Friday, July 24, 2009

SEC Media Days - Dawg edition

Yep, there he is...the most tenured coach in the SEC. Nine years of unquestioned, unequaled success in Athens. I feel supremely confident with Coach Richt at the helm, and am always proud to see him represent UGA at these functions.

On with the highlights...

- Starts off hitting the "team" aspect for this year, with the absence of the "starpower" that we had in 2008. I understand the concept, but I don't necessarily agree with the assertion that A) the combined superstardom of Stafford and Moreno caused the rest of the team to be complacent or; B) that them not being here anymore is somehow a good thing.

Losing Stafford and Moreno has to hurt us...there is no way around it. Now, guys are going to have an opportunity to step up and fill in the gaps, and of course I hope they do. But they had those same opportunities last year (most of them, anyway), and I think it's a little bit revisionist to say that the presence of those two guys caused everybody else to shrink like wallflowers. Maybe I'm wrong...Richt surely knows more about the team than I do. But, in my humble opinion, any complacency was caused more by guys reading their own press clippings.

- First question, right out of the box, is about Joe Cox. Richt lists Cox's assets thusly:
  • Accurate passer
  • Great decision maker
  • Handles pressure well
  • Leadership ability

These are the attributes that Richt says make up a great quarterback, and he says Joe C has them all. All of that sounds great, and I believe him in every case...I just can't wait to actually see these attributes manifest themselves on the field.

- And, as we know now, Coach Richt is also slightly psychic...he said in his answer to the ever-present Tebow question that whomever snubbed him probably made a typo. Which, as it turns out, was exactly right. This man is a GENIUS!

- Richt on moving the WLOCP out of Jacksonville: "This is what I want to do. I want to focus on winning that game. That's all I want to focus on when it comes to that game. That's my goal from here on in. That will be my pat answer from here on in. "

Bravo, Coach. Exactly the response I wanted to hear.

- His two explanations for the defensive debacles last year:

  • Injuries. In my mind, the Jeff Owens injury was the biggest, but our DE position was also decimated, as well as the safety position at times.
  • He told the story again about how he had the team stop tackling after the second practice, due to the injury situation. I know that's one that he would do differently if he could do it over, and the defense certainly looked a lot more aggressive and fundamentally sound in the bowl game after they switched back to full contact

My explanations were severe deficiencies in both rushing the quarterback and, especially in the later part of the season, breakdowns in fundamentals.

- Hasn't ruled out a blackout game this year. Sorry, but at this point the whole concept makes me queasy. I say we give it a rest for a year.

- He said there has been no difference from the coaching perspective when it comes to off-field incidents, and says that the difference is the leadership coming from the players. Also, he said the players were as sick of hearing about it as everybody else was, so they just wanted to make sure it didn't happen again.

He specifically mentioned both Owens and Joe C as guys who have led the charge against any of the stupid behavior. I can definitely see that.

- The schedule this year is a bear. As much as we talked about how hard last year was, this one is probably just as tough. Only things that might make it easier is that we don't have to go to Baton Rouge (we have them at home), we replace Alabama with Arkansas, and we get the off week before Jacksonville.

But our out-of-conference opponents? I'll put them up against anybody's schedule in the country.

Richt said that the goal was never to have three BCS-level opponents in the same year, but it's just the way the schedule fell this year. I agree that we probably want to avoid something like that if we can, but as a fan I do love the cajones we are showing by beefing up the schedule.

- When asked about the strengths/weaknesses of the team, Richt started with the strength up the middle on defense...the beastly quartet of Owens/Atkins/Weston/Tyson at DT, Curran/Dent at LB, and then Jones/Evans at safety. I will agree with him, even on the safeties...I think Evans has really found a home there, and I have high hopes that Reshad has matured enough to fix the fixable issues he had last year.

Mentioned DE as a position where we have to improve, but brought up the point that I talked about last week...this coaching staff has a history of getting production out of our defensive end position. Last year was the aberration, and hopefully not a trend.

On offense, the strengths he listed were the O-line (agree wholeheartedly) and experience coming back. And he is very confident in Blair Walsh's ability to kick extra points. O....K?

Needs Drew Butler to be more consistent. Not sure where all of the special teams talk came from all of a sudden, but I guess I agree with him. He did say that he knows that we will be more effective in kickoffs. I guess we can't go anywhere but up.

- Sounds like Brandon Boykin has the starting job for now opposite Prince Miller, but Sanders Commings and Branden Smith will both get a shot. I have to say, this position is one of the most concerning for me...not a lot of experience, and we will be playing a lot of teams that like to sling the ball around.

Richt's quote: "Losing Asher Allen was not a good thing for us." To which I say AMEN.

- At running back, it still sounds like nobody has separated themselves as The Man, but Richt says that is more due to having a bunch of talented guys rather than a pack that isn't very good. I think we are going to be fine at running back, mainly due to the fact that I think the offensive line has a chance to be tremendous.

- He basically said that the #2 QB is an open competition, and he's not afraid to give it to one of the freshmen if they earn it. He also mentioned the possibility of a Wildcat-type package for Logan Gray (although I agree with Blutarsky that we would probably call it the Wild Dawg)...that's exciting to me. I love Logan's athleticism and was very impressed with the way he threw the ball at G-Day. That's quite a weapon, and I'm glad to see that they are looking for ways to use him.

- More assurances that he's not looking to go anywhere:

"You know, every decision I ever made since I've been at Georgia has been to try to make a decision that would help us in the long run. I didn't try to do anything in a quick fix fashion. I was used to working for a man, named Bobby Bowden, he had so much success at one place, you know, that was attractive to me. I wanted to provide that same kind of stability for our players and our program and our staff and their wives and children, as Coach Bowden did for me and my family. So everything I've done is to try to make sure we will be here for the long haul."

Overall, some refreshingly boring stuff from him, in my was nice not to have to hear any questions regarding arrests, injuries, The Celebration. Looks like we are entering the season under the radar, which is just fine by me.

Joe Cox highlights: Mostly from Hale's Blog

On whether he ever considered a transfer...
"I never thought about leaving. When I signed to come to Georgia, it was for good, and I love everything about the school. No matter what happened, even if Matthew would have come back, I wouldn't have regretted anything. I've made too many good friends, had too many good times and having been part of this team to just pack up and go somewhere else."

On people's expectations of Georgia this year...
"I figured a lot of questions would just be about how we're going to come back this year after losing so many guys, about everybody's expectations. Our expectations haven't changed. We know a lot of people are probably overlooking us, and that's probably the best thing for us. It's made us have a good offseason, and we're looking to keep rolling on through into camp and through the season."

On becoming a leader:
I have stepped into my role as a leader of this team. I am right where I want to be. I've worked hard and a lot of guys look up to me and are ready and willing to follow me.

On his leadership style vs. Matthew Stafford's style of leadership:
We are different types of leaders. I'm more vocal that Matthew was. That's not a good thing or a bad thing. Matthew was a great leader, but the distinction is the team. I don't think he had enough help. This year a lot more guys have stepped us as leaders as well.

That last part jumped out at me...Staff has taken a lot of heat about not being the "leader" that the team needs, but Cox kind of hit on what Richt said. Sounds like guys just expected other people to lead (whether it was Stafford, Moreno, or whomever), and there weren't enough guys taking accountability.

Jeff Owens highlights:

On losing star players Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford:
The star of our team this year is our team. AJ Green stands out as a star. But this year its all about the "team." Everyone has to be a star to win and be successful.

On the off-season this year:
It has been a lot different than last year. It's been a low-key offseason. I've stepped into my role of leadership. I challenge my teammates and we combine everything for the Georgia football equation for success.

Again, great choice by Richt to bring these guys, and I think they all did the Dawg Nation proud.


43 DAYS!!!

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