Last season, particularly after the 0-2 start, the biggest challenge for Mark Richt’s Bulldogs was blocking out all the fan and media talk about whether their head coach would keep his job.
This year, it’s a matter of the players trying to focus amid all the preseason hype about Georgia returning a lot of starters, probably starting the season in the Top 10, being favored to win the SEC East again and even figuring in some early BCS chatter.
Georgia’s been there before and it didn’t turn out so well. The 2008 Dawgs had lots of star power and even loftier preseason expectations, but proved to be a big disappointment.
Christian Robinson, who’s emerged as one of the more vocal leaders of the 2012 Bulldogs and who redshirted in 2008, told Edward Aschoff of ESPN.com that selfishness and immaturity were a problem for that team. Robinson maintained this year’s team is smarter and more mature. “This is a totally different team,” Robinson said. “You don’t read your press clippings and start believing.”
But then you’d kind of expect him to say that.
Judging by the increased number of off-field problems that have cropped up so far, some involving seniors who ought to know better, you might begin to wonder whether some on this year’s team have looked at Georgia’s favorable schedule, heard the hype and are taking success for granted.
“We have to understand that we have to earn it and nothing’s going to be given to us,” Richt told Aschoff. “I hope they’re not believing the hype. I have to make sure they understand that they gotta earn everything they get and I can reference 2008.”
Here’s hoping Richt cites the lessons of that year frequently, and that the players listen more closely than some of them appear to have done so far during this offseason.
Ironically, Robinson believes that the adversity caused by having several starters possibly suspended early in the season will end up being a plus, banding the team together more tightly and forcing them to work harder early on. I hope he’s right.
Quarterback Aaron Murray, who Aschoff said has taken it on himself to become more outspoken on team issues, thinks the lesson has been learned.
“Our guys understand that you can’t be doing anything too crazy right now,” Murray said. “This could be a very special season. This could be a season you remember for the rest of your life. If we work hard, the sky’s the limit for us.”
If not, it could be 2008 all over again.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg