Georgia's Richt on shaky ground

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

HOOVER, Ala. – Some folks believe it’s hard for a college football coach to stay in one place for more than a decade.
Mark Richt says it really isn’t, but the ease comes with an asterisk.
“It really isn’t hard as long as you win,” he said, taking the podium as the second of four coaches at SEC Media Days on Thursday.
Richt and Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt have been in the SEC for more consecutive seasons than any of their conference counterparts, and only South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier has coached more years in the league. There’s more commonality for Richt and Nutt heading into the 2011 season. Both are coming off losing seasons, and both have been mentioned this off-season in terms of job security more than any other SEC coaches.
They will meet head-to-head in Oxford on Sept. 24. Ole Miss and Georgia last played in 2007. That was in Athens and resulted in a 45-17 Bulldogs win the year before Nutt arrived.
Richt is beginning his 11th season at Georgia. He’s 53-27 in SEC games but just 7-9 over the last two years.
He is 96-34 overall and has had six seasons with double-figure wins. His only losing season was last year when the Bulldogs lost 10-6 to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl and finished 6-7.
Nutt and Ole Miss players Bradley Sowell, Kentrell Lockett and Brandon Bolden will be here today.
Ole Miss athletics director Pete Boone said he hasn’t seen or heard media speculation on Nutt’s job security and added that outlets who make that a conversation are “trying to fill up a page or fill up time.”
Nutt posted consecutive 9-4 seasons in his first two years at Ole Miss after a 10-year run at Arkansas. The Rebels were 4-8 in 2010.
Richt’s primary concerns as August practice approaches are depth and a stout early schedule against Boise State and South Carolina. He’s not thinking about his job.
“I know this – I know if you walk in the Butts-Mehre building there’s not one sense of doom or gloom. There’s only excitement. Guys thankful for a new season, a clean slate and the opportunity to play great opponents. Our expectations are as high as they’ve ever been going into any season,” Richt said.
Richt doesn’t feel that he lacks support.
“People have faith in our program and our leadership. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about what’s going on,” he said.
While there are questions at running back, high expectations for Georgia center around quarterback Aaron Murray, a third-year sophomore. Murray passed for 3,049 yards, 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions last year. He was the NCAA’s highest-rated freshman quarterback last year.
Players are conscious of the discussion around their coach.
“It kind of hurts a little bit. Coach Richt is a tremendous man,” Murray said. “Everyone loves playing for coach. I know that’s the main reason I committed to Georgia, just because I knew I’d be with a coach that’s going to not only make me a better player, but a better person in general. He’s just a tremendous man. We definitely want him to be here throughout our time at Georgia. We’re going to get things done this year, get some wins under our belt and make sure he stays here for the long run.”
parrish.alford@journalinc.com