University of Georgia football coach Mark Richt, left, signs an autograph for Paul Handmacher, middle, while he chats with UGA men’s basketball coach Mark Fox on Monday at UGA Day at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
DULUTH — On the eve of reporting day for football season at the University of Georgia, one fan had a particularly difficult time moving on from last year’s SEC Championship loss to Alabama.
The woman said she didn’t enjoy watching the result, and as she finished her question about motivation for this season, football coach Mark Richt said his mother called him the night before and had the same feeling.
“She’s still crying,” Richt said. “Somewhere along the way, you’ve got to let it go. Move on.”
Before a room of about 325 Bulldog fans, Richt, men’s basketball coach Mark Fox, baseball coach Scott Stricklin and President Jere Morehead spoke to members of the metro Atlanta Chapter of the UGA Alumni Association. The event at the Gwinnett Center on Monday evening signaled the end of the offseason tour of visits with alumni associations across the country.
Morehead trumpeted a recent Rhodes Scholar from UGA, as well as several new deans on campus and the strongest incoming freshman class to date. But Morehead also said the university needs more private giving to close gaps it has with schools it compares itself with, such as the University of Florida, the University of North Carolina and the University of Virginia.
Before the dinner and question-and-answer program, Richt told reporters that Kolton Houston, a former Buford High standout recently reinstated by the NCAA, could see time at offensive guard or offensive tackle. Houston, who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug following shoulder surgery in high school, suffered a three-year struggle with eligibility issues even though UGA trainers documented that he never took the drug while in college.
Now with clearance to play, Richt told the crowd that Houston would probably enjoy getting “chewed” out by offensive line coach Will Friend, so he could be one of the guys.
“I think he’s in good enough condition,” Richt said. “Every time he has competed in the spring we’re optimistic about him being ready in the fall. I think he finished the two springs he got reps in as a No. 1 guy somewhere along the line, in the top five. Will he start? I don’t know, but I really believe he’ll play this year. Maybe a good bit.”
Houston is one of 11 Georgia players from Gwinnett.
“We love recruiting this area, and the guys have been good to us,” Richt said. “It’s good for us to come to our fans for all the time they come to us.”
Richt didn’t clarify the status of kicker Marshall Morgan, who was arrested earlier this summer for boating under the influence,
“We’ll, we’ll just have to let you know,” he said. “I can’t say anything on that right now.”
As for players returning from ACL injuries, Richt said wide receiver Tramel Terry is getting comfortable, while wide receiver Michael Bennett “looks phenomenal.” With a shoulder injury, linebacker Devin Bellamy could be limited at the beginning of practice, Richt said, while there wasn’t an update on the academic issues for offensive lineman Austin Long.
Near the end of the event, Richt fielded a question from a fan who referenced a player from LSU failing multiple drug tests, and whether a perceived competitive disadvantage would be leveled in that area.
Richt stood up from his chair and began a passionate defense of his program’s discipline policy.
“I don’t want our guys to smoke marijuana. I don’t want our guys to do anything illegal. I don’t want our guys to do anything that they shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “So when you have policies that have a lot of teeth to it … The No. 1 thing our guys want is what? They want playing time. Well if I take that away from them, then that might teach the lesson a little bit better than not.”
Richt then added that he wished other programs would revise their policy so it was more in line with Georgia’s.
“I’d love if everybody had the same level playing ground,” he said. “That would be great. But I don’t think we should go towards them to get a level playing field. I’d rather they come to us.”