Georgia Bulldogs coach Mark Richt, the longest-tenured SEC coach, took the podium at Media Days by pointing out the event is his 11th -- as subtle questions about whether he'd get to see his 12th lingered in the waters. He turned to praising Boise State and South Carolina, his team's make-or-break opening opponents, before commenting on the guys who fell "off the bus" during his attrition-y summer.
Throughout, Richt expressed optimism and confidence for the future, bringing up the fact that his 2014 recruiting class is already starting to stock itself. Despite a down year and calls for his job, Richt gave off nothing but confident vibes while, as always, being much more pleasant to listen to than, say, Bobby Petrino.
When asked about recruiting, he said his biggest problem is waiting patiently to offer a player from the state of Georgia, which presumably leads to recruits feeling snubbed. Detailing the process, he said "some out-of-state schools" will "go blazing through the state" "offering a lot of guys," which leads to resentment towards UGA from some recruits. His voice rose during that description -- some Alabama and Auburn fans are going to take that as a shot, but that goes for pretty much everything.
He responded to a question of whether Aaron Murray-Tyler Bray could become the next Peyton Manning-Danny Wuerrfel rivalry by calling Murray a "coach's dream" and highlighting Mike Bobo's training of the young QB.
He described his process of deciding whether to play Boise State in the Chick-fil-A game, saying he was concerned about the perception of there being a decline in Georgia football. Playing the Broncos in a national game still means "there's risk in playing a team that might whip your tail, because they might whip your tail." He said "we need to play this game."
Richt predicted a Rimington Trophy win for Ben Jones while talking up Cordy Glenn, Justin Anderson and other offensive linemen while talking about the lack of depth up front -- "as long as nobody gets hurt, we're fine," he said to laughter. Later, Jones took over the mic to ask if Richt trusts the line -- Richt laughed and said, "you weren't here when I was bragging on the offensive line," before talking about Jones "whooping everybody" in his first pass drill as Richt sent defensive linemen one-by-one against Jones before somebody could "finally beat him."
"Good question, by the way, Ben," he added.
In response to a question about BYU Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall's comment that SEC coaching salary's are responsible for all the world's ills, brother Richt took the family to church. "Money is the root of all evil ... but it can be used for good. I've never heard of any Southeastern Conference coaches taking their money and doing anything bad or abusive with it."
On whether Todd Grantham's 3-4 system is a good match for Kellen Moore, Richt talked about growing pains while working his way to bigging up John Jenkins, as he's known to do. (If a Georgia coach talks for more than 10 minutes, can they go without mentioning Jenkins? They really love this guy.) More third-and-long concerns.
Mike Bianchi trolled, asking about that "devastating" loss to UCF, which had Richt clarifying the meaning of the word "devastating" before pinning the loss largely on George O'Leary's coaching job.
He said Richard Samuel has gained about 20 pounds since his first year as a RB without sacrificing any speed. He predicted, "I'm gonna feel better about the way the running backs played this year than they did last year." Later, he didn't downplay the possibility of Jenkins getting a goal line carry at some point. Further on the issue of depth, he addressed training camp contact by saying, "we'll get after it," but hopes he doesn't have to "lose [his] nerve" due to injuries.
For anyone confused on how the SEC works, Richt diagnosed the SEC East's weakness as being due to its failure to win games against the West. He also pointed out one winner from each division will play for the conference. The gospel isn't complicated, folks.
Speaking of the SECCG, Richt noted Georgia's goal for the year is to "play in the Dome twice."
Likewise, he assessed special jersey changes like black unis or Pro Combat duds as only being good ideas if they result in a win. He told the story of presenting the new jerseys Wednesday night by having Murray and Brandon Boykin pretend to show up late to a meeting while sporting the Nike gear. What's Georgia gain from wearing them? "Anytime you can have some fun, it's good to do that."
Richt poked at former Dawgs player Will Muschamp's assertion that since taking over as the new Gators coach he's "a Florida man," saying, "there's a little bit of red and black in his veins." He referenced his own experience as transitioning from a Miami player to a FSU coach before coaching against Bobby Bowden at Georgia.
For more SEC, head to Team Speed Kills. For more on SEC Media Days, stay tuned to SBNation.com's streaming coverage, plus SB Nation Atlanta's as well. Here's the complete 2011 SEC Media Days TV schedule.