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HOOVER, Ala. - The Georgia contingent didn't come to SEC Media Days necessarily wanting to relive the agony from last year's SEC Championship, when the Bulldogs came up five yards short in their 32-28 loss to Alabama. But during an early morning meeting with a select group of beat writers and national media, that seemed to be the topic many of the attending scribes wanted to discuss. "We don't want any kind of moral victory or anything like that but all men want to be respected. I think our players earned more respect on that day," head coach Mark Richt said.
"People are still talking about that game, everywhere I go, and it doesn't have to be in the South."
Quarterback Aaron Murray says the team has moved on, but said the loss is something the Bulldogs can still draw some positives from. It really drives us. Part of you wants to forget it, how it ended and how close you were but the experience we gained from that name, the knowledge, the learning, the thought that 'Hey, we're right there,'" Murray said. "We've got what it takes to be among the best in the country, we deserved to be it the SEC Championship but we've got to keep working hard. We've got to stay that way but right now there's a lot of confidence with this team, what we're doing and what we can do this year."
That doesn't mean watching the game was easy.
"Yes. It was hard. It was very hard to watch knowing that could have been us, but hopefully this can be our year, stay focused, stay determined and get ready for a fun year," Murray said. Whatever success the Bulldogs are ultimately able to have, Murray will obviously have to do his part. For his part Richt feels his team couldn't be in better hands.
That's one of the reasons the Bulldog head coach took such exception to a question in the post-game press conference following the SEC title game that queried whether or not Murray could win "the big game." "I don't know if it was a question or a comment. I was trying to understand what the gentleman was trying to say," Richt recalled. "That was the main thing. I guess timing was everything and I just didn't think that was appropriate at the moment. I understand everyone has questions they need to ask but I didn't think that was appropriate to say, because I thought Murray played his tail off; I thought both teams played great. I don't know if it was an epic game or not, but people seemed to think so. I just thought there was a lot of other things to talk about at that moment."
With the Aug. 31 opener at Clemson just 44 days away, RIcht's certainly not going to complain about his quarterback now. "I like Murray. I'm glad we've got him. I think it is a conference that has a lot of great quarterbacks, very experienced guy, guys who have played in some big games and had a lot of success," Richt said. "But when I talk about Aaron, it's not just game-day quarterback, but I really see him as a 365-day-a-year quarterback."
For example: "He's very organized as far as getting his teammates involved in summer workouts, that sort of thing. This is the time of the year where he really has to kick in. As a matter of fact, we were flying in and said 'I can't wait until camp starts because I'm tired of the coaching, man. It's hard to coach and practice. It takes a of energy, but he does it so well and he's very serious how he eats, how he trains, on a personal level, and really how he represents the university."
Richt mum on Morgan
Richt had no comment on the status of sophomore kicker Marshall Morgan following his arrest for boating under the influence two weeks ago. "I don't know," Richt said. "That's probably going to be closer to a game-time decision." Unlike driving under the influence, there is no punishment provision for boating under the influence in Georgia's student athlete handbook. Richt would not speculate on what the final conclusion might be. "Between Greg (athletic director Greg McGarity), me and other people being on vacation, we just haven't been able to focus on that yet," Richt said.
Long's status undetermined
Richt was also asked to address the status of backup offensive lineman Austin Long as to whether or not he is still with the team. "It's kind of undetermined at this point," said Richt, who added the Memphis native is still part of the team. "He's going through some academic stuff right now," said Richt, who did not say whether or not Long has been taking part in summer workouts with the rest of the team.
Richt not sure who will start for Harvey-Clemons
Although he's sure defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has a plan for who might replace Josh Harvey-Clemons against Clemson, Richt could not rightly speculate what that might entail. "We've got to decide how it's all going to shake out He definitely knows how we'll start out, but you just start practicing. We have so many young people I don't know what it will look like before kickoff that first game," Richt said. "He (Harvey-Clemons) was the starter at the end of spring but we recruited a lot of good players and we were going to have these 29 practice opportunities even if he was the starter going into it. Actually, I don't know if it was a slam dunk that he would have started, but he would have been leading going into that time." Harvey-Clemson was being groomed for the "star" position in Grantham's 3-4 defense, a spot that junior Damian Swann played at times last fall.
Clemson has Dawgs' attention.
Senior defensive end Garrison Smith said Clemson obviously as the Bulldogs' attention, but noted the players should have to open up against a big-time opponent to prepare the proper way. "We're just worried about what we can control and that's how hard we play and how hard we work and following the game plan that the coaches give us. We'll just do that to the best of our ability. That's our focus," Smith said. "It doesn't matter if you playing Clemson, Boise State or Clark-Atlanta. Every game is big because you're taking about a win or a loss." Murray agreed, but added that opening against the Tigers and South Carolina back to back, certainly grabs your attention. "I think we're definitely excited to start out hot, the first two weeks are very challenging games and I think that's why we've had such a successful off-season because guys realize there's no easing our way into the season," he said. "We've got to be in mid-season shape to start the year. Our guys know that. But it's been a great summer when it comes to attendance and workouts; it's been the best I've seen since I've been here, from workouts, to 7-on-7s, to one-on-ones, to extra work … it's been a great, great summer."
This and that
Smith had high praise for many of Georgia's defensive newcomers, including his teammates on the defensive line. "People may not know a lot about them, but we've got some big dudes on the defensive line," Smith said. "Jonathan Taylor, Chris Mayes, John Atkins, Toby Johnson - they're not babies. I don't think we're going to fall off that much if any. These guys can play and I'm sure the coaches will put us in the best position to win." … Smith said Johnson looks 100 percent to him. "He's doing everything we do," Smith said. "He looks good to me." … Georgia kicks off preseason drills on July 30. … Richt said he wouldn't mind a league-wide drug policy, but knows one probably won't happen anytime soon. "Well, I can't really control that. I think that would have to be handled on the presidential level as far as that's concerned. Would I like that? I would like that," Richt said. "I think that would be a good thing for the league to be in sync in that regard. I would think it's going to be very difficult to do certainly at the presidential level, they would all have to agree that it should be done, this is what it's going to look like. But I've got no problem with how we do things at Georgia. I like it, quite frankly, because I care very much about our players and I want them to be safe. That's just the way we do things."
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