This time last year, the phrase “hot seat” was a sensitive one around Mark Richt. Now the Georgia head coach is joking about it. In fact, it apparently is part of his new stump speech for fans.
Speaking before the Macon Touchdown Club on Friday night, Richt took a light-hearted approach to what was once the burning story around himself and his program.
“Anybody hear ever heard of the hot seat?” Richt said, drawing laughter.
Everyone knew about it in 2011, when Georgia was coming off its first losing season in 14 seasons -- and then began the season with two losses. Richt’s job status was heavily debated.
Never miss a local story.
Richt confessed that he knew about a website that ranked college football coaches and the level of warmth on their seat. He first visited the site in 2007, when the team was coming off an 11-2 season.
“I figured it was safe to go to that website then,” Richt said. “Well then after 2010, when we went 6-7, I was a little nervous about looking on that website. So I didn’t. But I didn’t have to; all I had to do was go to church.”
Parishioners would tell Richt, “I’m praying for you brother.” Then they started 0-2, and Richt said it became, “We’re fasting for you, brother.”
“So I said, ‘Wow we better win some games, or else people are gonna starve around here,’ ” he said.
Richt can afford to joke about it now, coming off a 10-win season, an SEC East title and a contract extension that should be announced soon. He also just signed a highly regarded recruiting class, and two of its members -- nose tackle Jonathan Taylor and outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins -- were listening as Richt talked about the hot seat Friday.
Prior to the meeting, Richt talked a bit about a few items:
He indicated the Bulldogs are done recruiting for the 2012 class, although they would be open to a college transfer. There has been talk Georgia will try to add to its 19-member class that signed Feb. 1, especially after three freshmen were dismissed the day after National Signing Day.
“We’ve got our eyes and ears open, but we’re not actually pursuing a bunch of stuff,” Richt said. “You know Jarvis Jones showed up out of the blue this time of the year, wanting to transfer, we had room, and we brought him in. Do you really call it recruiting or part of your recruiting class? So something like that could happen.”
Richt could have been alluding to Max Garcia, an offensive lineman who is transferring from Maryland. Garcia, who started every game as a sophomore for the Terps, is from Norcross. Richt is not permitted to discuss recruits because of NCAA rules.
Malcolm Mitchell, the team’s leading receiver as a freshman, could see some time at cornerback in 2012. Mitchell was recruited as a cornerback out of Valdosta, and the Bulldogs are now hurting for depth in the secondary. Starter Sanders Commings is suspended for the first two games.
“I don’t think he’s gonna give up playing wide receiver,” Richt said of Mitchell. “But if we need him over there at cornerback, we’ll rev him up and see what he can do.”
As for secondary depth, Richt said, “We’ll get a plan,” although he doesn’t know for sure what it will be.
“We still got kids on campus that can fill that role,” he said. “Not as many, unfortunately.”