Richt takes cautious route in allowing fans, media access to practices

Fans of Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina are allowed entry into at least some of their team’s preseason football practices.

Don’t expect Georgia coach Mark Richt to allow an all-access pass to one of his team’s workouts this month before the Bulldogs open their season Aug. 31 at Clemson.

“I’m not interested in that,” Richt said. “You just never know. One little thing can give a clue as to what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. Information, the less you know, the harder it is to prepare. The more you know, the easier it is to prepare. Especially if you’re watching practice.”

Richt said he wouldn’t know where all of those fans would fit in at the team’s on-campus practice fields, but the logistics aren’t the main concern he would have.

“Early on when it’s mostly fundamental and all, you still may have a couple of new plays that you’re running,” Richt said. “The normal fan may not get it, but if it somehow it’s videoed or whatever and it gets on the Internet and the GA or somebody … looking at that stuff says, ‘Hey, man, I just saw this at their practice and it looks a little bit different.’ You might want to line up [Jadeveon] Clowney a different way. I don’t know if I’d want everybody to see [how] I’m lining him up.”

Clowney, South Carolina’s headache of a pass rusher, won’t go up against Georgia until the second game.

If Georgia has any wrinkles it’s installing, the foundation of that work is being laid now.

“Like the one year where we decided we were going to run more no huddle than we’ve ever run,” Richt said.

That was in 2011. Georgia managed to keep that mostly under wraps during the preseason.

“I didn’t want anybody to know,” Richt said. “We were really careful what we were showing and not showing because if you can just play one game and it caught them off guard and you got a victory out of it, that’s good.”

Georgia didn’t get a victory in that opener against Boise State, a 35-21 loss.

“It didn’t help,” Richt said. “That was the intention.”

Florida will allow fans in for four practices later this month. Mississippi State opened its practices for fans for the first several days of its workouts.

Even Alabama held a “Fan Day” open practice last Sunday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

South Carolina had planned to allow fans into practices for at least the first week of the preseason, but coach Steve Spurrier closed practices after three days.

“The autographers have been a big reason we have to cancel it, cell phones with video, pictures, all that kind of stuff,” Spurrier told The (Columbia) State. “Can’t do it anymore. Love to do it for those people that like to watch practice. I have always been one to open up spring ball and most of preseason, but it’s a different day.”

Southern California, which had allowed fans and media into practices under former coach Pete Carroll, will now shut out the media during the regular season, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“We’ve decided to finally follow the majority of all teams in college football and close our practices to the media during the season,” coach Lane Kiffin told the newspaper.

Georgia typically allows reporters into practice during the season for up to 15 minutes, but Tuesday’s special teams practice and Wednesday’s first preseason scrimmage at Sanford Stadium are entirely closed.

In an unusual step, Georgia has asked the media to not post on the Internet any audio from video shot at practice. Reporters have entertained themselves (and perhaps their viewers) by adding music — including country and electronica — to footage shot.

The reason for the audio ban is so things like snaps counts or a change of formation call won’t get out.

“We like to keep everything in house,” defensive end Sterling Bailey said. “We don’t want any secrets getting out.”

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham spent 11 seasons in the NFL, where he was accustomed to fans being at practices during NFL training camps.

“I think that’s one where colleges need to all be on the same page if you’re going to do it,” Grantham said. “In pro ball with the way they set the facilities up, you can handle a lot of people on your campus and at your practice facility.”

Grantham said having a “quality” practice would be difficult at Georgia with fans surrounding the field to watch. He said NFL teams reveal some of what they are doing in preseason games. Colleges don’t play preseason games.

Even when practices are closed, Richt said an invited visitor can have him on edge.

Georgia successfully executed an onside kick from Brandon Bogotay in the first half of the SEC Championship game in 2011 against LSU.

Georgia worked on that play in practice that week.

“I don’t want anybody to see that,” Richt said. “Somebody, some guy was there. I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ I got hot. I’m debating should I call it or not because I didn’t know if that guy really even knew what he was looking at. Most of the times, they don’t. But you never know.”

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