by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer
ATHENS—With almost two entire weeks before Georgia’s postseason appearance against Louisville in Charlotte’s Belk Bowl on December 30th, Coach Mark Richt uncharacteristically began his weekly press conference by arriving late—nearly 20 minutes late. But, he seemingly had a good excuse for his tardiness.
“We know we’ve got to maximize the time that we have right now, and that’s part of the reason why I was late,” Richt said regarding his team’s preparation for Louisville. “[A meeting] just ran a little bit long, just making sure that when we hit the ground running, we’re highly organized and we have one purpose.”
The Bulldogs will practice tonight, Thursday and Friday afternoons, and then Saturday morning. After the team’s morning practice on December 20th, they’ll break before having to return and leave for Charlotte on Christmas Eve, where they’ll resume practice on Christmas Day.
“You hate your players not to be home for Christmas,” Richt said. “But the date of the bowl, I don’t think we had a choice.” Later at the individual player interviews, I asked a couple of players how they felt about not spending Christmas at home.
“I really don’t care about missing Thanksgiving, but missing Christmas… Man, that’s the best time to spend with your family,” senior linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. “Usually, Christmas is the only time I can go home,” chimed in offensive guard Greg Pyke, who is from Baltimore.
Besides his team’s bowl preparation, Richt also fielded a number of questions regarding his offensive coordinator—Mike Bobo—who is interviewing for the head coaching position at Colorado State, and presumably at the very moment of the press conference. In fact, Georgia’s 7:35 p.m. practice start time for tonight—or, about two hours later than usual—is believed to have been pushed back to accommodate Bobo’s return trip to Athens.
“Mike is taking advantage of the opportunity to go visit [Colorado State], and right this minute he’s our offensive coordinator and we’re planning on him being here at practices,” Richt said. “Obviously if there’s an opportunity for a staff member to do big things, you want to give him that opportunity.”
Later, Richt was asked to comment on the challenges an assistant might face preparing for a bowl game, yet certain to be another team’s head coach following the bowl, as was Richt’s case at Florida State while preparing for the 2001 Orange Bowl.
“Right now, Coach Bobo is our offensive coordinator, and he’s preparing us to win,” Richt declared as if he believed the reporter was solely suggesting Bobo’s circumstances. As the reporter attempted to clarify his question, Richt interrupted, “When I answer a general question about a hot topic, it usually doesn’t get recorded that way (it’s taken out of context)…so, I just assume not talk about that.”
Not hesitant to talk were a couple of standout seniors I approached, asking if it has “hit” them yet that the Belk Bowl will be their final appearance in a Bulldog uniform.
“I haven’t exactly thought about [my final game at Georgia] at this point,” receiver Chris Conley said. “It’ll probably hit me when I’m closer to being on the field. Right now, you have no time to think about it. It’s about winning a football game.”
For Herrera, he enters the Belk Bowl ranked 10th all time at Georgia in career tackles (331), while becoming the first Bulldog defender in 17 years (Greg Bright, 1994-1997) to be considered a four-year starter.
“[The accolades] will mean a lot…” Herrera started and then paused with a smile, “…in a couple of years. But, right now, I want to add more tackles in the one game I got left.”