The Difference: Focus

ATHENS – With little more than a month until Georgia kicks off its spring practice, the focus in the locker room is clearly on what lies ahead for the Bulldogs.

But the excitement about a new season hasn't diminished the sting of last year's embarrassing losses to Alabama, Florida and Georgia Tech.

A month into offseason workouts, many Georgia players have already lauded this as the most intense training the Bulldogs have endured in years, and the high tempo efforts have been fueled by the disappointment of last season's defeats. But beyond the weight room and film room, senior Marcus Washington said the team's leaders have offered regular reminders that that focus needs to extend beyond the athletics building.

"Guys doing wrong, you know they're doing wrong, you've got to get them on the right path," Washington said. "Last year we had a lot of off-the-field issues, guys getting arrested, guys getting in trouble, drinking, whatever. All that needs to be eliminated to be successful. I think that really hampered our season a little bit because guys always had these outside influences that made them not focus on the real task at hand, which is winning ballgames."

Georgia had nearly a dozen off-field incidents involving players running afoul of the law last year and three players – Michael Lemon, Donavon Baldwin and Jeff Hensen – left the program because of legal difficulties.

Washington said he thought the coaching staff's policies regarding off-field transgressions was already as tough as it could be, but this year the players need to take a more hard-line approach toward misconduct away from the locker room long before it reaches the level of police involvement. Players who aren't on board with the program, he said, should find a home elsewhere.

"(Coaches) always say you get one mulligan," Washington said. "You get to mess up once, and the next time around, it's pretty much you're out of here. Some guys are just hard-headed. They're going to do what they want to do, and they're going to have to learn the hard way. If going out drinking, partying, if that's what you want to do, you can go somewhere else and do it, because that's just not what we need here."

Linebacker Rennie Curran was among the team's most vocal leaders last season, but he said it became frustrating at times when some players simply weren't interested in listening. As the problems – both on and off the field – persisted, Curran said the focus tended to wane.

While he said he's spending this offseason honing his leadership skills, Curran also said he thinks this year's team has a far greater determination to remain focused on the task of winning games, and he doesn't expect any of the drama the Bulldogs encountered during their disappointing 2008.

"You just have to be persistent and hope everybody can get on the same page, but I have no worries about that this year," Curran said. "I feel like we've got a great group of guys that want to do things right and want to buy into the program, and that's going to translate into good things."


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