ATHENS – I’ll be filing a detailed report later today that you’ll be able to read on MyAJC.com about Georgia’s off-season disciplinary issues and the Bulldogs’ reactions to them. But in the meantime I wanted to go ahead and share what Georgia coach Mark Richt and some of his players had to say about it at UGA’s Preseason Football Media Day on Friday.
Richt was unflinching and unapologetic in answering the media’s questions about whether the Bulldogs’ have a discipline problem.
“Well, the guys that misbehave have a discipline problem,” Richt said. “That’s why we discipline them. The rest of the guys don’t. Some are still here and some aren’t. That’s just part of the consequences for not doing what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it.”
Richt said he’s largely unconcerned about the public perception — if there is indeed one — that Georgia recruits unruly players.
“I can’t really worry about that,” he said. “We’re going to hold true to what we believe is right. We’re going to take care of business if business comes up, and then play football.
“The great majority of our guys are doing a great job and I’m really proud of them. There’s different levels of issues, obviously, but even a good man makes a mistake sometimes. But we’ll take care of those things. We have always and always will. We’re not going to hide from that.”
At least a dozen of the Bulldogs’ players were available for interviews before they took the field Friday afternoon for the first preseason practice of the summer. And all of them were asked about the disciplinary and perception issues.
“When I see that kind of stuff, it hits me kind of hard,” junior outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “First I feel bad for my teammate who gets into trouble. Speaking about (Davin) Bellamy, I feel bad because he’s a friend of mine, he’s had a great summer and he’s really not that type of a guy. He made a mistake. … But it doesn’t show the true side of him.”
Said senior captain Chris Conley: “There’s been a lot more punishment handed out on our part. We decide what those punishments are going to be and we enforce them. The players have had a hand in that. We’ve met with those players as groups and as individuals. We explain to them: ‘This is what you’re doing wrong, this is what you’ve got to do to fix it, this is what’s going to happen if you don’t fix it.’ The fact that it’s coming from player-led leadership and less from coaches I think is a good thing. I think this team is going to take a turn for the better as a result.”
“We called a team meeting a couple of days after (Bellamy’s DUI arrest),” said senior cornerback Damian Swann.”It wasn’t to single anybody out, it wasn’t to rag on guys. It was just let guys know that we’re all in this together and everybody needs to deal with this situation together. We need to hold ourselves accountable and let small stuff turn into something big and keep happening over and over again.”
Richt was emphatic on the point that Georgia does not recruit miscreants and defended the Bulldogs’ system of checks and balances.
“We do everything we can to get to know these guys,” he said. “There’s only so many times we’re allowed to. But I’ll say this right now: Bellamy made a mistake; it was stupid; he know’s it; he’s remorseful. But he’s not a bad person. … It’s like I told him, ‘I don’t like that you made the mistake, but I’d rather you make the mistake now and learn from it than be 30 years old with a wife a kids and a good job and maybe lose your job or your marriage. You gate that it happens and I don’t condone it. But we certainly do everything in our power to learn from it.”
Richt said there is a “vetting process” during recruiting and pointed to a recent unnamed commitment Georgia rescinded its offer to after the recruit was repeatedly posting unsavory tweets under different handles on his Twitter account.
“If you look at who we sign, they’ve got offers from five to 20 schools that we compete with,” Richt said. “Other schools have players that have an offer from Georgia and a lot of different schools. It’s not that we’re all recruiting bad guys. We’re all doing our homework. … There’s definitely a vetting process we’re very serious about.”
Running back Todd Gurley:
Quarterback Huston Mason:
Cornerback Damian Swann: