AUGUSTA — Georgia head football coach Mark Richt plans to keep an eye on tonight’s NFL draft, which begins with the first round.
Wide receiver A.J. Green is expected to be one of the top five picks. Richt said as many as seven of his former players could get selected.
“We’re excited for all the guys to get the opportunity to get drafted,” Richt said. “Sometimes in the case of A.J., there’s a financial windfall that could last him the rest of his life if he invests it properly.”
Richt said he hasn’t had recent contact with Justin Houston, a defensive end/outside linebacker prospect who’s seen his stock drop after reportedly failing a drug test at the NFL combine earlier in the year. Houston was projected as a possible first-round pick before the latest fallout.
“I wish Justin the best,” Richt said. “That’s what I wish.”
Hundreds of fans hooted and hollered Wednesday night at a packed Julian Smith Casino. And yes, they barked.
At the Greater Augusta Sports Council spring meeting, Richt sold optimism.
Bulldog fans lapped it up, forgetting about last year’s 6-7 campaign — the first losing season in Richt’s 10-year tenure.
“This time of year, everybody’s pretty optimistic about next season,” said Richt, who sports a 96-34 career record. “Everybody’s just excited about the future.”
Georgia enters the second year with its 3-4 defense and its second season with sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray, who threw for 3,048 yards and 24 touchdowns last year.
The Bulldogs, who return 14 starters (five offense, seven defense, two special teams) are shuffling their offensive line after senior tackle Trinton Sturdivant tore his anterior cruciate ligament earlier this month. And Georgia still is looking for someone to step up at running back, with embattled junior Washaun Ealey facing stiff competition from incoming freshman Isaiah Crowell, a member of the Bulldogs’ highly-touted recruiting class.
“That position is still wide open,” Richt said.
Georgia will have to have all positions solidified by Sept. 3, when the Bulldogs open the season in a nationally-televised contest in the Georgia Dome against Boise State, which finished 12-1 last season.
“We’re playing that game, because we want to show the college football world that we’re still alive and kicking,” Richt said. “We don’t have a lot of time to warm up. We have to be in midseason form in Week One.”