Mark Richt has obviously heard the sniping out there that a rash of player suspensions on his team is somehow indicative of him not being in control of his program.
And he’s having none of it.
Richt did a good job Tuesday night at an Augusta Bulldog Club gathering of stating the case for his brand of discipline at UGA.
“A lot of people might think you may be losing control of your program because you have a lot of suspensions from the season, but the reality is that’s how you keep control of your team by disciplining your team,” the Athens Banner-Herald quoted Richt as telling the crowd of fans.
And perhaps in reference to how Urban Meyer is reported to have conducted business at Florida, Richt added: “If you notice, we’re not going to have any partiality between the kids that walk on or are starting.”
Richt noted past instances of players who had disciplinary trouble while in Athens but still managed to become successful, including Verron Haynes of “hobnail boot” fame. “He got suspended for the first game of that season along with Randy McMichael and a couple of other guys,” Richt said. “Those guys turned it around and they recovered, they learned and grew from it.”
Richt also made an oblique comparison between the up-front way he handles these situations and the way they were handled by his predecessor at UGA.
“When I first came to Georgia, there had been some issues,” the Macon Telegraph quoted him as saying. “You don’t get a job unless there had been some issues. And the thing that I said to our staff and to my administration is if something happens, we’re gonna clean it up, we’re not gonna cover it up. OK. When you have that philosophy, you’re gonna see some of your dirty laundry. And it’s embarrassing, quite frankly. You don’t like it. But if you face the problem head on, and you take care of it, and you discipline it and move forward in a positive direction, that’s all we can do. So that’s how we’re going about our business. And in the meantime, some other guys are gonna have to step up and play ball in those first couple of games, and get after it.”
Talking with reporters before the Augusta appearance, Richt said he’d told Malcolm Mitchell that he needs to be ready to play both defense and offense this fall, as well as possibly being the kickoff or punt returner, and that he’s met with the strength and nutrition staff to see what might be done to increase Mitchell’s stamina and avoid more hamstring problems. “He’s had a couple of hamstring pulls. He had one last season and he had one in the spring. You just don’t want to overload him is the big thing. If you do, you don’t get him on either side of the ball.”
As the season rolls on, the coach said, “I’ve got a feeling with the temperature change and with the guys coming back, I think he’ll be more freed up to make more plays offensively, but in the beginning, he’s got to be ready to play DB.”
TEAMMATES TALK UP CROWELL
Fans were encouraged to see Isaiah Crowell running strong Saturday in the G-Day game, and we can take more encouragement from the way some of his teammates were talking about him in an ESPN.com profile.
Discussing the change from Crowell’s freshman season, quarterback Aaron Murray said, “He definitely needed some growing up. He definitely needed to mature. He realized that, and I know he heard all the talk going around [about him]. He took it personally.”
Murray noted that Crowell is taking it more seriously this year, spending more time in the film room and even devoting more time to stretching before practice. More importantly, Crowell understands what he’s supposed to do, including in pass protection, and is working hard at it.
The competition from other backs in Georgia’s now crowded tailback corps is a factor, Mark Richt noted. “It’s not going to be like a whole program is resting on Isaiah’s shoulders,” Richt said.
But the bottom line, Murray said, is Crowell is “a special running back. When he puts his mind to it, I really don’t see anyone better than him. When he has the ball in hands, it can turn into a big play at any minute.”
I think Murray’s right. And there’s no doubt a more determined Crowell will definitely be a plus for the Dogs this fall.
LOSING A LEGEND
Athens and UGA lost a legend this past weekend with the death of Fred Birchmore at 100. Birchmore, a remarkable man who gained fame for riding a bicycle around the world when he was young and who built an impressive stone wall when he was in his 70s, was one of my Scoutmasters at Troop 4 in Athens and I spent many happy hours in his woods as a kid. He later donated those woods to become part of Athens’ Memorial Park, and the first time my daughter and I hiked the Birchmore Trail a few years ago, we encountered Fred and had a nice chat with him about the old days and his extensive arrowhead collection. Birchmore, who excelled in gymnastics and boxing while at UGA and was the school’s oldest surviving athlete, also raised a wonderful family of high-achievers, including son Danny, who was my patrol leader in Scouts and went on to become the tennis Dogs’ first All-American player. Men like Fred Birchmore don’t come along very often and I feel blessed to have come under his tutelage. My sincerest condolences to Danny and the entire Birchmore family.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg