Athens, GA - “I’m glad 2011 is here, and I’m excited about that,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt Wednesday in a media session wrapping up 2010 and looking ahead to 2011. “Last year was not anywhere close to what we expect and certainly well below the standard of what Georgia football is all about. I’m not happy with what we went through but we’ll be better for it in 2011.”
Going into the offseason, Richt said he is looking to create momentum in the program.
“One of the biggest things I am going to be looking for is effort in the team and everyone around here,” he said. “We need to do what we do well and do it full-speed. As a head coach, that’s the number one point of emphasis that I am going to watch for.”
The Bulldogs will start their 2011 campaign with a matchup against Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome on Saturday, September 3. The Broncos finished the year 12-1, including a 26-3 win over #19 Utah in the Maaco Bowl in Las Vegas.
“We need to play a game like this against a highly-regarded Boise State to start the season because it creates some excitement around the program,” said Richt. “We play them and then South Carolina the first two games of the year so we will find out in a hurry where we stand. When I announced it to the team, they lit up and you could see the excitement immediately.”
He added his thoughts on how the Georgia football program will continue to prepare its student-athletes for life after football.
“We have a small window where we need to take care of our student-athletes and help them grow mentally, physically and spiritually,” said Richt. “We need to help them get a degree, to try and win championships and for some of them to get ready to play in the NFL. But most importantly is preparing all of them for life after football.”
Richt said that while the defense was going through a transition in 2010 with coaches and players installing a new system and getting to know each other, he was still encouraged with their development. He was especially pleased with how redshirt freshman quarterback Aaron Murray led the offense. Georgia finished 34 points shy of setting a school record for points in a season, averaging 32.1 points a game.
“For the first time around, Aaron Murray handled himself well, gained confidence as the season went along, he was a leader who made plays,” Richt said. “He’s got ‘it’ and I believe we can win with Aaron.”
Murray had the second-best season for a quarterback in school history with a passing efficiency rating 154.48. He also completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,049 yards with 24 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. Murray’s total offense and passing yards ranked second best in SEC history for a freshman.
The Bulldogs finished with a host of players on the various All-SEC teams. Junior outside linebacker Justin Houston, a finalist for the Butkus and Nagurski awards, was named to the AP and Coaches All-SEC First Team while senior offensive lineman Clint Boling and junior place kicker Blair Walsh joined him on the Coaches All-SEC First Team.
In addition, sophomore tight end Orson Charles, junior flanker A.J. Green and junior punter Drew Butler, who was an Academic All-American and a Ray Guy Award finalist, were named to the Coaches All-SEC Second Team. Murray, safety Alec Ogletree and defensive lineman Kwame Geathers were also named to the Freshman All-SEC Team.
When talk turned to any underclassmen entering the NFL Draft, Richt indicated that he has talked to all of the juniors and none of them have made their decision yet.
“It’s a huge decision in their lives,” Richt said. “If they come back, they need to come back 100 percent motivated that this is the best place for them and to get us back on top in the SEC’s Eastern Division. They can be leaders and improve their trade and mature as men. They better be ready if they do go out because it’s a business.”