GAINESVILLE | Spring practices are in the rearview mirror for Mark Richt. That means it’s full speed ahead for the spring speaking tour for the Georgia football coach.
Georgia head coach Mark Richt on the sidelines during the first half of the NCAA football game between Georgia and Appalachian State in Athens, Ga., Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.
Last week it was Greenville, S.C. On Tuesday night, Richt hit the Gainesville Civic Center’s grand ballroom for the UGA Day event. Get ready, Dalton, Richt is on the way on Thursday night.
Richt, entering his 14th season at Georgia, will make 10 of the 12 stops this year for the event put on by the UGA Alumni Association and UGA Athletic Association. Coordinators Mike Bobo and Jeremy Pruitt will fill in on the other two nights.
“We partner up obviously to have these type of events and because of that, the format, you kind of know what’s coming,” Richt said beforehand. “Sometimes when it was like (every local Bulldog Club) had their own way of doing things, you never knew what you were going to get sometimes. It’s very well-organized, and I enjoy it.”
The crowd of some 200 red and black clad fans got a buffet dinner with their admission cost. Richt gave them football fodder to chew on.
He talked about how Pruitt is “close buddies” with offensive line coach Will Friend and Bobo.
It’s not unusual to find coaches crammed into a film room, he said, watching footage together.
“There’s a camaraderie in the building that’s rare,” Richt said.
On the dynamic between the defensive players and an entirely new coaching staff on that side of the ball: “They started off extremely excited and then they began to survive these coaches.”
Now they have to survive an offseason in which most players, particularly on defense, will be asked to get slimmer, trimmer and more agile.
“The game is going to a lot of speed, a lot of tempo, a lot more plays are being run,” Richt said. “It’s go hard and rest just a minute and go hard again. The recovery time is not what it used to be. You might have 40 seconds in between a play back in the day. Now you might have 15 seconds. So you have to train them a little differently.”
Speaking of trimming down, Richt said he’s dropped about 20 pounds.
“I went from gross to kind of fat,” he said.
Richt expects star tailback Todd Gurley to be in “super condition,” this preseason barring a setback of some sort. He also expects him to be a preseason All-American and a Heisman Trophy candidate.
“I think he can be really good,” Richt said. “I don’t think you have to have a campaign for the Heisman. I think the numbers will speak for themselves. I think the highlights will speak for themselves.”
In case there was any doubt, coaches are no longer saying that others are competing with Hutson Mason for the starting quarterback job.
“I can tell you he solidified his hold on the starting job,” Richt said. “I don’t think anybody can yank it from him.”
The No. 2 spot between Faton Bauta and Brice Ramsey remains still in play.
UGA President Jere Morehead, who host Chuck Dowdle called “the big cheese,” and gymnastics coach Danna Durante, fresh off a fifth place finish nationally, also spoke to the crowd.
Richt arrived here after attending a meeting of Southeastern Conference football coaches in Birmingham earlier in the day where future schedules were discussed.
“That conversation was more of ‘There’s a lot of different options and think about them and we’ll talk about it in Destin’ kind of thing,” Richt said. “It was not a vote or a discussion really. It was kind of ‘Here are some possibilities, look them over and at least between now and then try to figure out what you like. It doesn’t mean we’re going to get to vote. I don’t think we as coaches will decide.”
Richt said he speaks to athletic director Greg McGarity about the subject and there’s consultation with Morehead.
Georgia has supported eight-game schedules that keep the cross-divisional rivalry with Auburn on the schedule, but Richt said he wouldn’t comment “right now. I don’t know if I’m supposed to so I’m just going to be quiet.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban supports a nine-game schedule but said Tuesday after the coaches meeting: “I don’t think there’s any support for that,” according to the Tuscaloosa News.
SEC commissioner Mike Slive said Monday that SEC presidents and chancellors will vote on whether to add a ninth league game before the May 27-30 meetings in Destin, according to the Associated Press.
Among the options are schedules with or without permanent cross-division opponents.