Richt: 'We plan on being' an elite team again in 2013

semerson@macon.comJanuary 10, 2013 

ATHENS - Mark Richt didn't watch every single play of Monday night's BCS championship game.

"But I saw enough to see where it was going," Richt said.

If it added to the pain of coming five yards short against Alabama on Dec. 1, Richt didn't say so. But the point has been made often that, given the way Alabama routed Notre Dame, those five yards meant the difference between Alabama or Georgia being this year's national champion.

Still, Richt and his staff have moved on to next season, and very early rankings once again have the Bulldogs pegged as a top 10 team. They started the 2012 season at No. 6 in the AP poll, and finished it at No. 5.

Richt was asked if next year's team would have what it takes to be an elite team again in 2013.

"We plan on being that. We hope to be that. We've gotta earn that," Richt said.

And as Richt pointed out, the concern has shifted from offense to defense.

"That's all I answered questions on (last year): Can the O-line get it done and what's gonna happen at running back. And by the end of the year they came through," he said. "So more questions will be asked of the defensive side of the ball this year. Those guys have got to do their thing and come through."

That defense, which ranked 32nd nationally this season in yards allowed, will have just four starters returning and is losing two-time All-American Jarvis Jones.

"I've talked to those guys (on defense). Their goal must be greater than getting to play, or getting to start, (or) possibly even being all-SEC for that matter," Richt said. "They have to be there to try to be the very best in America at what they do. I don't want their goals to be, 'Well I'm kind of next in line and I'm gonna get to play or I'm gonna get to start, all that kind of thing. You've gotta think beyond that. You've gotta think: 'Am I gonna be good enough to help this team win a championship.'"

Some other notes from Richt's teleconference on Thursday afternoon:

- Richt reacted to the news of Kwame Geathers leaving - which was far from a surprise.

"I've known that for a good little bit," Richt said. "You know, it's just more opportunity for the next guys. That's why we're recruiting D-linemen like we are. We knew there was the possibility for this type of attrition."

Richt said they have "enough of a talent base" to replace Jenkins and Geathers. He said junior college transfer Chris Mayes and rising junior Mike Thornton are "definitely nose guards," while redshirt freshman John Taylor could play nose tackle and end.

"We're gonna have enough beef in there to get it done," Richt said.

- Regarding Chris Wilson's hiring as defensive line coach, Richt said he was pleased to get someone of Wilson's caliber, as he had been the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State.

"Right now we're just glad we got (Wilson) and we know he's gonna be doing a great job for us - immediately in the recruiting area, and just kind of getting to know our players and getting to know our system, and all that," Richt said. "But we know we got a really, really good one (in Wilson)."

But Richt once again indicated that they will go without giving a recruiting coordinator title to a current assistant coach. The logisitical duties of the role have been largely picked up by Daryl Jones, hired last year as the team's on-campus recruiting coordinator. The off-campus recruiting duties are split fairly evenly by the assistant coaches.

"There's no rule that says we've gotta name a recruiting coordinator, as far as one of our nine full-time coaches," Richt said.

- The position that Josh Harvey-Clemons will play on defense is either still to be determined, or yet to be told to the rising sophomore. Harvey-Clemons was with the safeties as a freshman, but he could move to linebacker, either inside or outside, and where he ends up could have a domino effect.

"That's one thing that I want to make sure that our coaches are all in agreement in, and Josh knows exactly what we're gonna do before I wanna say anything," Richt said.

- Mandatory offseason weightlifting sessions begin on Monday. Mat drills begin on Feb. 4, which is the Monday prior to signing day.

- The 13 early enrollees are kind of a class by themselves, according to Richt.

"It's a really large number of mid-year guys. I told them: You're kind of a class unto yourselves, really," he said. "Just kind of look out for each other, help each other out, make sure nobody ends up in a room by themself and not having a friend, that kind of thing."

- Richt said no players, other than the three declaring for the NFL draft, have told him they are leaving the team.

"There's always the possibility of that this time of year," Richt said. "Sometimes a kid may know what he's doing and he may be looking around and I don't know when he comes to me, and says he wants to transfer, and he had already made his high school coach check a few things out. ... Usually there's a little more homework done when they come see me. But I've not had anybody come see me."

- Three Georgia players will be playing in the Raycom Classic all-star game on Jan. 19 in Montgomery, Ala.: Linebackers Cornelius Washington, Mike Gilliard and Christian Robinson.

But there's one more Georgia connection in that game: Richt's son Jon, who played quarterback at Mars Hill University, is on the roster too.

Richt was asked if he thought his son had a shot at the pros.

"Does he have a shot? You're darn right he's got a shot," he said. "If you're ina game like that, you've got a shot, you'll get seen. And we'll see if somebody likes him."

I'll have more from Richt's teleconference in a couple separate blog posts later. __________________________________

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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