UGA’s Richt might face a bigger challenge now that he’s off the hot seat

UGADayLogoMark Richt, along with Mark Fox, will be making the rounds of alumni association gatherings starting April 18 in Rome. The UGA Days tour will hit Albany April 24, Columbus April 25, Macon May 8, Charlotte May 9, the Golden Isles May 15, Valdosta May 16, Birmingham May 22, Tampa May 24 and Atlanta July 23.

This time last year when Richt went out to meet the fans, he was widely considered to be on the “hot seat,” coming off a losing season and a dispiriting bowl performance. The talk was what a challenge Richt faced just to keep his job.

But, actually, I think Richt faces a bigger challenge this season than last.

Consider: Richt had the enormous goodwill generated by the Dream Team in his pocket a year ago and the realization on the part of most fans that Georgia faced tremendous odds in opening the season with Boise State and South Carolina, though the schedule looked pretty manageable after that.

As it played out, the fan optimism surrounding the arrival of Isaiah Crowell and Co. in Athens was enough for Richt to ride out the feared 0-2 start to the season. (It helped considerably that despite looking awful much of the time in the Georgia Dome against Boise, Georgia actually outplayed South Carolina, even in Steve Spurrier’s estimation, in losing a close one a week later.)

The 10-game winning streak that followed put the hot-seat talk on the back burner.

By season’s end, most fans I talked with felt good progress had been made, even if Crowell’s difficulties staying on the field put an end to thoughts of him as the second coming of Herschel.

Still, although most in the Bulldog Nation didn’t really expect the Dawgs to prevail over LSU in the SEC Championship, the return of the all-too-familiar fourth quarter collapse in the bowl against Michigan State left the fan base grumbling a bit.

A year ago when Mark Richt visited with fans, he was on the hot seat. (UGA Alumni Association)

A year ago when Mark Richt visited with fans, he was on the hot seat. (UGA Alumni Association)

Then came signing day, which saw Richt get a solid class of recruits — ranked fifth best in the nation by ESPN — but fall short in a few last-minute courtships, taking a bit of the luster off Georgia’s showing in the minds of some recruitniks.

Actually, the self-dubbed “Ring Team” with Keith Marshall, Todd Gurley and John Theus has just as much potential as the previous year’s signing class, but they arrive in Athens amid a different atmosphere from a year ago.

Much more is expected of the 2012 Georgia Bulldogs, who return a host of starters, including most of last season’s fifth-ranked defense. Early on there was talk that Georgia might start the season as a Top 5 team, though that early optimism might end up being tempered somewhat by the fact that the Dawgs will open SEC play at Missouri with most of the starting secondary suspended.

And then there’s the issue of attrition, which some see as a big deal, though it appears to me to be pretty much business as usual for Georgia and SEC schools in general. Last year also saw some players getting “off the bus” to transfer elsewhere for various reasons and a handful of others shown the door because they couldn’t get in step with what Richt believes is the Georgia Way.

But even when the tailback corps was decimated by transfers last year, there was still that Dream Team fervor to counter it. This year the problems Georgia will face fielding an experienced secondary against Mizzou’s James Franklin seem to loom a bit larger in many people’s minds.

And with Georgia expected by many to win the SEC East, the stakes are just as high, if not higher, for Richt this season than when his job was believed to be on the line. As we’ve already discussed here, winning the SEC East a second year only to lose again to the West team in the Dome and wind up in another non-BCS bowl would be seen by many as underachieving or, at best, standing pat.

The last time a Richt team entered a season with lofty expectations placed on them — remember the preseason No. 1 in in 2008? — the Dawgs came a cropper, starting a slide that didn’t begin to turn around until that 10-game run last year.

Richt definitely doesn’t want to see that happen again. So with all those expectations and this year’s schedule even more favorable, Georgia’s head coach might wind up feeling more pressure now that he’s off the hot seat than when he was on it.

Got something on your mind concerning UGA athletics or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

362 comments Add your comment

AltamahaDawg

April 6th, 2012
10:39 am

So you are saying as a typical UGA fans, you don’t think 24-15 is a very good record over the past 3 yrs? Ok. That seems about right. Your point would be what?

alpharetta alice

April 6th, 2012
10:41 am

you think it is a good record? you are a typical uga dummy fan.

SEC Fan Club

April 6th, 2012
10:50 am

Rumor has it that UGA is working with electronic manufacturers to develop gameday ankle monitors.

DawginLex

April 6th, 2012
12:12 pm

Good one!

I have never heard that before!

Must have stayed up late and worked on that one with your mommy!

Congrats!

Vampire Bill

April 6th, 2012
2:55 pm

Really you have to wonder what the upside of Mark Richt is? You always hear he’s such a great man but when does that equate to the football program? Dawgs have more than their share of arrests and drug use. Graduation rates are decent but so many players transfer.

Many people question his leadership on the field. Tired old offensive scheme from Bobby Bowden. Strength and conditioning has always been just adequate at best. Game plan logic changes during the heat of the battle isn’t notable.

When will the 41-10 beatings from the top tier teams stop?

B C Dawg

April 6th, 2012
3:48 pm

Vampire —- You are about as comical as sec fan club and probably the same poster, Either a Techiie or an Obsessed with Dawgs Alabam supporter. Hard to understand that obsession cause we have not played in years and doubt if you make to SEC chanpionship game again this year.

DawgByte

April 6th, 2012
7:39 pm

Bill King -

Give it a rest will you. Can’t you find something else to right about than this tired storyline? Do you or anyone else really know that Mark Richt was on the “Hot Seat” last year? It’s pure speculation and this continuous saga is just bone headed at beast and at worst is dragging down the program. In 2011 we beat Tenn., Fla., GT and trounced AU. That’s a national championship in my book any team you can pull that off and I don’t care how down those teams are… they are rivals and beating them feels great.

FLA DAWG

April 7th, 2012
11:43 pm

Has AltamahaDawg ever had an original thought of his own or does he just come on this site to peruse the posts and disagree with whomever he thinks he can outblog?

In my opinion he’s not suceeded in either case.

But that’s just my opinion and I could be wrong.

EB

April 8th, 2012
12:31 am

Very much on the hot seat!!

AngryD

April 8th, 2012
10:00 am

mark this down–Ga wins the SEC in 2012! The Dog D will dominate the conference with all those dream team running backs, the Dogs will light up the scorebord.

BulldogBen

April 9th, 2012
10:21 am

AngryD, those dream RB’s need to have an Offensive Line to run behind and right now, it’s a horror show up front. John Theus better be the real deal and be ale to play immediately.

The reason most people are STILL skeptical is that we haven’t beaten a Top 25 team since 2009.

There are many completely justified reasons to take a wait and see approach this year.

Kelly

April 10th, 2012
12:54 pm

Seems reasonable to me. I think this may be the telling year for Richt. After the failure of 08 (the worst disappointment I can recall as a life-long fan), it’s essential that Richt succeed. The CG is a different matter. We’ll have to see how teams evolve throughout the season, so to say a CG loss means another UGA flop is a stretch at this point.