ATHENS -- Mark Richt didn’t announce any big changes. He didn’t bang the table. Still, Georgia’s head football coach did seem to know he had to say something to disillusioned fans of his program.
It may not convince many. But the man Richt apparently most needed to convince, first-year athletics director Greg McGarity, made his decision long ago.
McGarity, along with much of his staff, watched from the side as Richt conducted his postseason news conference Wednesday. Five days after the Bulldogs finished their first losing season in 14 years, Richt insisted he wasn’t “looking to blow anything up” and said the team was “very close” to getting back to where it had been.
And to the critics who want blood, Richt made clear several times that he feels replacing coaches wasn’t the answer.
“When I came to Georgia, Georgia had been through change,” said Richt, who took over from Jim Donnan in 2001. “When I came to Georgia, there was four defensive coordinators in four years. Those kids didn’t know what to do, you know. There were five offensive line coaches in four years. They didn’t know what to do.
”We’ve made some changes last year. We made a little change this year. But the change we made I think had been very well thought out and things that I think would help us. But if you just change for the sake of changing, then all of a sudden you have to learn something all over again.”
Expanding on that point, Richt said he didn’t want to confuse quarterback Aaron Murray, who had a successful freshman campaign. And he thought the defense, under new coordinator Todd Grantham, had only had one season to undergo a “learning curve.”
If there is change, Richt indicated it would be behind the scenes, the kind fans don’t notice at first. Several times, Richt said he would freed up to pursue some “cutting edge” techniques -- not quite specified -- because McGarity had taken some administrative duties off Richt’s plate. McGarity was not available to speak to the media on Wednesday.
“In some ways I feel like a first-year head coach,” Richt said. “Some things have been put in place that are going to help free me up, to spend more time doing the things that I love the most, which is study the game of football and be an expert and be on the cutting edge.”
But the tangible changes will not be obvious to fans. The biggest -- Joe Tereshinski replacing Dave Van Halanger as strength coach -- already has been announced. A nutritionist is also being brought in to see what changes could be made in that area.
There are no planned changes in assistant coaches or their on-field duties.
The defensive staff was overhauled last year. And the offensive staff, maligned by fans, remains the same.
“Mike Bobo’s the coordinator, Mike Bobo’s the quarterbacks coach. Stacey Searels is the running game coordinator,” Richt said. “And they’ve done a great job. Not a good job, a great job.”
Georgia averaged 34.2 points per game, which ranked fourth in the SEC, but ranked seventh in yards per game.
Its defense, in the first year under Grantham, was the reverse: fourth in yards allowed but seventh in scoring.
There certainly will be player personnel changes and not just with recruiting.
Richt granted that star receiver A.J. Green probably couldn’t help his draft status by coming back for his senior year. But the others, such as linebacker Justin Houston, guard Cordy Glenn and cornerback Brandon Boykin, are all being urged to return and improve their draft position.
“Every one of those guys can, from what I’m seeing and what I’m hearing and the information I’m gathering, from strictly a business point of view, every one of them can improve their draft status by staying,” Richt said.
There could also be disciplinary action against junior linebacker Marcus Dowtin, the team’s fourth-leading tackler in 2010. Dowtin was charged with second-degree assault last summer in Maryland, and while he was never arrested and the matter was resolved without penalty, Richt only found out about it Monday.
“We’ll talk about Marcus in a couple days,” Richt said.
After the Liberty Bowl loss, place-kicker Blair Walsh said he felt the team had a sense of entitlement about playing a foe from a lesser conference. Richt was asked Wednesday if he felt that sense of entitlement had creeped into his program the past few years.
“I don’t think anybody feels that way now,” Richt said. “But I don’t think anybody’s taking anything for granted (now). I’m sure that’s a healthy thing for us, too.”