It seems like the last thing anyone wants to talk about is Georgia's homecoming game Saturday against Tennessee Tech, much to Mark Richt's chagrin.
Coming off their 41-17 loss to Florida, basically all that's been written and said regarding the Bulldogs has to do with what Richt might do once the season is over, despite the fact that there are still four games left to play.
Still, he's happy to be back home.
It's been over a month (Oct. 3 against LSU) since the Bulldogs last graced the field at Sanford Stadium, and despite the speculation that continues to swirl about his team, getting back to familiar surroundings is the best news Richt's had in a while.
"I like being 'Between the Hedges,' " Richt said. "I like being with our fan base. I like it when we don't have to go through all the travel. If you're home three or four games in a row, sometimes it's not bad to get away, and when you've been gone a long time, it's certainly great to get back home."
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
Tight end Aron White said the Bulldogs (4-4) will have no trouble being mentally into the game.
"We are not going to have any problem getting up to play this game. We definitely have a lot to prove. We haven't played as well as we hoped throughout the season so far, and we are not going to let this season go by the waste side. We owe it to our coaches who have been there putting in all this work," White said. "We owe it to all the guys who put in work on the off season getting better, killing our bodies, going to class, going to workouts and then watching film. We really push our bodies to the limit week in and week out, off-season or not. We didn't do all that just to look forward to next season and next year, so we are definitely going to be up for this game."
Still, it's definitely been a trying week for Richt, who hinted after the loss to Florida that he would consider whether or not Joe Cox was still suited to remain the starting quarterback after throwing three picks against the Gators.
But Richt didn't allow the speculation to build for long as he went ahead and named Cox the starter against Watson Brown's Golden Eagles (5-3), although backup Logan Gray is expected to receive at least a series to show what he can do.
"Right now you can count on at least a series with Logan more than just a situation like red zone or something like that. We want to give him a chance to play at least one series," Richt said. "You hate to promise anymore than that because sometimes things will make you decide not to do that and you don't want to tell somebody something. We did want him to know that we do want him to play, that he will play, so prepare your mind and body for that."
Caleb King will be starting as well.
After rushing for 70 yards against the Gators, it was thought that freshman Washaun Ealey might get the nod against Tennessee Tech.
However, issues with pass protection caused Richt to hand the starting role to King, although Ealey will still receive considerable playing time.
"We're not highly disappointed in Washaun (Ealey) at all. Washaun will continue to play, but Caleb has proved to be the one guy - at least between him and Washaun - that is much stronger in his pass protection right now. He played a pretty solid football game (against Florida). I think all the runners ran better," Richt said. "Caleb had a really fine run that got called back on a holding call I think. I think the guys who had opportunities in the Florida game ran well. Florida is one of the better defensive teams in the country versus the rush, and I thought our line actually had a pretty good day providing some space for those guys. I thought the guys ran well and broke some tackles. I thought we made improvement in that area."
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs will be without receiver A.J. Green.
Green suffered a bruised lung against the Gators going up for a catch. The sophomore is expected to miss just one game, which will allow freshman Rantavious Wooten to make his first career start.
Redshirt freshman Tavarres King will start opposite Wooten and senior Mike Moore will continue to receive considerable time. But that also means players like Marlon Brown and Israel Troupe will be counted on more than ever before.
"I think this is somebody's opportunity to step up. One guy's name you'll probably hear a lot of is (Rantavious) Wooten," Cox said. "It seems like every week this year he has gotten better and better. You can see it in practice with the plays he makes, and I think he is ready to step up and be a guy that can make plays. I think he is going to be one of the guys that fill in for A.J. this week. We are definitely going to miss A.J. You are always going to miss a guy like that when he can't play, but this is somebody else's opportunity to step up and show what they can do."
White said the Bulldogs would love to start proving their doubters wrong.
"I have read some stuff. I don't read too much into it, maybe just the Red & Black and a couple things like that. But anytime you have an outside opinion, that's all it is - an outside opinion. I know the playmakers that we have in this program, I know the work that we've put in during the off-season and I know the type of team that we have," he said. "A 4-4 (record) is not reflective of what we've done in the off-season, and we definitely are a better team in my opinion. We just kind of dropped the ball and let ourselves down. I feel like we are taking it upon ourselves personally to come back this game and the game after and then the remaining two games after that and prove to people that we are still Georgia and that we will fight to the end and win games."
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