Posted: 11:15 pm Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Just how high should ‘high expectations’ for Mark Richt’s Dawgs go in 2014? 

By Bill King

Mark Richt told fans to have "high expectations" for the coming season. (John Kelley / UGA)

Mark Richt told fans to have “high expectations” for the coming season. (John Kelley / UGA)

What sort of football season should Georgia Bulldogs fans expect in 2014?

Speaking at his UGA Day appearance in Augusta earlier this week, The Augusta Chronicle reported, head coach Mark Richt said he hoped fans have “high expectations.”

“We all have high expectations for our team for our season,” Richt said. “The fact we have Hutson Mason as our starting quarterback [replacing the departed Aaron Murray] doesn’t make me feel like it can hold us back in any way. I think he’s ready for the challenge. I feel a lot better about him as a starter now that he’s done it a couple of times [last season]. He got a little taste of it and got it out of his system. I think he’ll be able to manage it a lot better.”

Richt also provided a little Dawg porn for fans, as tweeted by the Macon Telegraph’s Seth Emerson. Said Richt of star running back Todd Gurley: “I’m a Gurley man. … We’re gonna ride that big hoss.”

As for the rebuilding job on defense — particularly the much-maligned secondary — undertaken by new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, Richt said he’s mainly looking for “our defense to play with a lot of intensity” and is “pleased with what I’ve seen so far.”

Pruitt has simplified the defensive schemes — which tended to be overly complicated under NFL veteran Todd Grantham — and Richt said he likes that. Despite the attrition in defensive personnel since the end of last season, he said, Georgia has “plenty of guys.”

It may be that some of the incoming freshmen will play, Richt said according to the Telegraph, but “whoever’s in there will be disciplined and know what they’re doing and play it well,” drawing by inference a contrast with last year’s Grantham defense.

Richt’s final verdict on the defense: “We think we’ll be fine.”

Of course, all that sounds like what you’d pretty much expect the Dogs’ head coach to say to a spring fan gathering. He’s hardly going to try and put a damper on the hopes of some of the team’s most ardent boosters.

Still, there’s no denying Georgia has a lot of experienced talent — especially on offense — and that’s no doubt a big reason why way-too-early projections for the Dogs in the coming season are tending to be favorable, if a bit short of predictions that Georgia will go all the way.

The Bulldogs recently made ESPN’s list of 16 contenders for the College Football Playoff, though they subsequently were dropped when the list was narrowed to eight (Alabama, Auburn, FSU, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Stanford and UCLA) because of uncertainty over the defense.

Football Spring Practice - Friday

As goes Todd Gurley, so go Georgia’s prospects for the 2014 season? (John Kelley / UGA)

Mark Schlabach’s summation of the Dawgs essentially said that as goes Gurley, so will go Georgia’s chances: “When Gurley is healthy, he’s the kind of player who can carry the Bulldogs … With Hutson Mason replacing the record-setting Aaron Murray at quarterback, UGA might need Gurley to remain upright more than ever.”

Meanwhile, Athlon already has come out with its preseason Top 25 and ranks Georgia eighth.

The Athlon overview of the Dogs: “After a season filled with injuries and bad luck, Georgia is poised to challenge for the SEC title in 2014. New quarterback Hutson Mason gained valuable experience late in the year, and the offense should benefit from a healthy Todd Gurley at running back and Malcolm Mitchell at receiver. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt made an instant impact at Florida State last season, and the Bulldogs hope for a similar development in 2014.”

Mason doesn’t have as strong an arm as Murray, Athlon notes, but he “knows the offense … and more important, Mason has most of Murray’s supporting cast,” meaning Gurley, Keith Marshall, a deep receiver corps and experienced players to step into the spots left vacant by departing offensive linemen.

As for the defense, Athlon says, Georgia may have given up a program record for points last year, with the secondary the weak point, but “the run defense was actually solid (sixth in the SEC), and the 33 sacks were the second-most in the conference. The front seven essentially returns intact. Inside linebacker Ramik Wilson emerged as a first-team All-SEC pick, and outside linebackers Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd are poised for bigger things.”

The defense’s prospects all come down to the secondary, Athlon says, “which wasn’t helped by the offseason dismissal of safety Josh Harvey-Clemons and the transfer of cornerback Shaq Wiggins. But there is plenty of highly recruited talent back there. Pruitt just needs to find the right parts and figure out what Grantham and his staff couldn’t.”

In the final analysis, Athlon says, “barring the unforeseen, Georgia’s prospects come down to Mason and the defense. Mason’s spring performance provided some encouragement; then again, it was only spring practice. The defense, based simply on personnel, should be improved, and if Pruitt can push the right buttons, it could one of the best in the SEC. If Mason is good, the defense is better, and Gurley is healthy, Georgia can be a national title contender. But none of that is assured.”

Still, Athlon picked Georgia over South Carolina in the SEC East and cites Mason’s late-season experience, the addition of Pruitt from FSU’s staff, Gurley (“the best RB in college football?”) and a good schedule in pegging the Dogs as a Top 10 team.

However, Top 10 is one thing; the new College Football Playoff, limited to four teams, is another.

For those of you who believe anything less than a national championship is unacceptable and consider the Richt era at UGA a failure because of the lack of a national title, I know what the answer is: playoff or bust.

But how about the rest of you? Last season saw a couple of major SEC wins and a Top 5 ranking early on but a disappointing finish that left the Dogs ultimately unranked. Considering that, would bouncing back to a Top 10 finish in 2014 be good enough? Or do the Dawgs have to make the first College Football Playoff to satisfy you?

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

116 comments
UA Grad
UA Grad

Let me provide some perspective as an outsider.  My opinion is that there is a stream of negative energy that runs through the football program in Athens. I call it the "Munson Effect."  I loved Larry Munson. He was the greatest announcer in the history of college football. I loved to hear him call a Georgia win over Tenn. or API. However, he had a streak of "Well I don't know how we will get out of this mess alive" attitude. That is an unacceptable attitude for the University of Georgia. Historically you guys are the third best team in the SEC behind us and the Vols. Act like it. You are not Ole Miss. You guys have to expect to win and accept nothing less than victory. Every alum, fan, administrator, player, coach and baby waiting to be born needs this attitude.  Coach Pruitt brings this type of attitude to Athens. "If you are lazy or self-centered, bye, transfer, we don't need you. If you want to compete and win, stay and pay the price."  You have to believe you are a champion. Then you have to go be one. If you don't expect to win them all you rarely will.

DawginCO
DawginCO

I just finished watching the 2007 Georgia vs UF game.  I want every single one of you folks that think that Mark Richt is soft and too nice to watch that game.  If you can watch that game and come away thinking he is too laid back and too nice, then you are insane.  I expect we might see a bit of that guy this year.  That would be just fine with me.

coastdog
coastdog

As with each year, since 1963, I look forward to watching my beloved Bulldogs! Every year, regardless of what happened the previous year, I have hope.

To quote Andy Dufresne, from Shawshank Redemption, "hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things".


HotDawg
HotDawg

Happy Memorial Day weekend to all my fellow Dawgs!

God Bless America and it's fallen and wounded heroes!

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

I am more optimistic for 2014 and 2015 than I have been in many years . My biggest criticism have not been directed at the players at first  , it is always because they are not being Coached up.  Georgia finally has a Coaching staff in place who are use to  taking control and demanding your players respect the fact that you as their Coach knows a lot more than they do and  is the first step in having the discipline on the team to be able to play in the SEC.

We have 4 Coaches now recognized for their Recruiting skills which will help the rest of the staff get better. We have top skilled players back this year after being hurt all of last year, meaning Depth won't be compromised  . We have arguably the best Field Goal kicker in College Football . Can't wait.

Dawg350
Dawg350

Pruitt has been a winner from Hoover to Bama to FSU ! He will become the biggest winner at UGA!

Classof98
Classof98

"For those of you who believe anything less than a national championship is unacceptable..."


King loves to say this, I think he finds some way to squeeze it in every blog.


While there are fringe elements of our fan base who expect nothing but perfection, it would be nice for King to are now going on nine years without an SEC Championship.


A national championship would be great.  Whether King or Richt like it or not, another SEC Championship is expected.  Soon.

Dawg350
Dawg350

There is a lot to like and be excited about when it comes to Pruitt. First he helped FSU when a title....2nd he is more proven than Grantham when he was hired....3rd he is confident....he said he has never coached a secondary that wasn't good! I like how he is teaching them the T step. Something new when it comes to fundamentals. Too bad wiggins didn't want to learn from Pruitt.

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

Spurrier and Saban will punish teams. I want Richt to not let up when he is ahead. When you punish a team and don't let them breath they will fear you the next year or at least dread playing against you. That was why we lost so many in a row to Florida. We were beaten before we took the field . Finally broke the pattern when Florida couldn't find a Quarterback and all their Great Coordinators left for Head Coaching jobs.

SnoopDawg
SnoopDawg

During the Cold War, Snoop Dawg used to say that our only hope was that the Russians were dumber than we were.  Well, they were!


We know that other SEC coaches are not dumber than Richt.


There is very little hope.


Superior S&C is our only hope.


Our talent is overrated.  Look  at the NFL draft results...

SnoopDawg
SnoopDawg

This is funny!  The koolaid tastes so good in the Spring, doesn't it?


Organizations take on the personality of their leaders.  This is the problem at UGA.  Richt's laissez faire is everywhere has permeated the culture.  Pruitt will be challenged to coexist.  Players will take themselves out if they feel a little tired.  Other coaching staffs will school Richt and Company as usual.  The team will pull an upset and then the next week get upset.  Bottom line:  expect the same type of season that we have seen the past few years:  mediocre. 

HotDawg
HotDawg

I fully expect the Dawgs to be capable of being a playoff team this season.

Whether that happens comes down to many, many factors that get played out throughout the season. Including injuries and luck.

Always look forward to the "journey".

Go Dawgs!

HotDawg
HotDawg

I don't have problem with UA's statement. But UGA is not historically worse than TN. Depending on how you prefer to look at it. To me, there are multiple barometers.

AL has led and I consider UGA as second, historically speaking.

BTW, 90's was only decade in history of conference that GA did not win a championship.

DawginCO
DawginCO

@UA Grad  You'll get some grief on this but you are close to right.  The problem is that close but no cigar has a hangover effect.  The series with UF had fans believing we were snakebit.  It wasn't Munson so much as the hard fall after Dooley.  Donnan couldn't get us over the hump but Richt did.  And then he won big for a while but the NC alluded him and the snakebit mentality took over again.  And who robbed us?  Florida.  That was reinforcement to that mentality.  And this is why I get upset with the neg heads that spew the "we'll never win an NC with Mark Richt".  The fans have to believe too.  That is what took Auburn so far.  These people are afraid to be disappointed.  WTH!  You get nothing if you play it safe.  Disappointment is a mild pain compared to some.  I look at coming close and not winning like a day at the beach that got rained out.

I don't do the preseason prediction game because it makes no sense at all and it offends my rationality to a certain extent.  But if the Dawgs plow through Clemson and SC then it will be time to seriously start thinking about a great season.  Especially if the defense is visibly better.



HotDawg
HotDawg

That movie bored me to sleep. Zzzzzzzzz

Why do many comic actors feel they have to prove themselves as anything other?

Good for him, though, that he gets the paychecks.

Buzz-Off
Buzz-Off

Thomas,

Please quit ruminating over the past......your pessimism gets you nowhere!!! There are a ton of positives you are leaving out, but all you focus on are the negatives. Believe in the "G" and try to be an optimist!!!

HotDawg
HotDawg

Hope is what keeps humans going.....something to look forward too.

Always said if you don't have hope, you don't have anything.

DawginCO
DawginCO

@C-Kirk  I am always optimistic but this year is has a larger swing in the possibilities.  We knew going into last year that we were mostly likely looking at winning games by scoring tons of points.  And sure enough that was how it went.  This year, we have to feel good about what Pruitt brings to the table but how much will that translate on the field?  Is the offense still that loaded?  Too many question marks to be all in but enough potential to warrant anticipation for sure.

Classof98
Classof98

Sorry, typo.   That meant to read:  "...it would be nice for King to acknowledge we are now going on nine years without an SEC Championship."

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

@Dawg350 I am liking Pruitt more and more. These kids DEMAND  to be treated like adults , whether they are ready or not and it is about time our Coaches stopped patronizing them and gave them a touch of reality before it blindsides  them at the next level . If you can't follow instructions in College how in the world can you, when you get to the  Pro's when nobody is going to coddle you or feel sorry for you.

DawginCO
DawginCO

@C-Kirk  you'll have to get somebody to explain to Richt that it isn't unsportsmanlike if you tell everybody in advance that you will not call off the dogs.  It's as simple as telling your opponents that you will play your hardest every single down no matter what the score is.  To me it is that simple.

Dawg350
Dawg350

If your name is bubba..then you might be a redneck who openly loves tech.

DawginCO
DawginCO

@Bubbatavious Thanks for saying "Book it" Blubber!  Now we know that  won't happen!  LMAO!

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

@Bubbatavious If Georgia wins the first two games , the only other games to worry about is MO, AUB. FLA. and Tenn. The only way Florida competes is if Driskle is a much better Quarterback. Tenn. probably needs a little more Depth even though Jones is doing a great job Recruiting, Missouri could be a really hard game. They get who the want from the state of Missouri and the Quarterback is pretty darn good not to mention it is at MO. Auburn will the the hardest because Marshall is a Great player but I still say he plays Defensive Back in the Pro's. So we will know if you are right after the second game. If we are 2-0 I say we will end up with 10, 11, or 12 wins going into the Bowl games or SEC Championship game.

Snagglepuss
Snagglepuss

@SnoopDawg 


"We know that other SEC  coaches are not dumber than Richt" .


The use of the term "We"  indicates that you are dumb enough to be T R I P L E T S !!

Snagglepuss
Snagglepuss

@SnoopDawg 


Delta is ready......................................(You know the drill).


Pruitt has known CMR for a long time and said early-on that he had A L W A Y S wanted a chance to coach for CMR.........................................but I"m certain you would do a much better job even to the point that one day the HeismanTrophy  would become known  as the SnoopDawg  Trophy!!!!

FlatTire
FlatTire

@HotDawg     LOL well I guess our coaching staff needs to go talk to Saban about what items he uses to make the ball bounce the right way

RED DOG 77
RED DOG 77

@HotDawg  I agree, HD, I see no reason we can't finish in the top ten, but a playoff position is also a very real expectation, as you said lots has to happen as well as 'ol "Lady Luck" as munson used to say............you'll never convince the "haters" but to win it all, sometime you have to get that "bounce"

DawginCO
DawginCO

@Classof98  the key word was unacceptable.  Yes, it will be great when we win it again.  And we will.  But the naysayers all have this idea that anything less than a National Championship, this  year is unacceptable and that is just plain whacko.  The real kicker is this BS that they say it will never  happen while Mark Richt is coach.  They still believe that the past is an accurate gauge of the future and it isn't.  The past says that the Boston Celtics or LA Lakers should win the NBA crown every 2 or 3 years.  Is that happening?  I rest my case.


The inherent irrationality in the expectation that anything less than a National Championship is unacceptable is what Mr King is commenting on.  He didn't say that an SEC championship would be nice.

Snagglepuss
Snagglepuss

@Classof98 


Those of us that R E A L L Y    C A R E   already know that!!!


Any possibility that you could do a little research and come up with something original ,meaningful, informative, thought provoking or are you just a

T R O L L  W A N N A B E in your coming out post????

Dawg350
Dawg350

C-kirk

I agree. JHC and wiggins only had to respect what the coaches wanted them to do....but they decided rebel.......burning their bridges in the process....it's okay we will be fine without them...we have Fenteng and Parrish coming in.

HotDawg
HotDawg

Like that bill and 350? Lol

HotDawg
HotDawg

RED, they're gonna have their share of problems. But I believe there will be major improvement from last year.

DawginCO
DawginCO

@C-Kirk @DawginCO I guess we are lucky in that regard.  SC is a really big game.  Win that one and the hype will be on.

Dawg350
Dawg350

Snaggle...

I appreciate that my friend! I thought battle weighed 170 and wiggins is 155? I dunno I could be wrong.....have a good weekend Snaggle!!!!

Snagglepuss
Snagglepuss

@Dawg350 


Sorry 350 but Wiggins is larger now than Tre Battle was when he was at UGA!!!!!


Youda man anyway!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dawg350
Dawg350

C-kirk

Yeah JHC is a good un. But wiggins isn't....he can't cover the deep ball because of his height basically. That will never change...plus he is a tweener. Tim wansley....Tre Battle...and Tim Jennings were kind of short but they had some size on them.

C-Kirk
C-Kirk

@Dawg350 But , I hate losing either one of these kids. They are very good Football players. They need to read what one of Georgia's past Running Backs , Tim Worley had to say the other day. He said when he got to the Pro's he was given a 250 page playbook and was told to learn it. He said the hardest thing was he had to learn how to read Defenses and his blockers because a Running Back in the Pro's will not have much success if he doesn't learn to play with his teammates and realize they need him as much as he needs them.

DawginCO
DawginCO

@Snagglepuss Come on Snagglepuss... Coach Richt is old fashioned in that way.  He thinks you are disrespecting an opponent if you let you offense play the same way in the 4th quarter as it does in the 1st quarter.  It is the way Dooley and Bowden thought as well.  But it really is out dated and frankly it is wrong.

You are asking your players to not play hard and you are disrespecting your opponent by saying "we don't have to play our best to beat you.  Think about it.  The offense has 1 job.  Score points.  Doing anything less is not giving it your best.  Sorry but you really can't afford to do that anymore.

DawginCO
DawginCO

@Snagglepuss  It is true.  It is not unsportsmanlike to expect your team to play hard every down no matter the score.  That isn't coaching that is mindset.