Through his first six seasons at Georgia, Mark Richt’s image was well-defined: calm, quiet, stoic, a real gentleman football coach.
He tossed that image aside midway through last season in favor of a more fiery, more emotional, more obviously competitive persona. And he plans to stick with it.
The new Mark Richt started emerging following a 35-14 loss at Tennessee.
“I was kind of wondering what went wrong,” he said at SEC Media Days on Thursday. “As I looked around, I was seeing that everybody was kind of waiting on someone else to do something, coaches and players. I was kind of getting mad at them until I looked in the mirror and realized that they were just basically reflecting me. I was sitting there there watching, waiting for somebody to do something, too.
“I realized that if we don’t play with emotion and energy. … That’s something that’s got to change. I knew it had to start with me. And then it did kind of catch fire, you know.”
The fire really started to roar after a huge victory over Florida. An excessive celebration penalty against the Bulldogs seemed to unleash the emotions of an entire team, and Georgia played with great passion for the remainder of the season.
Richt said he did not have a chance to show his emotions in his first six seasons because, as the offensive coordinator, he had to stay focused on calling the game. Now that Mike Bobo is in charge of the offense (he became the coordinator last season), Richt is free to turn it loose. Free to be more like he’s always been ” an intense competitor.
“If you talk to my family members, people that really know me, I mean, there’s been people saying, you know Mark Richt, he’s a true gentleman of the game. He never gets excited. He’s just kind of calm and stoic,” he said. “My family members are just texting me saying, ‘We know better.’ Not that I’m not a gentleman. But I get riled up. I get fired up.
“When I compete, whether it’s racquetball or volleyball, cards, my family knows I want to win. I’ll do a little trash-talking. I’ll do whatever I’ve got to do to get things riled up.”
Richt enters the 2008 season planning to be the fiery guy he was on the sideline the last half of last season.
“I’ll probably be very much like I was from midseason on,” he said. “I’m a little bit more free to kind of turn it loose. And that’s what you want your team to do, turn it loose.”