Apparently all a coach needs to do is give a recruiting class a catchy nickname to help it become "the greatest haul in school history."
That’s essentially what Mark Richt has done by dubbing the group of freshmen who on Thursday participated in their first practice as "The Dream Team" and placing the burden of expectation on their young shoulders.
The truth of the matter is that Georgia attracted classes with a similar recruiting pedigree throughout most of Richt’s tenure, but somehow few of those groups of freshmen entered college with the same level of fanfare.
Perhaps it was the lack of a group nickname that generated buzz on Internet message boards and in the dreary days of football-less summer.
This isn’t to say that fans shouldn’t be excited about the new players who officially joined the Bulldogs this week. Richt rightfully identified the Dream Team as a group brimming with the potential to help Georgia return to the winning ways of his early tenure.
He said as much at his preseason kickoff press conference on Thursday.
"As far as their skill sets, I think there’s no question, either sooner or later they will really be productive for us," Richt said. "It’s just a matter of how quickly can they figure it out and maybe what’s the depth chart like at their position."
Previous Bulldog recruiting classes came in with similar potential to produce, however, and some didn’t get the job done. The key will be for Richt’s staff and — perhaps more importantly — the upperclassmen on the roster to help them make the often difficult transition into college life.
"No matter where you come from, no matter how many stars you have, it’s a big transition just to play college football, let alone in the SEC," said senior cornerback Brandon Boykin, a key piece in Georgia’s highly regarded 2008 class, who played as a true freshman and earned All-SEC honors last year. "That’s something that you’ve gotta get used to, and you’re only gonna get used to it by game experience."
There’s more to the transition than simply adjusting to life on the football field, however. All freshmen — athlete or otherwise — must sharpen their time-management skills and motivate themselves to attend class without being forced off the couch.
For the football freshmen, they have to juggle those academic requirements with being on time for meetings and appointments, learning their on-field assignments and participating in team workouts.
The more self-motivated players are prepared to handle the workload when they arrive on campus, but some aren’t — and that apparently includes the members of the Dream Team.
"I think a few of them need to learn how to work. It’s a lot about work ethic and learning that nothing’s given to you," said linebacker Christian Robinson, another member of the 2008 signing class that Rivals.com ranked the seventh-best in the nation. "Maybe you’re the best player, but there are a lot of guys here who are good at their craft. … I’m hoping that they can learn to work and realize that they’re gonna have to put in the time and effort to beat you. It’s not just gonna be handed to you."
In other words, there is a massive difference between potential and performance. Every scholarship player on Georgia’s roster has potential, or else he wouldn’t be there. The freshmen will learn soon enough that they’ll have to earn everything they get — that a group nickname is fun and it created some excitement in February, but now is when they must prove they belong.
Some Dream Teamers will be up to the challenge and some won’t, just like every highly touted recruiting class Richt’s staff has signed over the last decade.
Richt and company believe this group can be different — that there is enough talent and character within its ranks to put Georgia’s program back on track. If Richt, his coaches and his veteran leaders can convince enough of them to buy in, perhaps that will be the case.
But the impact this freshman class makes will largely be determined by the Dream Teamers themselves. If they think they can get by on recruiting pedigree alone, they’ll become just another of Georgia’s classes that entered with a bang and left with a whimper.