A lot of what you hear from college football players in the offseason should be taken with a grain of salt.
It’s part of the team-building process to talk it up, so you get a lot of “we’re working harder than ever” chatter. We heard last year about how much harder the players were working and how much faster they were. Then came the 6-7 season and the conditioning coach and his supposedly infamous mat drills were out, and now we’re being told how much harder the players are working and how it’s paying off with them being much bigger and faster.
Whether that’s true or just more talk, we’ll see this fall.
Also, if the previous season wasn’t all it was expected to be, you tend to hear comments about how much better it is now in terms of leadership and attitude. The past couple of years we’ve heard a lot of that kind of talk from Georgia football players, and we’re hearing more of it this year. There wasn’t any leadership in the locker room. There was finger-pointing going on after losses.
The difference is, this time the picture they’re painting of the previous year’s attitude and morale problems is much more extreme than we’ve heard before, with several instances of players who are no longer on the team being referred to as “cancers” that had to be removed in order for the team to get healthy again.
Whether that’s a bit of scapegoating or the morale problems really were exacerbated last year by some dissenters, this seems to be more than just team-building among the current players. Christian Robinson has been outspoken about last year’s morale problems, as has Ben Jones. And Tavarres King told the Macon Telegraph there were “absolutely” more chemistry problems with last year’s team than than those of us outside the program knew about.
Looking back, that’s not surprising, especially considering the early-season losing streak. In the midst of that four-game skid, Mark Richt was asked about how his team was handling the adversity, and he said, “All I would say is everybody showed up to work and we worked. That’s all we can ask right now. We just have to keep grinding right now.”
As the season wore on, we got more comments from him about the players needing to show up for work like a man and do their job.
Kris Durham said before the Tennessee game that the team was “trying to stay positive, trying to have a positive mentality, and get back to having fun. It’s never fun when you lose.”
Now it appears the problems with that team were more severe than simply not “finishing the drill.” It wasn’t all attitude, of course. There definitely were talent problems at certain positions. But perhaps members of the team who were unhappy over a lack of playing time or the way they’d been treated by coaches dragged the team down even more.
And this year? Well, it’s all going to be different, isn’t it? At least that’s what we’re being told.
I’m not sure all this pointing of the finger at departed players is any more productive than the “griping and moaning,” as Richt calls it, that apparently went down last year.
I think maybe a better mind-set is how Orson Charles appears to be approaching the coming season. As he told Dawgs247, “We just need to go back to just having fun. When I was coming here, I was watching when they played Hawaii. All them boys were jumping up and down and having fun. I’m like, ‘Why can’t we have that now? Why can’t we do that now?’ There’s nothing stopping us. We’re stopping ourselves. So I think that’s the No. 1 thing that we need to go out there and remember. We’ve been playing this game for a long time, and growing up, we’ve been having fun. So let’s just have fun doing it now.”
It is a game, after all.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg