Richt, Fox enjoy trip to Macon

mlough@macon.comMay 22, 2014 

PigskinPreview

Georgia head coach Mark Richt cracks a smile while speaking with a member of the media during the 11th Annual Peach State Pigskin Preview.

JASON VORHEES — ap

The sun was hiding behind the forest of trees, and Mark Richt had just gotten done talking to some media.

He stretched his legs out little on the bench near the lake at the Walnut Creek Shooting Preserve.

“I could relax right here for awhile,” the Georgia head football coach said.

Indeed, it’s been a fairly relaxed offseason for Richt and men’s basketball head coach Mark Fox, who were in town Thursday night for UGA Day with some Georgia officials and about 250 fans.

No doubt Richt and Fox and company were happy to be in Macon for a few reasons. Macon tends to have above-average crowds on this statewide tour, and this visit, the 11th, was the final one until the big gathering in Gwinnett County in July.

Richt was as enthusiastic about Fox’s basketball team as he was for his gridiron Bulldogs.

Georgia got over a hump in men’s basketball in 2013-14, making the National Invitation Tournament and finishing 20-14 with a fairly young team, turning in a quality year after losing standout Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the NBA draft.

“I come whenever I can,” Richt said about basketball games. “And I’ll say this. The timing is right for a really, really good season.

“Coach Fox has got, like we said, the top five scorers back. And if you watch them play, they’re not just slingin’ the ball around and doing a bunch of creating on their own kind of stuff. They are running a set offense, and it’s pure execution.

“They play great defense. It’s great basketball.”

Support has been a regular concern, and that might get a boost with the decision to allow fans to move down to empty lower seats, spurred by the environment at Georgia’s home NIT game with Vermont.

A general admission plan for the game let to a superb atmosphere that helped with the 63-56 win. Fox said before the gathering that the decision will definitely help, especially with tipoff times being changed so often and sometimes being fairly late.

“I do think it’s a great idea to allow people to get closer to the floor and fill those seats. If it’s a 9 o’clock game, for instance, I think it’s a brilliant idea. Some of these late starts, an issue’s developed, and I think we’ve got a great solution to it.”

The offseason for football has been mostly dealing with an evaporating pool of players in the secondary. First-year defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will have little experience to rely on when the Bulldogs welcome Clemson on Aug. 30.

But one thing that gives Richt a jolt of confidence is the staff that came on board along with Pruitt: Mike Ekeler, Kevin Sherrer and Tracy Rocker.

“All three of those men coached high school ball, and I think that’s important,” said Richt, who happily reminded the crowd that 99 days remained until the opener. “In high school, you take a kid from ground zero. You’ve got to teach fundamentals. You’ve got to be a true teacher, literally a teacher in the classroom.

“But then all of them went on to coach at the collegiate level and have won national championships in Division I football on teams that they’ve coached.”

And them taking new jobs at the same time has led to a bond.

“It reminds me back 13 years ago when our whole staff came in,” Richt said. “You’ve got all the men in town, recruiting their tails off. ... Their wives are back home kind of holding down the fort with the kids until they sell the house and everything.

“You kinda get close when you do that. That defensive staff (is) really bonding well together.”

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