Richt Eager to Re-Build Dawgs

No coach in the SEC has a greater challenge in 2009 than Georgia Coach Mark Richt. The Bulldogs are coming of a disappointing 10-3 season that saw them get destroyed by the Gators in Jacksonville and surrender more than 40 points in losses to Alabama and Georgia Tech.

Additionally Georgia has to completely rebuild its offense with the losses of quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Knowshon Moreno and receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. Stafford threw 25 of Georgia's 27 TD passes and Moreno scored 16 of their 21 rushing scores. Massaquoi led the team with 58 receptions and tied for the team lead with eight TD catches.

Richt addressed the strengths and weaknesses of his team Thursday morning in Birmingham.

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On replacing three star performers:

Now that they're gone, I think our team understands the only chance they have is to play together, work together, (and) earn it as a team. I think they've done a great job of buying into that, preparing throughout this off season for that type of season.

On expectations for QB Joe Cox:

When it comes to quarterback play, in my opinion, you need to have an accurate passer. You need to have a great decision maker. You need to have a young man who can handle the pressure of the job because there's a lot of pressure that comes with that job, and you need a guy who can lead. Joe really personifies all those characteristics. I don't think there's any player on this team that doesn't believe that Joe was ready last season. And the year before, if something were to happen to Matt, they knew Joe was ready to go. They believe in Joe right now, as the staff does, and I do certainly.

On whether success of Florida, FSU and Miami is about talent in state:

That's a big part of it, there's no doubt. There's a bunch of tremendous athletes in the state of Florida, a lot of speed there. Then you've had coaches that have taken advantage of the speed and the talent base, parlayed that into an outstanding, cohesive unit, good enough to win a national championship.

The other thing is at one time Miami was in the Big East, Florida State was in the ACC, Florida in the SEC. If all those schools were in the same conference, I doubt you would have had that much success. They were able to, at times, dominate their leagues because they were all in different leagues, and one of those three had a very good chance of making it to the national championship game.

I was at Florida State for I think 14 or 15 years, one of the two, I can't remember. It just seemed like for a time there the winner of the Miami/Florida State game was going to play for the national championship because both teams were winning their respective leagues.

On the future of the Florida/Georgia game:

This is what I want to do. I want to focus on winning that game. That's all I want to focus on when it comes to that game.

On playing three very challenging non-conference games:

To have three BCS conference opponents out of the four non conference games is pretty heavy duty. Oklahoma State (is) probably pre season top 10 by most people. (They have a) loaded offense coming back. It's a team that you hear the coaches say, "We've been kind of pointing to this season for the last couple years." I think it's the highest pre season start for Oklahoma State so they're gonna be off the chart when it comes to enthusiasm and excitement and expectations towards their season.

Then you also have Arizona State. Dennis Erickson has won a couple of national championships at Miami. Then of course, Georgia Tech, we've all seen what they've been able to do under Paul Johnson's direction. That's pretty tough when you consider who you play in conference. We might have bit off more than we should have.

On the strengths of his team:

I like defensively the fact that we're gonna be hungry, maybe hungrier than we've been in a long time. I like the fact that we have we're pretty stout up the gut. You take Jeffrey Owens, Geno Atkins, Kade Weston and DeAngelo Tyson on the interior defensive line. (Add in) Rennie Curran, Akeem Dent, linebackers right up the gut (and) you talk (about) Reshad Jones, Bryan Evans at safety. That's strong up the middle. You need that.

We need pressure off the edge. We need guys that can cover people outside. If you're weak in the middle, you got problems. I'm not disappointed by any stretch about our corner play or anything like that. I'm confident in them.

Historically, since I've been at Georgia, our defensive end position has been highly productive. We've had many first and second team all SEC performers. We've had guys lead the league in sacks. Last year we fell short of what was normal for us.

On replacing Knowshon Moreno:

I think we could probably I could probably blindly grab two or three of 'em, just pick 'em up, and I would have confidence whatever three I picked out. When you say no one has separated themselves from the pack, sometimes that's bad if your pack isn't very good. But if you got a pack of good ones, you know, it's hard to separate also because you have some talented guys around you. I think it's more a situation of that than not having anybody outstanding. I think they're all pretty outstanding.

On the QBs behind Cox:

Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray are our two true freshman quarterbacks. They're sitting there trying to win that job. When it comes to the true freshmen, if I feel one is the true second team quarterback, we will play him, get him as much experience as we can.

If (sophomore) Logan Gray is our number two guy, we may choose to redshirt both of those true freshmen. If Logan Gray is not the number two quarterback, we may still have a package for him separate from our overall package just because he is athletic enough to do the kind of things that people do in the "Wildcat" or whatever you want to call it.

So if you got a "Wildcat" who can actually throw and understand the entire system. That's not a bad thing.

On being the Dean of SEC Football coaches:

"When I said I was surprised I'm here, it wasn't so much because of any recent season or anything like that. I think I was reflecting back on being here for the first time nine years ago, and to think that you are going to be here nine years later in our league, in college football in general, the same team, the way things are going, you can't sit there and start predicting that that would happen.

You know, every decision I ever made since I've been at Georgia has been to try to make a decision that would help us in the long run. I didn't try to do anything in a quick fix fashion. I was used to working for a man, named Bobby Bowden, he had so much success at one place, you know, that was attractive to me. I wanted to provide that same kind of stability for our players and our program and our staff and their wives and children, as Coach Bowden did for me and my family.

So everything I've done is to try to make sure we will be here for the long haul. But it's humbling, no doubt. I don't know what that means other than we're doing a little something right here.

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Mark Richt has posted an impressive 82-22 in his eight years in Athens including SEC Championships in 2002 and 2005. It's absurd that people talk about him being on the "hot seat" because his team couldn't live up to misplaced hype last season. That said anyone expecting improvement on last year's 9-3 regular season record is bound to be disappointed.

Georgia needs to get its offensive line healthy in order to provide protection for an inexperienced QB and running room for a young stable of backs. The Dawgs will be better defensively if they can find that edge rusher Richt talked about and their corners play better. Still they are more likely to cede second place in the SEC East than they are to replace the Gators atop the league standings.


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