In fairness to Coach Richt, I think this is more than preseason happy talk.
… For the better part of a decade, the calm and steady approach worked for Richt at Georgia. He won two SEC titles, had one of the best winning percentages in college football and was generally considered one of the nation’s best coaches.
When the team slipped in 2009, winning only eight games, Richt overhauled his defensive staff but didn’t change much else. Those around the program seemed to expect a natural improvement, because at Georgia just didn’t have losing seasons under Richt.
But when it only got worse last year, low-lighted by that bowl loss to Central Florida, more changes were made.
“Sometimes you need the kick in the pants to get going,” said David Pollack, who played during Richt’s first four years in Athens, when the team was a combined 42-10. “The realization is that 10 wins isn’t guaranteed anymore. For the longest time with Coach Richt it was. It’s about grinding.”
Pollack has watched a change in the program from his spot in the media. Sophomore linebacker Alec Ogletree has seen it up close.
“The atmosphere around here changed a lot,” Ogletree said. “He’s a lot different from last year.”
Really, moving Van Halanger out of his position earlier this year told me all I needed to know about the difference in Richt’s attitude. And obviously for things to change for the better this season, it has to start with the head man.
But here’s the thing: it takes more than one man to right the ship. And in terms of human behavior (my wife would add, especially male human behavior), there’s no more powerful force in the universe than inertia.
Right now, Georgia football reminds me of one of those pulp science fiction stories in which a spaceship is hurtling through space, its crew in suspended animation. A dire problem comes up and the captain is awakened; he’s got to figure out how to fix the problem and awaken the rest of the crew all at the same time. There’s usually a happy ending because of the captain’s ingenuity, but we all know that life ain’t a neat little fictional story.
I don’t doubt that Richt knows where he wants to go.
Q: You’ve spent a month now getting your team ready. Do you believe this one has a chance to win big?
A: We’ve got the potential to be a very good team. The difference between really good teams and average teams are how well you finish. Do you make plays, big plays, at the end of the game? That’s going to define us, really, I think. I think it could go either way. It just depends on how these guys finish.
The question is whether everyone else wakes up in time to have his back. We’ll find out on Saturday.