huddle, he has command of the huddle. We believe in him, and I know he believes in himself.”
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier figures the baseball team’s national title proves South Carolina can indeed compete for, and win, championships.
“Hopefully we believe that will rub off on other teams, and we’re the next one up,” Spurrier said.
The Gamecocks are averaging seven wins per year during Spurrier’s tenure, so they must improve to contend in the powerful SEC East.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.