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Monday, June 22, 2009

Richt: No Stars in 2009

The focus of Georgia's offseason has largely been the loss of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno. Mark Richt, however, thinks the bigger obstacle was all the focus on Georgia's two superstars last season.

So as the Bulldogs move into the third week of voluntary summer workouts, Richt said there's a distinctly different mentality among the players without Stafford and Moreno aboard.

"They've really decided that they have to come together as a team and work their tail off and get after it," Richt said. "You can't sit there and rely on a Stafford or a Moreno to carry the team."

The departure of Stafford and Moreno -- both of whom were selected in the first round of the NFL draft -- along with receiver Mohamed Massaquoi means there aren't a lot of known quantities on offense for Georgia in 2009, but a healthy offensive line could make that a moot point.

While Richt says there was clearly too much focus on the team's offensive stars last season, in some cases there weren't many other options. With an offensive line littered with fill-ins learning on the fly, the offense was often forced to go with what worked. There weren't many chances to improvise.

When the protection broke down, Stafford relied on the receivers he trusted most. With the second-string tailbacks struggling in pass protection, Richt was forced to keep Moreno in the game nearly all the time down the stretch.

With a healthy and deep corps of linemen, this year, things should be different.

"I really believe that if the offensive line matures the way we expect it to, we won't need as many heroics," Richt said.

But the pressure won't just be on the offensive line this season, and the new focus must extend beyond the offense. This year, Richt said, things will be different everywhere from the players on the field to the fans in the stands to the stories in the newspaper.

"Last year was one of the toughest years because the Bulldogs fans and the media were focused on those two guys," Richt said. "But this year everybody understands that that's what it's going to take to be successful. The star of the team is the team."

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