Bulldogs’ spring exit meetings can be tough on players

Georgia coach Mark Richt poses with Bulldogs' fans Joe Markwalter and his mother Sumner Markwalter Tuesday night at UGA Day in Gainesville. (AJC/Towers)

Georgia coach Mark Richt poses with Bulldogs’ fans Joe Markwalter and his mother Sumner Markwalter Tuesday night at UGA Day in Gainesville. (AJC/Towers)

I had a nice time over in Gainesville last night covering the second stop on the Bulldogs’ “UGA Day” speaking tour. Georgia coach Mark Richt and gymnastics coach Danna Durante joined President Jere Morehead in addressing about 300 guests at the Gainesville Civic Center about all things Bulldog. You can read my report on the festivities HERE. And thanks to the fine folks of the Gainesville Bulldog Club for the wonderful hospitality.

While I was there, Richt took time to talk to me and about five other reporters in a relaxed sit-down before the event. Now we aren’t far removed from spring practice ending, so there wasn’t a lot of new information for the Bulldogs’ coach to impart. But I figured I share some of the highlights of our discussion here.

As always, please feel free to share your thoughts and I’ll be happy to hear story suggestions for the coming weeks and months as we enter into the somewhat idle portion of the college football calendar.

Q: What’s happening now that spring practice has concluded?

A: “Right now our coaches are getting their plan to hit the road for the spring recruiting period and doing those exit meetings with the players. Everybody’s on their own little schedule with their own segment and knocking those out. And guys are getting ready for final exams, that’s about it.”

Q: Do you guys do actual evaluations for each of your players?

A: “Yes. We’ve modified them. They used to have a battery of questions and you’d  answer 1-through-5, with 5 being this and 1 being that, self-evaluation-type survey sort of thing. We quit doing that. There’s a section for the coaches to fill out: Strengths, weaknesses and what we call a plan of action. What do you need to get better? What do you need to be working on in the offseason? Then the player has the ability to self-evaluate his strengths and weaknesses. Then I ask them what can the team expect from you this offseason? There are some academic goals they set for the summer. And then we ask them who do they think the leaders are on the team? We kind of gather all that up.”

Q: I guess those can be difficult at times?

A: “I tell the coaches to be honest with the guys. I want them to tell them truth in love, so to speak. Don’t just hammer a guys with their weakness or whatever; just be honest with the guy. Tell them, ‘you’re not playing because of this; you’ve got to get better in this area to get where you want to be.’ … Sometimes they get their feelings hurt in those meetings sometimes. But at least they know what to work on.”

Q: Are there any players from the current team who won’t be back in the fall?

A: “Not right this minute. Historically this time of year, somewhere between now and the end of the semester, there may be a guy that says, ‘well, my chances of playing here aren’t good and I may look for another opportunity,’ or something like that. But I have not had that with anybody. And again, a lot of these meetings are still in progress.”

Q: You’ll probably get asked, so are you ready yet to unveil your disciplinary plan for the four players arrested for theft-by-deception arrest (Tray Matthews, Uriah LeMay, Jonathan Taylor and James DeLoach)?

A: “Not yet. I’m not ready yet. No one asked the question last time, not at the last club.”

Q: Did you and Mike Bobo get a chance yet to discuss the backup quarterback situation?

A: “Nothing’s been decided on that at all. I think the competition (between Faton Bauta and Brice Ramsey) is going to go into the fall and we’ll just see what it looks like as we get closer to the first game. I would say that Hutson (Mason) probably separated himself from the the second-team guys. There’s a little bit more of a gap there. Not to try to discourage anybody, but realistically I think Hutson solidified himself as a starter.”

Q: Are SEC coaches discussing the impact of the unionization legal maneuverings in Illinois?

A: “Everybody’s just waiting to see what will happen. … Nothing’s going to happen on that real fast on it. … I will say this, I think there’s tremendous value in the degree, in the education, in the experience of going to college and going through the things we put them through, so to speak. I think the cost of attendance would be a great start.”

Q: What do you think is the championship potential of your 2014 team?

A: “I think if the guys make a lot of progress in the summer and get healthy and just bond as a team, be willing to sacrifice for the greater good, that team chemistry everybody talks about … I think we have a chance to be really good. But there’s a lot of teams that are going to be pretty. That’s one of the issues. No matter how good we are, there are going to be other teams that are just as good. How do you separate? How do you win the close games? By focusing on the little things and taking care of business.”

Q: What’s all this talk about slimming down as a team?

A: “We sat down with the strength staff and each position coach and talked about every player. … It’s not that we’re a bunch of fat guys. But we’re in some ways we’re strong and thick in the legs and rear and all that kind of thing. Not that we don’t want to be strong, but we’re willing to give up a little bit of size for quickness. … Mostly linebacker and D-line. But really there’s some safeties we want to cut some weight and a couple of skinny corners we want to get a few more pounds on them and a little bit more muscle on them. But most everybody is on a trim-down phase. The majority are.”

So that’s just some of the highlights of our discussion before Tuesday night’s meeting. If you’d like to get some of your own questions answered by Richt, plan on attending one of the 10 remaining UGA Day celebrations. The next one is Thursday in Dalton. Click HERE for dates and pre-registration (which is cheaper).


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