Georgia’s old guard has gone from nightmare to dream

mlough@macon.comNovember 27, 2012 

ATHENS -- They joined the program with plans and expectations, as do all freshman athletes.

In 2007, Georgia went 11-2 and pounded Hawaii 41-10 in the Sugar Bowl. When 2008, rolled around, the Bulldogs opened the season as the nation’s top-ranked team.

Thus, Georgia head coach Mark Richt handed out redshirts for the 2008 season to Cornelius Washington, Christian Robinson, Bacarri Rambo, Tavarres King, Ty Frix and Sanders Commings, among others.

Georgia didn’t live up to that preseason hype, going 10-3 and settling for a 24-12 win over Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl.

Then the redshirts’ time came, and they showed promise in their debut season, although Georgia stumbled to an 8-5 record in 2009. Rambo had 25 tackles, Robinson 19, Washington 13 and Commings 12.

King was second on the team with 377 receiving yards and fourth with 18 receptions while watching A.J. Green perform. Frix began his four-year career as the starting deep-snapper.

A year later, with little warning, rock bottom arrived. It began to form with a 1-4 start, including a loss at Colorado, a program that was in the middle of its fifth straight losing season and would dump its coach after the season.

Rock bottom was reached in a 10-6 loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl.

“Six-and-seven, that doesn’t even sound right,” King said of the Bulldogs’ final record. “That whole year was pretty bad for us.

“You kinda sit back, ‘What the heck? We’re supposed to be winning.’ “

The bad memory remains fresh.

“We had some off-the-field issues with a lot of players,” Robinson said. “It’s bad when people don’t want to go; you don’t want to do bowl practice.”

But the foundation also was strengthening.

Rambo became a full-time starter in 2010 and shared the team interception lead with Commings (three) and was second in tackles. Robinson started all but two games and was fifth in tackles and fourth in tackles for loss. Commings and Washington started more than half of the time, and King was third with 27 catches for 504 yards.

The playing time didn’t matter much, considering the results and ensuing heat that was foisted upon Richt as well as the Bulldogs.

King put the blame for that mess on those in uniform.

“At the end of the day, (coaches) put us in the right position to make plays, we gotta make those plays,” he said. “I don’t ever get the calling for coaches’ jobs and things like that. I’ve never gotten it.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the fifth-year seniors -- including Richard Samuel, who redshirted in 2010, his third year in the program -- are on now the cusp of realizing a dream only two years after the nightmare.

“It was crazy. It was terrible,” King said. “We’re back. It’s very exciting to be back. Times have changed.”

Could King have ever imagined the Bulldogs reaching this point after being held without a touchdown against Central Florida?

“Uh, nah,” he said with a laugh. “You’re not thinking about that. You’re not thinking about getting to this point. That was a crazy time in our lives.”

Even if Saturday’s outcome in the SEC championship game against Alabama isn’t as hoped for, the satisfaction of this season won’t be soon forgotten by the old guard.

“To get back to this level and to have the expectations that we have for ourselves,” Robinson said, “that’s a turnaround.”

He said it’s time for Georgia to give the 1980 national title team some company.

“One of my best friends is Ty Frix and his dad was a part of that national championship,” Robinson said. “We respect and honor those guys that played ahead of us, but we really need to give fans something else to talk about. Not that it’s a bad thing; we want to be like those teams.

“But if that’s all we have to talk about, we must not be doing something special. We have to win this game and we need to give people something else to talk about. I’m proud of my Georgia football history, but I came here to win, too.”

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