Those of you who’ve given up on things improving can just skip this post, but I do think there are important things in play that will make a difference down the road.
I’ve likened running a football program to steering a battleship. Once you get off course, it isn’t easy to turn things back in the right direction. But it can be done. It starts with a change in attitude. Like this:
Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt said the defensive improvement is due to a strong work ethic that Pruitt and three other first-year defensive assistants — Tracy Rocker, Mike Ekeler and Kevin Sherrer — have instilled. Richt added that players who don’t practice well can get replaced, and Bulldogs defenders admit it wasn’t always easy during the first few months of the transition.
“The toughest thing for us was getting out of our old habits,” senior defensive tackle Mike Thornton said. “We are creatures of habit, and over the last four years we were taught to do things a certain way with the old coaches.”
Said senior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera: “A lot of people didn’t trust one another last year, and people were trying to do other people’s jobs. There is trust now.”
There are a lot of crappy habits, built up over years, that have to be flushed out of the system. That takes time. And there have certainly been a fair share of missteps this season, as we all know. And it’s cost them.
“It is our fault. We put ourselves in this situation, and now we’ve gotta deal with it,” Georgia receiver Chris Conley said Tuesday. “We have to live with it, and if it shakes out that way, then we’ve gotta move forward with it. But the only thing we can control at this point is what we do this weekend.”
Georgia needed only to beat Florida or South Carolina, a pair of SEC East also-rans, to render the whole thing moot.
The 38-20 loss to Florida looms the largest, with the Gators having a bad enough season that head coach Will Muschamp was dismissed a couple of weeks later. There is still plenty on the line Saturday when Georgia Tech (9-2) visits on Saturday. The Bulldogs are going for a 10-win season and their 13th win in 14 seasons over their in-state rivals.
“It’s still a great year,” Georgia senior linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. “We want to go there (to Atlanta), but if it doesn’t happen, it’s our fault.”
But you learn from experience. You will yourself to get better. And you respond to a coaching staff that won’t accept complacency.
The lesson continues today.
“It will be the first shot out of the cannon, so to speak, for this staff to go against the Georgia Tech offense,” Richt said. “I have done my best to explain the emotion of the game and how relentless Georgia Tech is in how they go about their business. You’ve got to be tough in this game, because the type of offense they run is one where they’re going to come after you down after down after down.
“You’ve got to be resilient. You’ve got to be good fundamentally, and you’ve got to be tough fundamentally, too.”
If that’s not all talk, you go out and execute. You don’t feel sorry for yourselves. You beat a team that you ought to beat. Then you prepare for a bowl game. And then you make yourselves better for next season.