Originally posted on July 25.
ATLANTA - Mark Richt may have been peppered with job security questions last week in Birmingham, but on Monday night in Atlanta he was feeling the love from Georgia fans.
The Bulldog football head coach got a standing ovation when he was introduced, drawing a grateful reaction.
“That made me feel great,” Richt said.
Then emcee Chuck Dowdle broke in.
“I think the standing ovation was louder last year,” Dowdle said.
He appeared to be kidding. Appeared to be.
During a question-and-answer period, fans asked an array of questions, but all supportive.
Richt also drew kudos from the crowd when he brought up team discipline, and players who have left.
“I’ve probably had a little less patience than I’ve had in the past,” Richt said, drawing applause. “If they’re not going to be a positive force, they need to go.”
On the same subject, the coach also said: “A couple guys left because they wanted to leave the program. A couple left because we helped them out the door.”
The head coach seemed again to allude to the transfers when the subject of the revamped strength and conditioning program was brought up. Richt referred to some unnamed players who “haven’t made it” through the new strength and conditioning program.
“We’ve had a few guys that have kind of fallen by the wayside. But a great majority of them have embraced it, and gotten better for it,” Richt said.
Here are a few more notes from the evening:
- As mentioned above, the tailback situation was a heavy topic. In a pre-meeting interview with reporters, I asked Richt whether calling Richard Samuel the No. 1 tailback is partly sending a message to Isaiah Crowell that he won’t be handed the job.
“Nothing was promised to him,” Richt said of Crowell. “We didn’t promise he was gonna start or anything like that. We promised to give him an opportunity to compete. We think he has a tremendous skill set. We think he’s got a chance to be very outstanding. But he’s gotta learn what to do, and he’s gotta prove that he can hang onto the football and all those type of things. But I don’t think he’s afraid of competing.
“So we’ll see what happens. I mean Richard’s the No. 1 tailback not for any other reason than he’s the No. 1 guy we’ve got.”
Richt was a little more kind to Crowell in front of the fans. Asked if Crowell would indeed get the first carry against Boise State, Richt answered:
“If he earns it, if he deserves it, if he’s the best one, he will,” the coach said, before adding: “I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t make a big impact for us this season.”
Then a fan asked about Samuel, expressing the hope he’d be the one to get the first carry against Boise State. And the fan didn’t know why Samuel was moved to defense in the first place.
“It was very obvious that was the thing we needed to do,” Richt said of shifting Samuel back after Caleb King was ruled academically ineligible. Running backs coach Bryan McClendon also “begged” Richt to have Samuel move back.
In fact, one of the first things offensive coordinator Mike Bobo did after King’s departure was watch old film of Samuel running the ball. Bobo then told Richt that he “probably underestimated the ability of Samuel” due to him playing behind Knowshon Moreno.
(Bobo is set to meet with the media on Wednesday.)
- Freshman recruits Kent Turene and Devin Bowman, each waiting academic clearance, are “still up in the air,” according to Richt.
- McGarity told the crowd the new high-definition scoreboard at Sanford Stadium would be “the one thing, without question, that garners the most attention” from fans.
- The four-year-old daughter of new inside linebackers coach Kirk Olividatti has been battling leukemia, Richt announced. Olividatti’s wife Keely hasn’t left the hospital for 30 days, the head coach informed the crowd; she spoke to Richt on Monday, and agreed that Richt could make the daughter Kasyn’s fight public.