ATHENS — Greetings from Sanford Stadium, where the curtain will soon be raised on Georgia’s 2015 football season. The Bulldogs, coming off a 10-3 season, will kick off against Louisiana-Monroe while breaking in a new quarterback in Greyson Lambert and about a half-dozen other new starters.
Here’s perhaps the biggest piece of news as UGA gets set to play its first game of the new season — nobody is suspended. At least not that we know of. There’s not an unexpected major injury they’re dealing with either. If you get the feeling there is a lot of optimism surrounding the coming season, you’d be right. And that’s where it starts.
Just listen to the thoughts of Athletic Director Greg McGarity, who I got a chance to talk to for a good long while yesterday. He was singing the praises of head coach Mark Richt, who will begin his 15th season today.
“I think everything has kind of come together,” McGarity said. “I think Mark has done a great job of stressing the importance of doing the right things and focusing on the things they can control. And I think what it does, it allows you to focus strictly on those things the truly matter. That’s coaching these kids, making sure they get enough sleep, nutrition has been huge. A lot of things that are coming together that are working as planned. So I think there’s a heightened level of excitement and hope, not only for this year, but for the future. That’s probably why there is a little bit different air around our program. A lot of good things are happening.
“When you can limit the things that are outside the lanes, whether it be law enforcement or a lot of other things that could contribute noise to the system, when that’s minimized, everybody’s able to focus on the work that needs to be done.”
McGarity doesn’t believe it’s an accident or a happenstance. Richt has had a 70 percent turnover of his coaching staff over the last two seasons. Notable among those changes is the addition of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who has brought in a lot of Alabama influence and processes.
But it hasn’t just been him. McGarity pointed out the impact of other assistants such as Brian Schottenheimer, Mike Ekeler and Tracy Rocker, who brought in new ideas and techniques from their previous stops. McGarity lauded Richt’s willingness to accept some changes while also deflecting some other suggestions.
McGarity expects all that to be reflected in this team this season.
“I don’t think there’s any question this is a more focused team,” he said. “These kids have been surrounded and mentored and guided by a tremendous coaching staff and support staff, as much as they’re allowed. And they’ve stayed out of trouble.Everybody has high hopes.”
Couple of quick observations from the Dawg Walk, which was just completed:
- Inside linebacker Reggie Carter (shoulder) was not dressed out and won’t play today. Richt said the other day he’ll be back soon.
- Also out of uniform is tailback A.J. Turman, for unknown reasons.
- Isaiah McKenzie (hamstring) is fully dressed and ready to go.
- Freshman defensive end Michael Barnett is not dressed out.
- WR Kenneth Towns is wearing the No. 86 to honor teammate Justin Scott-Wesley, who is sidelined with a knee injury.
- TB Nick Chubb was fielding kickoffs in pregame warmups. So was Sony Michel, Keith Marshall and freshman Kirby Choates.
- They just announced linebacker Chuks Amaechi as a starter.