With the heat of summer upon us and the lull between recruiting and spring ball and two-a-days setting in, now is a great time to recap some offseason story lines for the Georgia Football Program. While Georgia’s offseason has been less eventful than some, there has still been plenty going on in Athens.
Georgia’s 2010 campaign came to a harsh and fittingly disappointing conclusion on New Year’s Eve. The Bulldogs suffered yet another embarrassing loss, this time to Central Florida in the Autozone Liberty Bowl in Memphis. The ugly efforts left a sour taste in the mouths of Bulldog fans and had many calling for changes in Athens.
Obviously, a call for Mark Richt’s head was eminent immediately following the Bowl game, and many are still looking for blood. Fans continue to point to disappointing results, underachieving players and disciplinary infractions as reasons for a change. Ultimately, the administration at Georgia has remained behind Richt, and as recently as last week, insisted that he had the full support of the athletic program.
Thomas Brown returns to Athens. This time as a coach.
A few modifications to the coaching staff were made. After Dave Van Halenger was relieved of duties as strength and conditioning coach and replaced by Joe Tereshinski, the Dawgs added Thomas Brown, a former weightroom stalwart, to the staff.
Offensive line coach Stacy Searles bolted for more money at Texas and was replaced by Will Friend, and linebackers coach Warren Belin (who left for an NFL gig) was replaced by Kirk Olivadotti.
Two other Bulldog assistants, Tony Ball and Bryan McClendon, also received major pay increases.
Much to the chagrin of fans, but not surprisingly, Georgia’s top offensive threat (A.J. Green) and best defensive player (Justin Houston) opted to enter the NFL Draft and forego their 2011 college season.
A.J. Green was the fourth overall pick and first wide receiver drafted when the Cincinnati Bengals selected him.
Justin Houston, who failed a drug test at the NFL Combine, slipped to the Chiefs in the third round (70th overall pick).
When it was all said and done, six Georgia Bulldogs were drafted. Joining Green and Houston were Akeem Dent (third round), Clint Bolling (fourth round), Kris Durham (fourth round) and Shaun Chapas (seventh round).
No SEC school had more players drafted.
Georgia also managed to bring in an impressive recruiting class. Headlined by Isaiah Crowell and others, Mark Richt assembled what he described as a “Dream Team” of prospects.
Rivals.com recognized the class as the fifth best in the nation, while Scout and ESPN ranked Richt’s group sixth.
After signing Crowell, many believed Georgia had found a savior for the backfield, while Richt insisted the backfield was still any man’s game. The depth chart was opened up a little more for the incoming freshman after Washaun Ealey decided to take his talents to Jacksonville State.
After an impressive start, Ealey wore out his welcome after numerous off-the-field issues, and Richt suspended Ealey early in the spring. Ealey returned to the team before ultimately deciding to go elsewhere.
As the summer heats up, so has the debate over the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. Georgia fans are excited for another opportunity to show Boise State what SEC football is all about, and Boise fans are ready to shut the southerners up.
This is the most exciting season opener Georgia has had in years, and it is only making the offseason seem longer.
So what do you think? How would you grade the Bulldogs offseason thus far and what kind of season do you think they’re headed for? Preseason polls have the Dawgs all over the place. Where do you think they should be? Can the Dawgs return to prominence in the SEC?