ATHENS — UGA President Jere Morehead and Athletic Director Greg McGarity stood before the Georgia football team shortly after they reported to campus on Sunday afternoon and congratulated them. The Bulldogs certainly haven’t won anything yet, but they have won the respect of the school’s leadership.
That’s what an offseason without trouble or controversy will do for you.
“I turned to the President and said, ‘it’s been a pretty quiet summer hasn’t it, Mr. Morehead,’” McGarity recounted Tuesday morning. “And he said, ‘yes it has.’
“I just wanted to thank them for the way they approached it, because I think it sends the right message to everyone. It says they’re really focused on the task at hand. They aren’t focused on things off the field. So I just congratulated them and told them how much we appreciated and from the AD’s chair how much I appreciated it, because we didn’t have to lose our focus because off-the-field problems.”
In as far as anyone can tell, Georgia football players have not run afoul of laws or program regulations since the end of last season. No one was sure how long it has been since that could be said, but it was generally agreed to have “been a while.”
Of course, part of the Bulldogs’ orientation process for reporting to camp this week was to undergo random drug tests. So they’re not out of the woods yet as far as getting to the first game unscathed.
Suffice it to say the coaching staff is pleased with team’s attitude heading into the first of 29 preseason practices on Tuesday.
“I’m just thankful that our guys did a good job in that regard,” coach Mark Richt said during UGA’s Media Day news conference Tuesday. “You talk about a lot of things need to go right in the offseason and that’s one of them. If you’ve got a bunch of injured guys and a bunch of guys who didn’t do what they’re supposed to do socially and off the field, it creates distractions. It also creates a lack of depth sometimes.”
That’s another thing that has gone well for the Bulldogs this offseason. They did not suffer any major injuries over the summer. Only receiver Justin Scott-Wesley, who “tweaked” a knee injury, arrives at the first practice with any possible limitations on what he can do. And then, we’re told, he’s going to be able to participate.
The lack of drama is at least partly a result of the team’s leadership, senior outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins believes.
“One of the biggest things is I’d have to say we’re one of the closest teams I think we’ve been in the past four or five years,” Jenkins said. “Everybody respects each other. Nobody is disrespecting anybody. … We’re becoming more mature and practicing and playing like a championship team acts.”
Between that and just the fact that the football team was back on the Woodruff Practice Fields outside his fourth-window at the Butts-Mehre complex, McGarity was walking with a little more bounce in his step on Tuesday.
“If you don’t you’re probably not in the right profession,” McGarity said. “But what makes this year probably a little bit more encouraging is the lack of drama in the offseason.”