The Georgia Bulldogs are on spring break, and for those of us who are emotionally invested in the fortunes of the Red and Black football program it’s sort of like waiting up for your teenager to make it home safe and sound on New Year’s Eve.
Mark Richt’s team has scattered far and wide (which, come to think of it, is probably a good thing, as away from UGA they’re much less likely to run afoul of campus cops lurking to find unsuspecting athletes breaking rules about emerging from alleys and such). So far, thankfully, the only report we’ve gotten from any off-campus adventures is the four Dawgs who stopped to help at a wreck on on I-95 outside Miami on their way to Key West.
But while the alleged robbery crew from Auburn appears to have assured UGA of not winning a second consecutive Fulmer Cup, we all remember last year and the kind of havoc spring break can wreak on a depth chart. And so it is that Zach Mettenberger, whose height and big arm looked so promising in last year’s G-Day game, now resides on the roster of the LSU Tigers after spending the past season throwing for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns in leading Butler Community College to the JUCO national championship game.
It’s been a quiet year so far for the Bulldogs (knock on wood), with the only real eyebrow-raiser of late being Washaun Ealey’s brief suspension from the team for missing some early morning running. Richt said the suspension was aimed at getting Ealey’s attention, but I suspect it also was meant to send a message to the rest of the team that the coach known more for spreading love than invoking fear isn’t messing around any more when it comes to discipline.
A good example of the benefits of emphasizing the tough in tough love, came up in the basketball Dogs’ pre-NCAA press session in Athens Wednesday. Mark Fox and some of his players talked about the mess the coach inherited from Dennis Felton, who seemed to constantly be having to kick players off his team. Trey Thompkins noted that when Fox first arrived “we were a team full of problems. We had little things as far as academics and taking care of stuff off the court. Coach Fox came in and helped us fix it.”
The fix involved Fox taking his team to Sanford Stadium and making them run the steps. Said Thompkins: “That was enough for all of us to wake up. … He took us to the stadium and we ran all of our problems off.”
Fox said he thinks that’s one reason Georgia is back in the NCAA tournament. “You can’t be successful consistently on the basketball court if you’re not successful off it. I think there’s a real correlation between guys who can function as students and as good citizens also play[ing] well. I think if you have issues off the floor, all it does is take your time and energy and focus away from playing the right way on the floor. So we did talk a great deal about trying to become issue-free, socially and academically.”
Substitute football field for basketball court and the same thing applies. I don’t think it’s at all coincidental that the past two disappointing seasons of play by Richt’s Dogs also saw a rash of disciplinary problems away from the field.
Let’s hope while the players are enjoying spring break they keep one thing in mind: Coach Joe Tereshinksi and those Sanford Stadium steps await back in Athens.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg