My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Relishing the Role of Underdog

A year ago, Georgia was riding high. The Bulldogs had just wrapped up a Sugar Bowl win, finished the season ranked No. 2 in the country and introduced a strong signing class led by star wide receiver A.J. Green. It was early to make projections, but the prognosticators were already expecting big things for Georgia in 2008.

What followed wasn't pretty: Offseason arrests, a bevy of injuries and a group of players who probably spent a bit too much time thinking about that preseason No. 1 ranking and less time concerned with where they would be ranked when the year ended.

"We definitely had a lot of hype last year, and I don't think we handled it as well as we should have," wide receiver Kris Durham said. "You live and you learn. We learned how to handle that hype, and we've come back in this season to work hard. We seem to have lost our focus last year, and we've definitely gained it this offseason."

Or so they say. Virtually every player in Georgia's locker room has proclaimed this offseason a return to the team's roots -- a claim echoed even by head coach Mark Richt. But Durham knows talk is cheap at this point in the year. With spring practice about to begin and a long and unsupervised summer on the horizon, the focus needs to remain sharp -- something that didn't happen a year ago.

"Right now, everybody's focused because everybody's pushing each other and the coaches are all over us," Durham said. "But once we get to right after spring practice, the coaches really can't be around except for strength and conditioning, and we're going to really have to take it upon ourselves, take the mentality that we've built up so far and take it into the summer."

The Bulldogs promised a similar work ethic last summer. The reports said the leadership had emerged. The leaders said the team was focused. The team began the fall with a No. 1 ranking.

And that might have been a big part of the problem, Durham said. The role of favorites never really suited the Bulldogs, and the hype hindered the effort. This year, that won't be an issue. Florida is the defending national champion and is widely considered the odds-on favorite to win the SEC again. Georgia lost its two biggest stars -- Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno -- from a team that lost three games, including a blowout to the Gators.

Outside of Athens, there won't be too many people picking Georgia to win the East this year, and that's exactly the way the team wants it. Playing the underdog is a role to which these Bulldogs are much better suited.

"When you're the underdog, you always have something to prove, so you go out there and try to prove to everyone that you are the best," Durham said. "Knowshon and Matthew, they're going to be missed. It shows by what they're trying to accomplish right now. But we definitely have people that are fighting for their positions, and I have all the faith in the world in those guys."


Anonymous said...

we only lost three games...although it did seem like more...

David Hale said...

I don't think it's about the losses -- it's about how the team handled itself in the face of lofty -- and ultimately unfulfilled -- expectations.

Anonymous said...


David- your reporting says we lost four when we only lost three. I guess accurate reporting isn't important?

Me thinks you would want to fix it.

Anonymous said...

Well the South Carolina game felt like a loss.

Billy Barou said...

Losing to Georgia Tech at home counts as two losses