0

Cool under pressure

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- If University of Georgia head football coach Mark Richt is feeling the pressure, he's not showing the cracks.

But coming off a 6-7 year, his first losing season in 10 years in Athens, Richt enters his 11th with much on the line.

The Bulldogs are 2-8 against arch-nemesis Florida in Richt's tenure, including three straight losses. Many think that another loss to the hated Gators -- especially with first-year UF head coach and UGA alum Will Muschamp at the helm -- would result in very hard decisions by the Georgia brass at the end of the 2011 campaign.

But Richt says Bulldog Nation should remain calm.

"I'm not feeling any pressure. Pressure is just something you put on yourself," Richt said Tuesday during UGA Day at Doublegate Country Club. "My goals are the same since I began coaching. I'll handle the pressure and trust the Lord with the rest."

The heat was turned up a bit at a recent meeting of the Atlanta Gator Club, where Muschamp guaranteed a win over the Bulldogs in Jacksonville this fall.

"I thought that was a good thing coming from him," Richt said with a laugh when asked about Muschamp's guarantee. "I heard about it right away, but I also know how those things happen. That's why I don't answer some questions."

One of the biggest questions this year surrounding the Bulldogs is at tailback. With Washuan Ealey no longer with the team for various on- and off-the-field issues, senior Caleb King sits atop the depth chart.

Prior to appearing atop the depth chart, questions about King's academic eligibility swirled. Richt quelled some of those concerns Tuesday, saying, "We expect Caleb to be here in the fall."

How long King remains No. 1 at RB might depend on how quickly super-freshman Isaiah Crowell of Columbus develops, but Richt expects the competition for playing time to be intense.

"Our best runner in the spring was (Brandon) Harton," Richt said. "Is he ready for the SEC? We'll see. But we expect him to compete for a job."

So what does Richt see as keys to success for the 2011 Bulldogs?

"We have to stay healthy," Richt answered. "That, and we need some of our upperclassmen like (Orson) Charles, (Christian) Robinson and (Ben) Jones to really step up and show our younger guys what to do."

Georgia opens the 2011 season Sept. 3 at the Georgia Dome against Boise State.

But the focus wasn't only on football Tuesday.

UGA director of operations for men's basketball, Kent Davison -- who was filling in for vacationing head coach Mark Fox -- thinks the Bulldogs can build on the momentum from last year's 21-12 record and NCAA Tournament bid.

"I think we've gotten to a point where we made an impression on the SEC by making the tournament," Davison said. "I think we are definitely headed in the right direction."

The Dogs, however, will attempt to continue that push without two of their key players after Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins bolted for the NBA Draft. Leslie and Thompkins led Georgia in scoring last season, combining to average just more than 30 points a game.

"Yes, that will hurt us, we were hoping to have both those guys back and they won't be here," Davison said. "It's going to put a lot of additional pressure on our younger guys. It's also why (returners) Gerald Robinson and Dustin Ware will be so important to us."

Davison added that he expects the competitive SEC East to me even more intense this year.

"The East is going to be a dogfight," he said. "You know Kentucky is always going to be in it. Florida will be good. But the team you need to keep an eye on is Vanderbilt -- they have all their guys back.

"As far as us, well, we'll only go as far as our guards can carry us."