MACON — Georgia football coach Mark Richt has 64,000 followers on his Twitter account, nearly the same number that showed up to watch the Jason Aldean concert last week in Sanford Stadium.
Until recently, Richt himself followed only four: his wife Kathryn, sons Jon and David and Georgia’s football account.
That’s changed as Richt has added football recruits to his follow list, up to 51 (including Georgia assistant coaches) on Wednesday and another 31 more on Thursday.
“If you want to hit a guy up or want to even ask him to give you a call or whatever, he can do that, and if he wants to call you, he can call you,” Richt said Thursday evening before speaking at the UGA Day event at the Walnut Creek Shooting Preserve. “Then you’ve got some parents of the kid, too. Some are Twitter, some are Facebook. It just made sense to get into the Twitter world right now.”
By following players on Twitter, Richt can communicate with them by direct message if that player also follows him, but may not through public messages. The NCAA permits coaches to send an unlimited number of emails or direct messages on Twitter and Facebook.
“We were Facebooking, but we weren’t getting them all,” Richt said. “When you could text them, you just text them, and right now if you want to get up with them, you Facebook them. We still write hand-written letters. I think those are still important.”
Richt followed junior linebacker Raekwon McMillan of Liberty County after head coaches Butch Jones of Tennessee and Mark Stoops of Kentucky already did. Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and defensive line coach Chris Wilson already follow McMillan as do former Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner of Auburn, Ole Miss defensive line coach Chris Kiffin, Auburn defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, Tennessee defensive line coach John Jancek and position coaches from such schools as Arkansas, Alabama, and Southern California.
Some of those same coaches — including Richt — are following junior defensive end Dante Sawyer of North Gwinnett. So is UCLA head coach Jim Mora and Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.
Georgia’s assistant coaches have increased their presence on Twitter, offering up their take on a practice or scrimmage. Some show a different side of them.
Tight ends coach John Lilly tweeted Tuesday: “Got asked just now if I was worried about our 2013 schedule. My response? “I like big games and I cannot lie” (in my Sir Mix-A-Lot voice)”
Thursday was the third of 12 stops on the “UGA Day” speaking tour. Richt and men’s basketball coach Mark Fox are slated to speak on Tuesday in Jacksonville, Fla., and Richt will be in Tifton on Wednesday.
Fox, who also was in Macon, officially added 6-foot-6 small forward signee Kenny Paul Geno from Booneville, Miss., in the same week that star sophomore guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope announced he would enter the NBA draft.
Fox is still filling out the 2013-14 non-conference schedule, knowing now that Caldwell-Pope won’t be on the team. The schedule includes the Charleston Classic and games with Georgia Tech, George Washington, Lipscomb and Gardner-Webb.
“We still have some wiggle room in our schedule, but I still think we’re going to have a good team,” Fox said. “We still want to schedule in a way to get us in postseason play, but we’re going to have to have another team that’s going to have to grow up a little bit early. We’ve got to make sure we put games in the right places.”
Georgia’s SEC slate will include two games with Arkansas and LSU, Fox said, but only one again with Kentucky. South Carolina plays Georgia twice each season under the current format. Fox couldn’t remember off the top of his head the other two SEC teams that the Bulldogs will get twice.
As for the new signee, Fox said Geno fills a need at a position where Marcus Thornton, who got a medical redshirt, is coming back from knee surgery.
“Kenny’s an athletic wing man, shoots the 3, can play above the rim,” Fox said. “Until Marcus is healthy, we really only have one small forward on the team in Brandon Morris so we needed a small forward. We didn’t want to put another guy in the junior class with a JUCO guy just because it puts you way out of bounds in the future. He kind of fits what we need.”
Fox told the crowd that he was heading to the airport to recruit. He said earlier he might hold the lone remaining scholarship for next year’s class.
Georgia could use a post player and Fox said “if there was one of those guys that has one year to play, a fifth-year guy. That’s kind of popular in our game right now. That allows you to have a player and still put that scholarship in another class.”
Notes: Receiver Michael Bennett should be “very ready” for the opener at Clemson, Richt said. He’s expected to have no limitations in his offseason training by June in his return from a torn ACL. “He ought to have two solid months before camp starts and another month before the first game,” Richt said …Richt on freshman receiver Jonathon Rumph, who had a quiet spring except for G-Day when he switched jerseyss to No. 1 instead of his usual No. 18 jersey: “He played better in No. 1 than he did in No. 18 all spring.” …Freshman safety Tray Matthews will enter preseason camp as the top free safety. “With the new (targeting) rules, he’s got to be careful how he strikes people,” Richt said. “He will really knock you back.” …The Redcoat Alumni Pep Band provide live music at the Macon gathering. Not only did it play “Glory, Glory” but also did “Sweet Caroline,” appropriate this week after the bombings in Boston. “I appreciate the band,” Richt said. “The band was awesome.”