ATHENS — Mark Richt officially turned the page to 2011 at his end-of-season news conference Wednesday morning.
“Just want to start out by saying I’m glad 2011 is here,” Richt said. “I’m excited about that. Last season certainly was not anywhere close to what we expected or what we expect here, and it was certainly well below the standard of what Georgia football is all about. I understand that as much as anybody. I’m not happy with the way things went, but I do think in the process of going through what we went through, we’ll be better for it in 2011.”
Despite the team’s 6-7 record this past season, Richt said he has “a greater sense of excitement than I’ve had in a long time,” partly because of changes implemented in conjunction with new athletic director Greg McGarity that Richt said will free him from some administrative duties to spend more time focusing on football in 2011.
“In some ways, I feel like a first-year head coach,” Richt said. “Usually when you come in as the first-year head coach, the administration is coming to you and saying, ‘Coach, what do you need? What do you need to win?’ You wouldn’t think going into your 11th year you’d have that kind of feeling, but that’s what’s going on.
“Instead of me being the new guy, Mr. McGarity is the new guy. And as he has come in, we have had many conversations about what we need to get done to make this program the very best in the United States of America. That revives me; that rejuvenates me; that excites me in a big way.
“We’ve got some things that have been put in place and are being put in place that are going to make us better. And quite frankly things are being put in place that are going to help free me up to [spend] more time doing the things I love the most, which is study the game of football and … be on the cutting edge.”
Richt said director of player development John Eason, a former wide receivers coach, and administrative assistant Dave Van Halanger, a former director of strength and conditioning, will handle certain duties that previously fell on the head coach. Eason serves as the football program’s academic liaison, and Van Halanger heads a new mentoring program for the players.
Also, Richt said, “there are a lot of little things that crop up along the way that sometimes don’t get solved [or] sometimes take too long to solve in my opinion, but now the relationship that I have with Mr. McGarity is helping us expedite some of those things. . . . I am just spending less time messing around with things that Greg will be able to take off my plate from an administrative point of view.”
Richt, though, did not express any intention to take over as the Bulldogs’ play-caller.
“I’m not saying I’m taking over as the [offensive] coordinator or anything like that,” Richt said. “Mike Bobo is the coordinator; Mike Bobo is the quarterback coach, and Coach [Stacy] Searels is the running game coordinator. And they have done a great job . . . so I have confidence in those guys.
“The point I’m making is, I’m going to have the ability to have the time it takes to truly study the game of football, the trends and what’s going on, so a higher percentage of my time is going to be able to be used for that, which is exciting to me.”
Overall, Richt spoke with a confident tone as McGarity and several of Georgia’s associate athletic directors watched and listened.
“We’re not looking to blow anything up,” Richt said. “In my opinion, we are very close. I mean, how many teams have what would be considered a down season one year and the next year they are right there?”
He also stressed the importance of the recruiting class Georgia will sign on Feb. 2.
“You’ve got to get a boost from your recruiting class, your freshman class,” Richt said. “I’ve never been on a championship team that didn’t have guys step up and make a difference.”
– Tim Tucker