The Dawgs will only play one game in the next two months (or next 8 months for that matter). But one could make the argument that the next 60 days are the most crucial two-month period of Coach Richt’s career at UGA. I’m not sure I buy it given that coaches are ultimately judged by what happens on the field, however, you could certainly contend that it’s the most crucial offseason in Richt’s career and what happens in Memphis and on the recruiting trail between now and National Signing Day will play heavily into Richt’s chances of making it through the next season.
Just because the season is over certainly doesn’t mean Richt, his staff, or even the players won’t be busy. Here are the program’s top 10 objectives for the next two months, in no particular order of importance:
1. Win the Liberty Bowl- I know many cynical fans will say this game is meaningless. And that’s somewhat true… if we win. But if we lose to a C-USA team there will be a lot more negative energy around the program between now the kickoff in the Dome next September. The primary objective of the coaches and players is to win football games and there is one more on the schedule before we can mercifully put 2010 in the books. If nothing else there is something to be said for finishing with a winning record, even if that’s miles behind the team’s goals for the season.
2. Get practice time for the youngsters- Richt has been adamant that he doesn’t view bowl practice as spring practice. But that doesn’t mean the coaches can’t utilize 15 practices to the most of their potential. The coaches and players are used to prepping for an opponent and installing a game plan in far less than 15 practices. We’ve had some guys with potential spend most of the year on scout team and it would be great to let them run our schemes some in bowl prep. While winning the bowl game is valuable, it’s not like we’re playing for the national title here. Surely the coaches can find some middle ground that will put the team in a position to beat UCF and get reps for guys who took redshirts this year.
3. Sign all our current commits- The Dawgs currently have 16 guys ready to sign on the dotted line in February. And while the class is hopefully nowhere near completed it certainly won’t create any momentum toward Signing Day if guys start visiting others places and bailing as a few did last year. There may not be a real immediate impact type player committed yet, but there are guys with serious potential, who got offers at other SEC schools, that we can’t afford to lose.
4. Get as many prospects as possible on official visits- From all the news that came out of the Tech game and the Senior Gala last weekend it really seems like the coaching staff has some recruiting mojo right now. There were no commitments out of last weekend, but by all accounts it was a great success for the 18 official visitors on hand. Some key targets are still set to take visits in January. Our chances go up significantly every time we can get a kid and his parents on campus. The more targets we can bring to Athens between now and Signing Day the better chance we have of signing the Dream Team.
5. Sign Isaiah Crowell- There are a handful of prospects out there that could really “make” this class with their pledge at a all-star game or on National Signing Day. Many think Crowell would head that list. He would certainly be a great compliment to Aaron Murray and might provide the best running threat we’ve had in Athens since Knowshon. Also important, he, like several other uncommitted Georgians, is between the Dawgs and Tide. Getting him to stay in state, reversing a disturbing recent trend of top talent crossing the border, would be a big step in the right direction.
6. Sign Ray Drew- Drew has offers from every major program in the country and has done little to whittle down his list thus far in the recruiting process. He took his official visit last weekend and he and Richt got some quality time on a fishing trip Saturday morning that Richt prioritized over the first 30 minutes of practice. He would fit Grantham’s scheme well and again, it’s important to keep him in state as opposed to letting him slip to Auburn or LSU.
7. Sign John Jenkins- When Grantham came in he claimed he didn’t need a Mount Cody to make his 3-4 defense work. After a season on the field many of us Dawg fans would beg to differ. But Jenkins could be that guy. He’s currently committed to Oklahoma State, but the Dawgs have put a full court press on him recently, even sending coaches to Connecticut this week to meet with his family. At 6-4, 340 he could literally change the face of our defense. At this point I’d say he’s less likely to end up a Dawg than Crowell or Drew, but he’s got that huge upside at a position where we have incredible need.
8. Sign Malcolm Mitchell- Mitchell is another highly rated player that spent last weekend in Athens. Florida and Bama are also high on his list. Until the visit it seemed the Dawgs might be behind others vying for his services, but again he would provide talent at a position (CB) where there is serious need. Moreover, the Dawgs have struggled to sign talent out of Valdosta recently, but getting Mitchell and Jay Rome as a package deal could change that in a hurry.
9. Sign Jay Rome- Of all the individual prospects mentioned here Rome seems the most certain to sign, as he admitted he came close to committing last weekend. The Dawgs aren’t dying for a great tight end with White and Charles still on the roster, but you just can’t let a talent like Rome get away. And if he’s added to the roster we might see Charles flexed out as a receiver more often (which would be great with our lack of receiver depth) and Rome used as a traditional tight end in the Georgia model of Watson or Pope.
10. Add new staff to the Strength and Conditioning Program-This one is by far the least expected on the list. Richt has given no indication that any such thing might happen. But there are been message board rumblings that there’s more to the story of replacing Van Halanger with Tereshinski. There may be someone from NFL ranks coming. I don’t think anyone can say putting Tereshinski in charge was a bad move, but just a confusing one. Richt could re-earn some trust if there were another chapter to that story.
What did I miss? Any other top priorities for the next two month? Anything I listed not really that important?