Second place is not a fit for Mark Richt and Georgia, even after the Bulldogs finished third in the SEC East division last season and with the task of replacing four-year starter Aaron Murray.
“We’re not cheering about being No. 2,” Richt said.
He sternly added, “I’d have us first.”
“We’ve got a good team,” he said of the 2014 Bulldogs. “We’ll see how good we are once get going. We’ve got a lot of things to put together between now and then. But I think we’ve created a very good culture this summer. I think, just listening to our guys on the plane ride here, just asking ‘How’s it going?’ — they’re very optimistic, they’re very proud of their teammates and the work that’s been put in this summer.”
To revisit, the Bulldogs were banged up with injuries hitting at a constant rate to Murray (ACL) and each of Richt’s bell-cow running backs.
Todd Gurley is a Heisman Trophy candidate with size and speed to become a first-round pick, a growing rarity in the pass-crazed NFL, which should be a boon as the Bulldogs break in a new quarterback.
Huston Mason got his feet wet when Murray went down last season, but how will he handle the flamethrower of a season-opening set of games against Clemson and South Carolina.
“Leadership,” said senior wide receiver Chris Conley. “He goes out there on the field and takes control. He’s a great communicator. He may have had to sit behind Aaron for so long, but we believe he can make plays.”
Gurley is expected to leave for the pros after this season, but Richt will not discourage him from waving goodbye to Athens. Murray returned to Georgia after his junior season and blew out his knee last season.
“I talked to him about embracing it,” Richt said.
Running back Keith Marshall is expected to be back on the field early in the season. Richt said his progress returning from a torn ACL is significant.
“I’ve watched him running straight ahead. He looks outstanding,” Richt said.