Georgia’s expectations have changed

semerson@macon.comAugust 17, 2012 

ATHENS -- Two weeks ago, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was exhorting his players in a fashion that, to some of them, had become out-dated.

“We’re trying to become good,” Grantham was saying, according to one player.

That’s when Alec Ogletree, a junior inside linebacker, spoke up.

“Coach, we’re tired of you saying we’re trying to become good,” Ogletree said. “We’re trying to become great.”

That sentiment was shared by his teammates, according to senior defensive end Abry Jones, who relayed the above story. And going from “good” to “great” has become the mantra for the entire team, according to players.

When The Associated Press preseason poll is released at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning, Georgia is expected to be ranked in the top 10 for the first time since early in the 2008 season -- the year it was a preseason No. 1.

The expectations aren’t that high this time around, at least nationally, but the Bulldogs say that inside the locker room they’re at least higher than they were before last season.

Sophomore linebacker Amarlo Herrera was quite blunt about it.

“I feel like we settled last year,” he said. “By just getting to the SEC (title game). I mean, when we got there, we wanted to win it. But we weren’t talking about that all year. We were only talking about getting there. Now we are talking about winning it all.”

The contrast between last year and this year is easily noticeable.

Entering 2011, there was a massive build-up for the opener against Boise State. The team was talking about getting back to the Georgia Dome, and getting the hot-seat cloud out from over their head coach Mark Richt.

Boise State routed the Bulldogs, but they did end up getting back to the Dome, and Richt’s job was saved. In other words, they were good.

Entering this year, there is no cloud over Richt, who has his contract extension. And among players there seems a calmer, almost professional attitude. The over-exuberance from last year has been replaced by a more business-like aura in line with Richt’s teams from the late 2000s.

“Last year was more of getting respect back because of the year we have,” Jones said. “This year it’s more, okay we’ve got that back, but that’s not what we’re playing for. We’re playing for respect, we’re playing to win an SEC title and we’re playing to go to a national title and win a national championship.

“So a lot of guys see that we might be ranked top 10, but we all know that only goes so far. That only goes until you start losing. So we need to win to keep pushing forward, to hopefully get to No. 1 in the country so we can stay there.”

The one note of caution was provided by the man leading this group.

Richt, entering his 12th year, has seen enough teams. When asked if this team had a more business-like approach than last year, Richt took a deep breath as he answered.

“We’ve just gotta wait and see,” Richt said. “I think they are, but until you play you just don’t know for sure. There seems like there’s a right kind of approach. I think they’re very businesslike right now. I think that’s a good thing.”

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