Georgia turns its focus to offseason

semerson@macon.comJanuary 10, 2012 

ATHENS -- Georgia’s football players and staff gathered for a pre-semester meeting Sunday night, but it had to be delayed.

The NFL playoff game between Denver and Pittsburgh was still going on.

“A lot of guys wanted to see what (Tim) Tebow was doing,” head coach Mark Richt said Monday. “You couldn’t tell who was for who. It was kind of a wild ending.”

Once Tebow completed the overtime touchdown, the television was turned off, and the important business of Georgia’s offseason began. Much of it remains up in the air.

First up is the decision-making process by underclassmen who are mulling the NFL draft. Richt said that all of those players were in attendance at the meeting, but that it didn’t guarantee they were staying.

“I think there’s still some guys where their heads are spinning a little bit, and they’re not sure what they’re gonna do,” Richt said.

The deadline to declare is Sunday. Tight end Orson Charles and a slew of defensive players are considering the jump. Safety Bacarri Rambo is among those, and a source said one player who hasn’t been mentioned much -- junior cornerback Sanders Commings -- is also mulling the move. The same source said outside linebacker Cornelius Washington is still torn about the decision.

Richt said he hasn’t had any conversation with players definitely leaving. He did know of some players staying but didn’t want to announce it.

“There’s a bunch of them staying,” Richt said. “But I can’t say every single guy has nailed that down.”

Meanwhile, Richt said there was a round of applause at the meeting for the team’s three newest players: tailback Keith Marshall, quarterback Faton Bauta and offensive lineman Mark Beard, recruits who have all enrolled for the spring semester.

The highly touted Marshall made a quick impression on Richt. Marshall was leafing through a playbook during the meeting.

“He was looking over assignments,” Richt said. “And it just gave me a moment to grin as I was seeing how excited he was about being at Georgia.”

The tailback position has been a big problem at Georgia recently. Because of that, Marshall -- and perhaps another freshman recruit -- could have a chance to play right away.

Georgia currently has six scholarship tailbacks, including SEC freshman of the year Isaiah Crowell. But the injuries and off-field issues have left the returning tailbacks in disfavor.

“I think the biggest thing will be consistency and maturity, and that’s what we’ve got to get,” Richt said. “We played a lot of inexperienced running backs, as well. Those guys have gained some experience, and hopefully because of that they’ll become more mature players and more consistent players.”

Richt mentioned the running game, offensive line play and the defense finishing games as some of the needed fixes for 2012. But the biggest one remains special teams, which floundered in 2011. Richt has basically ruled out one possible solution, which is hiring a purely special teams coach, and he reiterated that he doesn’t expect any changes to his staff this offseason.

Instead, the aim is going to be to improve special teams with what Richt called “all hands on deck” personnel-wise.

One player who apparently won’t be an option is Trinton Sturdivant. The senior offensive tackle, who has had three knee surgeries, has been back-and-forth on whether to pursue a sixth year. But Richt said he didn’t think Sturdivant planned to be a member of the team in 2012.

The team is due to begin offseason workouts, in anticipation of spring practice beginning in March. The G-Day game is scheduled for April 14.

The goal for the 2012 Bulldogs remains the same as last year, according to Richt -- win the SEC East and then go from there.

“I think we came a long way this year,” Richt said. “I’m proud of the effort, I’m proud of the progress. But we’re still on a journey to do even greater things. So that’s gonna be the goal.”

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