Athens – You never know what the hot topic will be three days before a big football game, do you? At Georgia’s post-practice media session Wednesday night, handshakes were the most popular conversation piece — specifically, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy’s concern that pregame handshakes among the teams Saturday could lead to brawl.
Gundy’s reservations drew varying reactions from Georgia players. Joe Cox said he could see the potential for something bad to happen. Rennie Curran said there was nothing to worry about. See their comments here.
In any case, Oklahoma State has decided to forgo the pregame handshakes requested as a sportsmanship gesture by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) at all season-opening games this weekend. Oklahoma State’s decision was made “after much deliberation among our coaching staff,” OSU associate athletics director Kevin Klintworth said in an e-mail.
Gundy earlier this week expressed doubts about the AFCA’s handshake initiative, fearing that the convergence of 175 or so fired-up players for pregame handshakes at midfield could lead to trouble.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said Wednesday night that the decision was up to Oklahoma State as the home team. “We’ll do whatever they decide,” he said. And they have decided.
Richt said Georgia had answered “we’d be happy to do it” in response to an AFCA survey about the handshake idea, but he drew a line after season openers.
“If you started trying to do it every single game, I think things could get heated in certain rival games, yeah,” Richt said.
While Georgia and Oklahoma State are not exactly rivals, their matchup is not a typical season-opener type of game, either. Both teams are nationally ranked — Oklahoma State No. 9 and Georgia No. 13 — and the Cowboys want to avenge their 35-14 loss to the Dogs in Sanford Stadium two years ago.
“Everybody knows how they were talking after the game, saying that they didn’t come ready to play and thought they were outcoached and outplayed,” Cox said, “and nobody wants to play again and have the same feeling after the game. So they’re going to be focused and fired up, and I’m sure the last thing on their mind is meeting at midfield and shaking hands before the game.”
Now, on to a couple other topics of interest from Wednesday night at Butts-Mehre:
– The biggest news, although pretty much a foregone conclusion, of Georgia’s travel list for the Oklahoma State game was that Caleb King is not on it because of the pulled hamstring that has sidelined him since Aug. 12. Twelve true freshmen are on the list: receivers Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten, tight ends Orson Charles and Arthur Lynch, tailback Washaun Ealey, quarterbacks Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger, defensive backs Branden Smith and Shawn Williams, defensive end Montez Robinson, defensive tackle Abry Jones and linebacker Mike Gilliard. Most of the freshmen making the trip, although not the quarterbacks, are expected to play.
– Richt said he’s changing his longstanding in-season practice schedule. For the first time since he’s been at Georgia, the Bulldogs will practice on Sunday nights and take off on Mondays, rather than vice versa. Richt thinks the advantages of the new schedule will include allowing the team to “finish up” film review of the preceding game on Sundays and “switch gears” to the next opponent on Tuesdays, rather than doing a bit of both on Mondays. He also said this setup will give assistant coaches all day Monday and half a day Tuesday “before they have to present a plan [for the next game], which they think will help them.” Richt said the schedule — practicing/meeting the day after a game, then taking the following day off – is patterned after the NFL model. “My brother-in-law, Brad Johnson, who played in the league for 18 years, said he really liked the schedule as a player,” Richt said.
And one item from earlier in the day:
– Asked about a recent report that Michigan routinely exceeds NCAA limits on how much time football teams can devote to practice and other required activities, Richt said Georgia closely monitors its compliance with the rule. He said John Eason, now Georgia’s director of football operations and formerly an assistant coach, long has scheduled the Bulldogs’ practices. Richt said he gets the schedule from Eason about a week in advance “to make sure the plan is set and that we are staying in compliance.”
Richt added: “Gosh, our compliance director has got a big window and can look out and watch us [practice], so they are well aware of what’s going on. We do a good job.”