Dream Team of recruits will be counted on heavily to help turn around the program
By KEVIN PRICE
Georgia starts spring practice next week. And suffice it to say, this is the start of the most important season in coach Mark Richt’s career.
To look at Richt’s 10-year resume at Georgia and think that, come December, he could be dismissed seems out of whack. But all the success he had came in the first two-thirds of his tenure.
Richt led the Bulldogs to a pair of SEC championships, but the last one came in 2005. There have been three SEC East Division titles and a tie for a fourth. But the outright titles came in ’02, ’03 and ’05. The tie came in ’07.
The past three seasons have been disappointing, to say the least.
The 2008 season started with hype not seen since the Herschel Walker days.
The Dogs ended the ’07 season with eight straight wins, including victories over Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech and a Sugar Bowl crushing of an upstart Hawaii team.
Georgia started the following season ranked No. 1 and had stars such as Matthew Stafford at quarterback and Knowshon Moreno at running back with A.J. Green coming in at wide receiver.
While that team went 10-3 and finished ranked No. 10, a great season by most standards, it was disappointing when compared against the expectations.
2009 was another disappointing season. The Dogs had to upset Georgia Tech and win the Independence Bowl over Texas A&M to finish 8-5.
2010 went beyond disappointing and was a disaster. Georgia ended up going 6-7, the first losing season for Richt and the first one for Georgia since the Jim Donnan days of the late 1990s.
What still stings perhaps most for the Georgia faithful is the way the season ended with a loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl. For the first time in the Richt era, it appeared the team didn’t give a full effort and already was thinking of ways to spend the offseason.
So what lies ahead for the Dogs and Richt?
A lot of the pieces are in place for the Dogs to bounce back. Quarterback Aaron Murray had a good season last year, and considering he was a freshman, it might be said that he had a great year.
The Bulldogs have three-fifths of the offensive line in place.
What is unsettled on the offense is the backfield and the receivers.
Former Shaw standout Bruce Figgins is being moved from tight end to fullback. And the Dogs await the arrival of Carver’s Isaiah Crowell. He is expected to beat out Caleb King and Washaun Ealey at tailback.
Meanwhile, the defense will be in its second season learning Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme. The big refrain from last season was how much better the defense would be if there was a big nose tackle in the middle. Mississippi Coast Junior College’s John Jenkins was signed for just that reason.
Crowell and Jenkins were two big parts of what was called the “Dream Team” of recruits Georgia signed last month. Those two and the other members of the Dream Team will be counted on heavily to help turn the program around.
It is a lot to ask of freshmen and first-year players.
Kevin Price, 706-571-8502, firstname.lastname@example.org