Enough Talk: Richt ready for season to start

COLUMBUS – Mark Richt seems exhausted. The Georgia head coach arrived in Columbus on Tuesday to meet area fans nearly a half hour late after his flight from Athens was delayed by weather.

The day before, he'd been in Atlanta for a Bulldog Club meeting. Last week he met with reporters at SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Ala. This week still includes another trip to Chattanooga, Tenn.

At each stop, he's interviewed by media, answers the same questions about preseason expectations, then heads off to shake hands and sign autographs for hundreds of fans, decked out in red and black and dreaming of a national championship.

"Everywhere we've been it's been the largest crowd that I can remember," Richt said.

For the past few months, Richt has talked about the hype surrounding his team, which returns 16 starters from a group that finished second in the nation last year. He has talked about his quarterback, who could be the first player selected in next year's NFL draft. He has answered questions about his running back, who could make a run at the Heisman Trophy.

Richt has heard all of these questions so often, he could probably recite the responses in his sleep. What he really wants, however, is to start finding answers where it matters – on the field.

"Let's get to practice, and let's go play," Richt said. "I'm ready for that. Very ready."

While Richt has been jet setting across the Southeast, his players have had the week off to get ready for the season – no weight lifting, no running, just mental preparation.

"They need a new, fresh peace of mind when they get into town, because when we start Monday, the pace is going to be quicker," Richt said.

When practice begins Monday, there won't be a lot of starting jobs up for grabs, but there will be plenty of playing time on the line for the younger players.

Among the freshmen and sophomores looking for touches is a foursome of running backs hoping to back up starter Knowshon Moreno.

Moreno came off the bench last year to nab the starting job midseason and went on to rack up 1,334 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Barring an injury to Moreno, that probably won't happen for any of this year's youngsters, but a handful of touches per game are up for grabs for redshirt freshman Caleb King and true freshmen Richard Samuel, Carlton Thomas and Dontavius Jackson, Richt said.

"We're going to go compete," Richt said. "Caleb certainly is ahead of everybody at this point because he's been with us a little longer and understands the system better, understands how to pass protect a little better than any of them right now."

While the position of backup to Moreno might be open, however, Richt said he is certain of one thing – he wants his talented starter to get as many touches as possible this year.

"I think (Moreno) is just going to run real hard and do what he does, and I want to make sure he touches it enough," Richt said. "I'd be disappointed if he didn't get anywhere between 15 and 25 touches a game."

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