Richt looks to restore attitude, accountability at Georgia

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Mark Richt is paying close to attention to players and coaches this spring. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

ATHENS – When Georgia opened spring practice Thursday, there were three quarterbacks in the pool of potential starters, a defense switching its front from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and a coaching staff hoping to figure out how to avoid a repeat of the cartoon-like numbers that provided the ugly background noise in the 2009 season: 105 penalties and a minus-16 in turnover differential.

But here’s a newsflash: Football isn’t always about numbers and alignments. And to what degree the Bulldogs bounce back next season likely won’t even hinge on the starting quarterback as much as it will all of those other things that make a football team successful. Intelligence. Discipline. Resolve. Mental and physical toughness. The willingness to smack somebody in the mouth (legally, of course).

The Dogs lacked an edge last season. It was an edge that they possessed when they won two SEC titles in coach Mark Richt’s first five seasons. This spring is about trying to get that back. When a team gets walloped at Tennessee (again), has consecutive lopsided defeats to Florida (twice) and Alabama and finishes the conference season with a home loss to Kentucky, the issues clearly are bigger than just the quarterback.

This spring is about setting a tone for change. Mark Richt knows that.

“It’s big – it’s very big,” Richt said. “We really feel like we set the tone in our offseason program, our mat drill program. They were ready for today. I told them after practice, I was kind of sad they’re going to spring break now because you tend to lose a little of the mental and physical toughness that you developed in the mat drills. There’s not much you can do about it. But they were ready for a day like today.”

There’s no need to go over all the details of 2009. The Bulldogs are considered one of the top football programs in the country and they  finished the season in Shreveport. That sums it up. Richt fired three defensive assistants, including coordinator Willie Martinez. It didn’t take long for the new guy, Todd Grantham, to get the players’ attention. Even  Richt smiled when asked about Grantham taking charge in practice.

“We want our coaches to be demanding,” he said.

That starts with Richt. He doesn’t need to melt paint. We just need to know he’s demanding a return to the standard he set when he arrived in 2001, and that the message is getting across. Changing his staff was a needed step in that direction.

There is added significance to this spring. Richt acknowledges it. Athletic director Damon Evans senses it.

“When you’re coming off a season like we had, when you’re not used to that kind of record, you get geared up to get back to what you used to do,” Evans said.

“I think people are curious. But for me, Mark’s proven before that he can take this program to great heights. I have confidence that he’ll do it again. We had a down year, and I know some are asking the question, ‘Can they reverse the tide?’ I feel certain that we can.”

Would it be overstatement to suggest the program is at a crossroads?

“I think so — I don’t think our program is at a crossroads right now,” Evans said. “You’re talking about a guy who’s been here for nine years, a guy who’s done a tremendous job. Any program is going to face some adversity. We faced some adversity and what you do now is you see how you respond.”

Richt wants his players to respond. He wants accountability. He wants them to understand that while kickoff is six months away, the seeds for winning starts now.

“It’s also a good time to prove to the coaches: Should you be in the lineup, should you be playing?” he said. “Who is proving they’re going to be game ready?”

This isn’t about schemes.  It’s about attitude. It’s blocking, tackling and knocking people over, the things we used to see in Athens. It’s an edge Richt is trying to get back.

What do you think is the most important issue facing Georgia in the spring? Click here to vote in our poll and check out the current results. (Hint: Quarterbacks are down the list.)


Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and on Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

282 comments Add your comment

DawgNation

March 4th, 2010
8:00 pm

Best post yet Jeff. I couldn’t agree more. I for one would like to see the dancing removed from the play book.

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

March 4th, 2010
8:06 pm

“That starts with Richt. He doesn’t need to melt paint.” – JS

What is that supposed to mean?

"Chef" Tim Dix

March 4th, 2010
8:06 pm

It’s all substance from here on out.

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

March 4th, 2010
8:07 pm

Without a mascot it won’t matter.

schultz for brains

March 4th, 2010
8:09 pm

Any more useful posts without all the hate and discontent and I may have to chnge my title. Unlikely to happen though???

Vince Dooley

March 4th, 2010
8:11 pm

dead gum it we’ll never catch up to that high school programs 4 National Championships…..dead gum it Techies !!!!

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

March 4th, 2010
8:11 pm

Painting a little dog’s a$$ is no way to behave. Richt better get those a$$ painters under control or he will be out of work like me. Some have asked if I would come back . . . I am not sure. Maybe something could be worked out.

Bo Williams

March 4th, 2010
8:16 pm

Trying to get an honest assessment from SEC knowledgeable bans: A question about LSU: A lot of people are predicting that UNC will give LSU all they can handle in the 2010 kick-off-game in Atlanta. Given such an assessment, does this mean that LSU losing ground, or is UNC making its way onto the national scene. Or, do the so-called experts not know what they are talking about. No flaming, just want to know what is the situation here? I know that the answer will soon (sept 4) be forthcoming and everyone will know for sure. I’m just curious about the fans’ take on this.

wesleywhatwhat

March 4th, 2010
8:17 pm

hmmmm. i’m not sold.

Reformed antagonist

March 4th, 2010
8:22 pm

Good job, Jeff.

Vince Dooley

March 4th, 2010
8:26 pm

as much as I hate to say it, its the truth

1990, 1952, 1928, 1917 > 1980, 1942

DEAD GUM TECHIES !!!!!!!

DawgNation

March 4th, 2010
8:31 pm

Vince,

I was alive for only two for those, 1980 the consensuses National championship and for 1990 the split with the real National Champions Colorado. The others don’t mean a thing to me. So again your post is irrelevant.

Vince Dooley

March 4th, 2010
8:39 pm

Last time I checked Colorado had 1 loss while tech had 0, and Colorado got a 5th down in a game…..only allowed 4 downs in a game…..

I hate Tech as much as the next guy but 1990 should of been Tech’s, they were the only undefeated Team that year, Power Conference or not

DEAD GUM TECHIES !!!!!

Reformed antagonist

March 4th, 2010
8:39 pm

Bo Williams-
Les Miles is a good coach, but the Cajun Microwave is beginning to take on water. Miles recruits well, but Saban recruits extemely well. Miles coaches well, but Saban coaches extremely well. Can Miles overthrow his mentor? Censored text NO! LSU is definitely slipping. Not only are the Tigers declining, but LSU is on the cusp of becoming very irrelevant…very fast in the SEC West.

gator meat

March 4th, 2010
8:49 pm

here, little puppy…..

BG

March 4th, 2010
8:57 pm

Go Dawgs!!!! The future is very very bright for the Dawgs.

Tech Man

March 4th, 2010
8:58 pm

The pups will go 7-5 this year and Tech will revenge it’s 2 field goal lost last year.
GO TECH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

harold

March 4th, 2010
9:04 pm

It’s all about Florida, Alabama, and LSU based on the record. The record speaks much louder than emotions and hope. The record shows Georgia is just average——a middle of the pack team! Time to bring Donnan back!

Tech Land

March 4th, 2010
9:05 pm

I heard that Richt is taking this opportunity during spring practice to work on some new, creative taunting penalties that he will unleash during the 2010 Florida game!!!! Remember, it worked in 2007 and got the dogs really “fired up!!!”

DawgNation

March 4th, 2010
9:11 pm

Vince,

Yea I see your point but remember Tech had a tie to UNC that year as well. Colorodo’s loss was to Illinois with a tie as well to Tenn. But since the National title up to then was reconized by the finial AP poll not the UPI poll it doesn’t matter. The 5th down was a bone head ref call but it counted they won and it counts. The only team untill Techs bowl game they beat of consiquence was Clemson. Colorodo beat some heavy hitters from that year like Texas, Nebraska, Oklahoma all ranked. If you make only teams undefeated the National Champ then I guess Boise State should be running around like Tech squealing “Were Number One” spoting rings. No sir I don’t buy into Tech deserving the title 20 years ago. God that long? I guess it’s not that important any more anyway so really. Who cares? Let them and others sing the songs and enjoy the past as much as we do with ours from 1980.

Yellow Fuzz

March 4th, 2010
9:13 pm

45-42 is coming to town.

John

March 4th, 2010
9:14 pm

Bo Williams

It’s just the media trying to build this game up. LSU by 21

Dan

March 4th, 2010
9:14 pm

Georgia has lost to Yech in football only once this century. Come to think about it Georgia regularly beats Yech in basketball and baseball to! Only thing Yech leads Georgia in is current and potential Al quad recruits.

Dan

March 4th, 2010
9:15 pm

Al Quada that is!

DawgNation

March 4th, 2010
9:15 pm

Yellow Fuzz,

30-24 will be waiting.

guy

March 4th, 2010
9:15 pm

There are a lot of simple minded people in this world after reading some of these comments. Amazing!

Major Dieter Hellstrom

March 4th, 2010
9:19 pm

I must say I grow quite weary of these monkeyshines.

CMR is to discipline as Glenn Beck is to civil debate.

jules

March 4th, 2010
9:21 pm

No mention of jersey colors?

Tech is just downright Un-American

March 4th, 2010
9:22 pm

1917 National Champions??? I would be downright embarassed to claim this one since the only reason Tech won it was because all the other “football” programs stopped playing due to WWI.

jim

March 4th, 2010
9:22 pm

Uh Dan, I think you are trying (without success) to spell Al Quiada. As a UGA kind of guy, I like to think our side can spell.

jules

March 4th, 2010
9:23 pm

Georgia folks just angry because they work for a GT grad – now get over it and go get me some coffee.

Tuck Fech

March 4th, 2010
9:24 pm

1990 Tech wins in the ACC (All Coast Clear) No FSU or Miami. TIED North Carolina and played # 16 Nebraska! A SHARED championship ain’t got S%1T on 1980!

Gratefuldawghead

March 4th, 2010
9:25 pm

Yeah Good article Jeff

GO DAWGS!

We Own You

March 4th, 2010
9:26 pm

“The pups will go 7-5 this year and Tech will revenge it’s 2 field goal lost last year.”
You Techies are always undefeated in the effing off-season…..you run your mouths from the day after your bowl beat-down until the morning of your game with Georgia—but with the exception of one Saturday this century you disappear in between because you get your a$$ handed to you over and over and over…..Tech is D-O-N-E. Your high school offense has been solved and players AND coaches are leaving your program like rats running off a sinking ship and Man Boobs Johnson and your gimpy-legged quarterback will have you back in Boise playing on the Blue Rug faster than you can say “Tyler Houston.” Count on it.

jim

March 4th, 2010
9:28 pm

Major, While I see your point, comparing CMR to the biggest Dild0 on TV is unfair. CMR may have sunk some but not that low.

Reformed antagonist

March 4th, 2010
9:28 pm

harold-
Take LSU off that list. Now, I know, they won the 07 NC. But, ever since then, the Tigers program has begun to plummet. The 2008 season saw LSU post a stunningly sub-Miles-par conference record of 3-5. In 09, LSU showed some improvement, but still lost 3 SEC matchups. The bengal tijeers have suffered 2 straight losses to Ole Miss, UF, and Saban’s rushing Tide. When Miles had LSU football at it’s apex (from 06-07), the Tigers went 23-4. But, the last 2 seasons, LSU has seen it’s program show signs of mediocrity. LSU is 17-9 with a very pedestrian 8-8 conference record the last 2 years under Les Miles. And, with the emergence of Gene Chizik’s War Eagle Tigers, Bob “Coward” Petrino’s Pigs, and the national champs residing in the SEC West…LSU = irrelevant.

Dawg'em out!

March 4th, 2010
9:28 pm

Slick

March 4th, 2010
9:29 pm

You and Bradley swap assignments for the upcoming season, Jeff?

jules

March 4th, 2010
9:29 pm

Hey “We own you” – all u own is a double wide and a PC. Georgia didn’t lose coaches and players? Put down the budweiser and go slap your wife and kick ur dog, I mean dawg.

TUCK FECK

March 4th, 2010
9:36 pm

Jules you and Yellow Fuzz can be extra’s in the new MOVIE they are making at Tech about the ONE Time Tech Beat GEORGIA in 10 years!
hahahahahahaha

Dawg catcher

March 4th, 2010
9:36 pm

I’ll take a “High School” offense over a “Bobo” offense – any day! Only reason Richt didn’t fire Bobo was he has too many kids, and no other program would hire him.

$750K

March 4th, 2010
9:36 pm

Well, it sure does make me feel good to know that in this time of budget crisis we have enough money to pay our new coach $750K. What does he do for this money? Cure disease? Write books? Explore ideas? No, he teaches slave laborers how to beat up other slave laborers.

I’m so glad to know that UGA has its priorities in the right place. No money for education; all money for football.

Woof. Woof. Woof.

Anchor Man

March 4th, 2010
9:39 pm

stay classy Jules.

Freddy

March 4th, 2010
9:39 pm

We need the Waterboy

Jules

March 4th, 2010
9:39 pm

Hey “Tuck Feck” – I suppose you will play the staring role in the movie about the victory you guys had against Florida? You and “We own you” are sharing the same double wide and PC aren’t you? Now where’s my coffee?

here we go again

March 4th, 2010
9:39 pm

Hey jules, look closer. That’s your wife in ‘We own you’s’ trailer. Apparently her idea of fun does not include a slide rule or a ‘War Lord II’ video game. And she likes the spanking.

Anchor Man

March 4th, 2010
9:41 pm

If you know college football economics, 750k is nothing if you win. Your return on investment will be tremendous.

Jules

March 4th, 2010
9:42 pm

Now that’s funny!

$750K

March 4th, 2010
9:43 pm

UGA football is slavery.

Dawgs Back!

March 4th, 2010
9:43 pm

Take this to the bank–the Dawgs are back in 2010—they’re going to beat florida and tech like a rented mule. Tech’s going to be lucky to win 7 games, now that gailey’s good players have all left. Don’t worry jackets, you’ll be in some minor bowl, which is better than nothing. With a top D coordinator, the Dawgs are going to a bcs bowl this year–no doubt!