Originally created 05/11/04

Augusta goes to the Dogs



Mark Richt signed footballs, flags, jerseys and anything within range of his marker Monday evening.

Georgia's head football coach also posed for pictures with the army of Bulldog fans clad in red and black.

But what people wanted most was to hear Richt talk about Georgia football. And he didn't disappoint.

After a 3-minute highlight film, Richt delivered a 20-minute speech about the upcoming season. He also addressed the high expectations already being placed upon Georgia for the upcoming season. At least one Web site, sportsline.com, has ranked the Bulldogs as the preseason No. 1.

"That's the way it is at Georgia," Richt said. "Expectations are always high. We're happy people think we're a good team."

Richt spoke to about 1,000 people at the annual Augusta Bulldog Club meeting at St. Mary on the Hill gymnasium. Longtime athletic director and former football coach Vince Dooley made his last official appearance in Augusta before retiring June 30. Also in attendance were incoming athletic director Damon Evans, head basketball coach Dennis Felton and radio personality Loran Smith.

But football was the main focus. Georgia ended each of the past two seasons in the top 10 and has recorded a combined 24-4 mark. The Bulldogs return starting quarterback David Greene, wide receiver Fred Gibson and defensive end David Pollack.

Georgia will be without linebacker Tony Taylor, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the spring G-Day game. His loss could mean a possible opening for Thomson alumnus Danny Verdun-Wheeler, who could join Josey's Arnold Harrison in the starting linebacking corps.

"He'll get the opportunity to compete for the starting job at the Will linebacker position," Richt said. "He'll definitely play."

Richt said the running back position will be improved over 2003, when redshirt freshman Michael Cooper of Screven County gained a team-high 673 yards. True freshman Kregg Lumpkin rushed for 523 yards.

"I feel a lot better about that position," Richt said. "I have guys with game experience. It's just a natural progression. It's tough to be good when you're playing a bunch of freshmen."

Richt said Lumpkin and Danny Ware, along with Albert Hollis stood out in the G-Day game. Cooper, meanwhile, still is trying to overcome migraine headaches.

Richt believes Georgia's offensive line also will be much-improved after the group of underclassmen last season allowed 47 sacks.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.