On Thursday, Georgia takes on the circus that is SEC media days.
But before Mark Richt departed for the mayhem in Hoover, Alabama, Georgia’s football head coach -- along with basketball head coach Mark Fox, baseball head coach Scott Stricklin and university president Jere Morehead -- convened in Gwinnett County on Tuesday for the final UGA Day event of the Alumni Association’s offseason tour, a tour that included 12 cities in four states since April.
The passionate alumni were given the opportunity to ask Richt some questions during a short Q&A session. To no one’s surprise, the status of the defense and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt quickly arose.
Richt praised the work of one of the newest additions to his staff.
“There’s a certain standard that Jeremy Pruitt (and the rest of the defensive staff) has of how they want things done, on and off the field,” Richt said. “It’s been a little bit painful, quite frankly, which is good for a lot of those guys.”
As for the productivity of the defense, Richt added a little humor to the night.
“I think, statistically, it will be very easy to do better than we did last year,” he said as the crowd laughed in appreciation of his ability to bring positive light to the team’s subpar 2013 defensive effort.
During his time with reporters, Richt expanded upon his feelings regarding the defense, but he noted the urgency to continue that improvement before Clemson.
“We’ll have enough of a talent base. The experience level is the thing you’ve got to be a little bit concerned about,” Richt said. “We know we’ve got a long way to go in some areas. Really, as a team, we still have to establish what we’re about as far as leadership’s concerned, just how react to real-life adversity in regard to football games.”
Finding those defensive leaders will key Georgia’s performance this year, especially in close games. These down-to-the-wire games, in Richt’s mind, determine the true grit of a team and ultimately a team’s opportunity to win championships.
Nonetheless, 2013 might have had too many nail-biters.
“I’ve said it for years: The one that wins the close ones is usually the one that wins the championship,” Richt said. “We had too many close ones, quite frankly. I’d like to have a few more games without quite that much drama.”
Fox has had to answer some tough questions of his own this week following the dismissal of junior forward Brandon Morris, who was arrested Sunday on felony marijuana charges. On Tuesday, his emotion, stemming from both the arrest and the subsequent dismissal, was evident.
“(I was) as disappointed as I’ve ever been,” Fox said. “I really was heartbroken. Real range of emotions, from anger, sadness.”
In the wake of the incident, reports have surfaced of Morris apologizing to the program, pledging his innocence and even suggesting he hadn’t ruled out a possible return to the program. Fox, who admitted he hadn’t seen any of the public reports, denied this as a potential option for the time being.
“He’s not on our team,” he said. “That’s not in our plans.”