Mark Richt gives a doubting Bulldog Nation reason to believe

Lots of Georgia folks still like this guy. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Bottom line: A lot of Georgia folks still like this guy. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Here’s one case of goodness being its own reward. The events of this offseason have reminded us that it was never this coach Georgia fans had come to dislike; it was only this coach’s diminishing record. Mark Richt has given those folks reason to believe the record is subject to sudden change, and the cloud of gloom that figured to shroud the 2011 season has all but lifted. (At least for now.)

Georgia folks are optimistic. Cynics among us will insist that Georgia folks are always optimistic until reality descends — then they’re ready to fire their coach. After the Bulldogs lost to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl to finish 6-7, there were a couple of anxious days when some who know the inner workings of the program weren’t certain Richt would keep his job. But here he is, and he’s not acting like a coach about to get canned.

He’s cheerful, almost aggressively so. “I plan on having a hell of a year,” Richt said last month.

In public appearances across the state, he has been greeted not with skepticism, but with an enthusiasm that has redoubled. It’s as if Georgia fans spent the winter contemplating life without Richt and concluded they still want this guy as their coach. They just want him to win more games.

Toward that end, Richt won big on signing day. The “Dream Team” might prove to have been overblown — recruiting classes often are — but there can be no denying that its compilation came at the exact right moment. Georgia fans were wondering if their program still mattered, and the addition of a half-dozen major prospects delivered the message that it does. But there was another component to this offseason, this having to do with Richt himself.

His constituency had come to wonder if winning meant as much to him as it does to them. His answer came in measured steps, but it was the answer Georgia folks wanted. Richt re-assigned strength coach Dave Van Halanger, often described as his best friend, and replaced him with fierce lifetime Bulldog Joe Tereshinski. The mat drills that were Van Halanger’s staple, the exercise routine that had spawned the Richtian slogan “Finish the Drill”? They were dropped.

So was Washaun Ealey, the running back of great promise who kept losing his way. Gone, too, is Caleb King, another hyped runner who failed to meet obligations. “Some of [the departing Bulldogs] left because they wanted to leave,” Richt told the Bulldog Club of Metro Atlanta. “Some we helped out the door.”

A bit later, Richt conceded: “I might not be as patient as I once was.”

This drew the loudest applause of the night, and in that moment it was possible to believe that this coach might well stay in place another 10 years. For all the criticism he has received, nobody who knows Richt wants him to fail. The personal affection Georgia fans have for this coach has been, if not a game-winner, then at least a game-changer.

As of this month, the elements that make up Georgia football have again come into alignment: The coach has been reborn, the players rededicated, the fans re-energized. “You’re either on the bus or you’re not,” Richt said that rainy night in Atlanta. (He has spoken the same words other places.) “If you’re not, you need to get off. If you are, great — now let’s go have some fun.”

Recent seasons have drained the joy from Georgia football. This figures to be the year the fun returns. Unless the Bulldogs lose to Boise State and South Carolina. But they won’t.

By Mark Bradley

116 comments Add your comment

Producer

August 27th, 2011
6:12 pm

“But he’s such a good man…: Thought we better get that one out of the way before the season begins.

Martin the Calvinist

August 27th, 2011
6:21 pm

I think we at least find a way to split the first two, honestly unless there’s some type of surprise that comes from either MSU, UT, or UF, I don’t know why we don’t win all those games that are left. This could be a great bounce back season. Go Dawgs!

dentaldawg

August 27th, 2011
6:21 pm

First to proclaim first, altho not actually first

BDawg

August 27th, 2011
6:27 pm

I believe deep down that the majority of our Bulldog nation would like for coach Richt to succeed and stay in place for the long haul. You can’t have a better representative for a university than Richt. Let’s go out and have a great season! Go Dawgs!

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

August 27th, 2011
6:29 pm

“You’re either on the bus or you’re not,” Richt said that rainy night in Atlanta.

I believe he meant to say, “You’re either on the bus or you’re on a scooter.” Scooter riding has become very controversial for this football team. Coach Richt wants us to ride the bus but it is hard to convince some of these guys (especially the running backs) that there’s a better way to get around than on a scooter. We scoot this state.

wag

August 27th, 2011
6:30 pm

Wow, Mark. That’s a great read man! A great read!!!!!!!!

Kool aid drinkers galore

August 27th, 2011
6:31 pm

energy vampires “,Get on tha Bus” mantra and so forth and so on once again sounds good. Ivs seen that movie too ….. Richt will be toast when he goes 0 – 2 and lose to the gators in another beatdown. Sorry folks I aint buying it.

drbasic

August 27th, 2011
6:33 pm

I just hope the defense is not so “amped” up that the first time they put a slobberknocker on Moore, they don’t get a 15 yard unsportsman penality…but then again…..

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

August 27th, 2011
6:33 pm

Filtering a little dog is not nice.

Bill King is a boob

August 27th, 2011
6:34 pm

Better D Line and a little more blitzing will help the secondary. Richt and all the coaching staff know this is a make or break year. I’d say he cant afford to be patient anymore if he wants to keep coaching in Athens. I do believe him when he says, “I’m planning on having a helluva year.” I plan on it too. Cant wait to get this season rolling next weekend!!!! And, I’m ready to see Richard tote that rock…..that ball aint that heavy!!! Ready to see our badarse linebackers bust some arse too!!!!! And for you so called UGA fans who are doubting this team…..you can always go pull for TECH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Willie

August 27th, 2011
6:35 pm

Miss me yet? I think UGA continues the late hits and arm tackling.

Bill King is a boob

August 27th, 2011
6:35 pm

This is going to be a special year for the DAWGS!! And for those of you people who claim to be UGA fans but are doubting this team……you can always go pull for TECH!!!!

Dosta Dawg

August 27th, 2011
6:37 pm

THis is going to be a helluva year for our team! This is going to be one of those special seasons that longtime great memories are made of. And for those of you who claim to be UGA fans and are doubting this team and coaching staff…………..YOU CAN ALWAYS GO PULL FOR TECH!!!

Badgerina

August 27th, 2011
6:39 pm

Good luck Coach Richt. I badly want you to succeed and be our coach till you retire.

GO DAWGS!!!

Producer

August 27th, 2011
6:39 pm

“They just want him to win more games.” Ya think?! Bradley, You’re another Richt sycophant. Are you sure you weren’t the one who went with Richt into those jungles of Central America this summer spraying him with OFF and adjusting his mosquito netting? Thought that was Steve Hummer but I could be wrong. And most football fans tend to dislike a loser coach’s “diminishing” record. The majority of Dawg fans do not want this loser still at the helm. They wanted him gone two years ago. The fawning press he receives isn’t deserved or warranted. The only person who “should have been helped out the door” was himself. And that’s classy, too, Richt, to blame your players. General Patton, you ain’t. And I can’t tell you how excited I am that he re-signed the damn strength coach! Wowow!!!! We’re bound to go 12-0 after that.

Dirty Dawg

August 27th, 2011
6:40 pm

Hey kool-aid…we don’t give rip whether you’re buyin’ it or not…if you’re a Bulldog then just shut your yap…if you’re not then do whatever you like since we won’t be paying any attention to you anyway…get it? If not then get out.

destin dawg

August 27th, 2011
6:45 pm

Richt is a great guy…. glad to have him… want Urban Meyer ??? Steve Spurrier ??? Saban ??? No thanks.. we.ve had a couple bad seasons…. Bear Bryant did too….. watch the 1st 2 games then we’ll know…. Go Dawgs !! can’t wait !!

chickenman

August 27th, 2011
6:46 pm

TIME TO BEAT THE SMUFS! IN RICHT WE TRUST

Kool aid drinkers galore

August 27th, 2011
6:51 pm

Hey dirty dawg….. put your money where your trap is and bet the house that Richts goes 2 – 0……. Yeah thats what I figured, another Richt apologist blowin hot air.

GT techie

August 27th, 2011
6:54 pm

hey we’re on here cause we dont have a life.. scared to come out….. stuck in metro… muggers… sirens all night… its depressing…. got any valium ???

georgiagirl

August 27th, 2011
6:56 pm

Get on the Bus or Get off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GO DAWGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SPREAD THE RED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

intheknow

August 27th, 2011
6:56 pm

All you Florida fans need to get a dose of reality…..if you really think your beloved gators will be worth a damn this year let me point out a few facts that you gator fans always seem to leave out…1. What makes you think that Weis is going to be successful as your OC?…he failed miserably as the Head Coach and OC at Notre Dame…a school with far superior facilities than Florida has, a rabid fan base and a talent pool that covers the entire nation due to their numerous connections through their alumni base…2.I find it interesting that you gator fans point to Muschamp as your new savior…did you check out the Longhorns record last year?…how about those defensive stats…..believe me Texas was happy to get that booger off their finger….and now he and Weis are going to change the gator offense to a pro style…LOLLOLLOL…..it will never work because the talent on your roster does not fit. The gators are in for a long year…long year….they’ll lose to Fla. St….S. Carolina….Tenn…. Alabama and yes the Dawgs will beat them down in Jacksonville…..I can’t wait….

Sept3rdDawgDay!!

August 27th, 2011
7:16 pm

Richt haters need to look at the big pic. Great recruiting class, I really believe this will be a special year but Haters think about next year, Murry a junior, these new recruits could be awesome after a year in the system. Do you guys really want the coach that recruited these top guys to leave thereby insuring a season or two of rebuilding under a new coach and his new assistants? We are on the verg of some great seasons!!

FB Fan

August 27th, 2011
7:18 pm

Well pass the koolaid! CMR is throwing out more cliches than Dabo Swinney!

Sept3rdDawgDay!!

August 27th, 2011
7:21 pm

Our rivals would like nothing better than for us to lose Richt, outsiders are able to look at the big picture, emotions removed and see that the Dean of SEC Coaches has many more wins and Chamionships in him, I just hope it is in the Black and Red of UGA. All programs have down seasons it is the rebound that makes the program. I Believe!!

DAWG07

August 27th, 2011
7:35 pm

This off season has been the best in several years. Hopefully the young men are learning to do it the GEORGIA WAY. Good for the Dawgs but more so for the young men.
CAN NOT BELIEVE THAT ANYONE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY WOULD NOT PLAY FOR THE DAWGS GIVEN ALL THE POSITIVES: THE FIRST CLASS ATHENS COMMUNITY, A HIGHLY RECONIZED UNIVERSITY, and A COACH THAT YOU WOULD GLADLY SEND YOUR SON TO PLAY FOR WITH NOT RESERVATIONS. I have lived in several states, grew]up and got my B.S. in AL but none of the neighboring states/universities compares to Georgia/UGA.

Chief

August 27th, 2011
7:46 pm

Enter your comments here

Chief

August 27th, 2011
7:50 pm

Sept 3rd, it didn’t take Chizik long to win a Nat. Championship. And yes I would take Saban, Meyer, or Spurrier, all of those coaches have Nat. Championships. Until
UGA people realize it’s about winning UGA will continue to be 2nd tier.

trupert

August 27th, 2011
7:52 pm

Good take on the state of the program, Mr. Bradley.

I can’t remember the exact timing of it but when Mark Richt had that first post Bowl game press conference you could tell he seemed like a man who had the answers and you could see that he believed his words and that things were ready to turn around.

Yes, I wanted to believe in Mark Richt but I could clearly see that he was not a man who was defeated, this was a man who was determained and who believed in himself and his program.

Every thing I’ve heard from this team since points to that being true. Go dawgs!!!

Suwaneedawg

August 27th, 2011
7:54 pm

UGA has to have a good, if not great, year. No way we have 3 down years in a row. I’m on the bus and I’ll do anything I can for our Dawgs and Richt!

Sept3rdDawgDay!!

August 27th, 2011
8:14 pm

Chief, Chizik followed the rainbow and found the pot called Scam-Newton, he was lucky!! We will see how HE starts and builds a program now. Very unusual for a program to rebound from a new coaching staff in less than three years. Just saying it would be a shame to waist the talent we are sitting on because of a knee jerk emotional reaction. This may not be the best year ever, we are playing alot of “rookies” but we are nicely set up for the next couple of years.

Dawgboy

August 27th, 2011
9:03 pm

Think about it. There are some top high school coaches in this state who could have taken the talent on last year’s team to a 6 and 6 record. What we need is a coach who can take the typical UGA talent pool regularly to a 10-2 or 11-1 season. Simply find that 4 million dollar coach that is out there somewhere and bring him in. Adding a million dollars to the coaching payroll of a school that sports an 80 or 90 million dollar athletic budget and tremendous booster support shouldn’t be a problem.

Coach Grohbo

August 27th, 2011
9:25 pm

The Georgia fans have no idea what is about to hit them.

They are the new South Carolina.

Bless their hearts.

weatherdawg

August 27th, 2011
9:27 pm

Kool aid drinker and producer—–You two may have an IQ that totals 6, though I doubt it.. It is morons like you that try to spoil what the rest of truly enjoy and that is college football. Coach Richt was and is an excellent coach and even better man. If you are jealous, that is a you problem. If you don’t like someone who likes to try to live right, that is a you problem. Whatever the case, I am behind this coach and this team and that will be the case if we go 12-0 or 0-12 and I am proud of it. GO DAWGS!!!

LakeDawg

August 27th, 2011
9:32 pm

Mark, I thought I would give kudos when they’re deserved. A really fine article. I think you nailed the essence of how the Dawg nation views Richt. Personally, If it had been up to me, I would have fired CMR last year. However, I’ve always liked and respected him and want him to succeed. That’s best for him and more important its best for UGA.

SEC

August 27th, 2011
9:49 pm

Dawgboy, Richt averages almost 10 games a year, only LSU has more SEC titles over his tenure.Call yourself Jacketboy. Ten win Seasons in SEC since 2001. Auburn 3, Alabama 4 , Arkansas 2, Florida 4, LSU 6, UGA 6 , Tennessee 3. So since Richt arrived in Athens Georgia is Tied with LSU for most 10 win seasons of any program in the conference.

Sept3rdDawgDay!!

August 27th, 2011
9:58 pm

SEC, Great Post!! the numbers do not lie, I admit, I wanted Richt gone after the bowl game, but quickly realized I was responding on feelings and emotions and not the facts. Haters, look at the numbers. The Best Is Yet to Come!

aladawg

August 27th, 2011
10:17 pm

To all you ass holes putting Richt and the Bull Daws down get the hell off this blog I will guess that most of you are your mother’s brother.

invictus mon

August 27th, 2011
10:42 pm

Getting off to the idea of getting on the bus!!!!!! Naysayers can shove it!

LHarding Dawg

August 27th, 2011
10:50 pm

Coach Richt is fine and the Georgia Bulldogs are going to be fine. I’ll be seeing you at 8:00 next Saturday for the Boise win. Then after that I’ll be seeing you in Athens for the SC game. Win or lose, you have got to believe.

SecFan

August 27th, 2011
10:59 pm

Dawgs will beat Boise St., but South Carolina is a different animal. Ironic that when it looks like Georgia can turn the tables on Florida, Spurrier rises again to torture the Dawgs for the foreseeable future.

Athens Dawg

August 27th, 2011
11:09 pm

When was the last time SC had a 10 win season?

raleigh

August 27th, 2011
11:19 pm

Go Dawgs! Beat the Smurfs

Defensive Dawg

August 28th, 2011
12:31 am

In leadership circles we say… either you are a “Fire-starter” (you start passionate fires within people/you are a leader) or a “Fire-fighter” (you put out fires and kill passion in people). Many of you on our blogs are “fire-fighters” with comments such as, “don’t drink the kool-aid”, “he’s missionary/preacher man”, “anyone can coach a team to a 6-6 year”. Just very negative comments. “Fire-starters” are passionate people who believe at all costs. We as leaders strategically separate ourselves from negative “Fire-fighters”. I humbly recommend that you “get on the bus” or go root for another team. PS- I for one am drinking the Kool-aid because I know who CMR’s real Boss is that Boss tells me that I can do anything through HIM. Get on the honkin’ Bus and Spread the RED!!!!! (No DIsrespect aimed at our Actual Fire-fighters who protect our homes and lives on a daily basis) WHO-WAH!

CarefulNow

August 28th, 2011
3:41 am

Nice article, Mr. Bradley…I agree..Joy will return to Dawgville in 2011,

All Dressed Up

August 28th, 2011
6:14 am

Whatever. Just win. Thank God for easy schedules.

Brucerugby79

August 28th, 2011
6:43 am

Well said Defensive Dawg-I am so proud to have CMR as our Coach–GO DOGS–I guarantee you every other school wishes they had him.

Nub

August 28th, 2011
7:50 am

26 passes to Orson Charles last yr and AJ didn’t play in the first 4 games….. That is averaging two passes per game….. Is Bobo still calling the plays?…….. Who called for a field goal after a long drive against UCF when it was 4th and goal?…… How dare any of you comment about UGA football , must of you have never played in one football game….. Somebody else has been feeding us a lot of hope and change…… Nothing less than winning the east will save jobs in Athens…..!!!! Remember our record against the gaytors over the last 10 yrs…..

buzzDawg

August 28th, 2011
9:10 am

Dawgs go Dome to Dome in 2011.

Old Dog

August 28th, 2011
10:00 am

You can be a loyal American and have issues with the current President. You can be a loyal Dawg fan and have issues with the current Coach. I wish CMR the best this season, but I am waiting to see how it will go. There are big mistakes that have turned my stomach over the last three years, mistakes that cost us games. I look forward to a winning season this year, can CMR deliver?