Nearing the end of a recruiting contact period and just hours before the team’s annual gala, Georgia managed to get in its first bowl practice on Saturday afternoon.
AJ Reynolds/Staff, @ajreynoldsphoto
Georgia head coach Mark Richt on the sideline during the second half of the NCAA college football game between Georgia and Kentucky in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. Georgia won 59-17.
The Bulldogs went through a 75-minute full pads practice in the rain, the first of seven workouts on campus in the next week to prepare for the Gator Bowl matchup with Nebraska on New Year’s Day in Jacksonville, Fla.
“It’s kind of a weird time of the year. It really is,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said after rain water fell off his jacket when he sat down for his post-practice media availability. “You’re trying to watch game clips, you’re finishing up academics. Of course, our gala’s going on. You’ve got a recruiting weekend. Just a lot of things happening. It’s hard just to have everybody focused on one thing because you just can’t.”
Georgia practiced for the first time since ending the regular season with a 41-34 double overtime win at Georgia Tech on Nov. 30. The players had time off since then for final exams.
The Bulldogs are holding less bowl practices than usual because of changes to the recruiting calendar. A dead period begins on Monday and runs through Jan. 15, making the first two weeks of December’s contact period that much more important.
“Now that we have a longer dead period, we have less time on the road, so we felt like it was more important to have the coaches on the road recruiting a couple of more days, and I thought it would be nice to give the guys a break,” Richt said.
Tight ends coach John Lilly tweeted Friday that he had traveled to seven states, took nine flights and used six rental cars during the two weeks he had been on the road recruiting.
Coaches got a chance to make in-home visits with players already committed to the 2014 class and look at 2015 and 2016 prospects.
Richt and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo were at the Georgia Dome Friday for state championship games. Other assistant coaches were heading to the Georgia Dome for games Saturday night after Georgia’s practice. Running backs coach Bryan McClendon was on the road recruiting and missed the practice.
Georgia will practice a total of 12 times before the bowl game, with sessions in Jacksonville after the team reports on Dec. 26. The practices will be held at Jacksonville University.
“Our people said the facility is going to be as good or better than any bowl we’ve been to,” Richt said.
Richt said he’s received good reports on his team academically, with no player expected to miss the bowl game because of falling short in the classroom.
“I have no cause for alarm right now,” Richt said.
The first practice was about like you might expected. Richt said the team looked “rusty” in the closed session and needs to work toward getting back to game shape after the 8-4 season.
“I’m glad we didn’t play today,” he said. “Partly because of the weather and the other part was because we would have got beat pretty bad. I guess that’s to be expected. We haven’t done anything for a while. It was good to get it started, get it in.”