Off the hot seat, Georgia’s Richt readies for Year 12

semerson@macon.comAugust 28, 2012 

ATHENS -- During his news conference Tuesday, Mark Richt couldn’t help but notice that a staffer was loosely wielding a boom microphone -- emphasis on boom. It appeared the size of a nose tackle.

“Can I call timeout?” Richt said, firmly but with a smile. “Be careful with that mic, you’re gonna hurt somebody. Plus I can’t see.”

Yes, as Richt begins his 12th season as Georgia’s football head coach, an errant boom mic is on his list of concerns. That’s quite an improvement from last year, when the ax seemed to be hovering over him.

The era of good feelings is back at Georgia. Or at least until the first stumble.

Few expect that to be this Saturday against Buffalo, a 37-point underdog that just suspended its top defensive player. That’s another difference from this time last year: Buffalo does not equal Boise State, in quality of opponent or pregame hype.

“This opener is gonna be get in, do what you’re supposed to do, and get out,” senior linebacker Christian Robinson said.

But Georgia does begin the year with much higher expectations, ranked No. 6 nationally -- compared to No. 19 in preseason of 2011 -- and the favorite to repeat as SEC East champions.

Richt was asked if the expectations seemed surprising, considering the many questions they face.

“The year we were preseason No. 1 (in 2008), that was the year (offensive linemen) Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones started as freshmen, and it’s hard to think you’re the preseason No. 1 team when you have a lot of freshman linemen starting for you,” Richt said. “(This year) we have a brand new punter, kicker, tailbacks. There are a lot of question marks, no doubt, but I think everybody in the country have some kind of issue. Sometimes teams look more glamorous when they are far away. You don’t see all the warts.”

There was one wart Richt didn’t mention: Suspensions.

Two defensive first-teamers are out the first two games: Cornerback Sanders Commings and outside linebacker Chase Vasser.

But the status of safety Bacarri Rambo and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree remains unannounced. The two reportedly ran afoul of UGA’s internal drug policy, but Richt is remaining coy about any suspension they may face.

“I just think we’ll just have to wait and see,” Richt said, grinning. “We’ll wait and see. Time will tell.”

Why can Richt wait? Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said UGA decided in the offseason that any discipline related to internal policy -- rather than an arrest -- can be announced at the discretion of the coach. And Richt is choosing to hold back to give Buffalo -- but mainly Missouri, the first SEC opponent -- time to wonder.

“You’ve got competitive issues that are at the forefront,” McGarity said. “They’re institutional policies, they’re not situations where they’ve broken the law or been arrested. We deal with those pretty quickly.”

The suspensions -- known and expected -- have been the only blot on Richt’s offseason. Rather than answer hot-seat questions, he had a contract extension to talk about.

But Richt’s comments indicated that he knows the bad times are just a few bad losses away. And he hasn’t deviated from his steady approach to running the program.

“It’s really a fine line between success and failure in this business -- winning and losing,” said Richt, whose record at Georgia is 106-38 and 62-29 in SEC games.

“You have to understand that and know that sometimes when you are winning there are some things that need to be fixed. Sometimes when you are losing there are some things that you probably don’t need to abort. You need to stay with them because you are not that far away from having that success again. If you make too many changes in philosophy or personnel or whatever it might be, then you might be setting yourself up for failure because you forgot what got you there, too.”

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