ATHENS — After four weeks of running through the same drills and beating each other up, the light at the end of the tunnel clearly is visible for Georgia.
The No. 13 Bulldogs kick off their final week of preparation for the 2009 season today with their focus set on Saturday’s showdown with ninth-ranked Oklahoma State.
“The countdown has been going on for quite some time, but once it gets to a week, they think, ‘One week from today, where will I be?’” head coach Mark Richt said. “If the juices haven’t already been flowing, they start right now.”
Richt promised a more intense preseason than the Bulldogs had a year ago. Through a month of work, he has delivered.
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While Georgia suffered through a litany of disastrous injuries during the preseason last year, it’s been a relatively pain-free month of preparations this season, and that has allowed the team to lay out a lot more hits during practice with an increased emphasis on fundamentals.
With Oklahoma State looming, linebacker Rennie Curran said, that extra effort is starting to pay dividends.
“When you get into that game week, you start thinking about all the hard work you put in, the many hours, all the things you’ve worked on since last season, and all of it starts to come into reality,” Curran said. “You realize a lot of things when that first week comes, and it’s definitely exciting.”
Georgia began its game planning for the Cowboys last week with several days of scout-team work, including a practice game last Wednesday.
The results were mixed, Richt said, but the coaches identified several key areas to address during this week’s run-up to the game.
But preparation is one thing, execution another, and quarterback Joe Cox said his team is eager to show its stuff on the field.
“We’re ready to hit that phase where we’re game planning and worrying about other teams and going other places, rather than just coming out and doing the same things every day,” Cox said. “I’m excited about where we are as far as our team’s attitude. I think we’re just ready to go play somebody.”
Oklahoma State, however, is more than just somebody.
The Cowboys will provide Georgia with one of its toughest tests of the season, Cox said. The game — only the second opener on the road under Richt, in his ninth year at UGA — might be the toughest start to a season in two decades for the Bulldogs.
That makes this week’s final practices even more crucial, because there won’t be time to iron out problems on game day.
“The focus is always sharp, but, yeah, we’re excited to be playing a high ranked team that has a great offense and defense,” wide receiver Tavarres King said.
After an offseason of hard work and a top-tier opponent on the horizon, it’s hard for the Bulldogs not be excited.
The memories of last year’s disappointments seem like a distant memory, and the opportunity to realize this year’s potential is nearly at hand.
“We’ve been excited since Day 1 about this upcoming season,” King said. “But, right now, everybody’s got that edge about them; everybody’s focused and ready to rock and roll.”