HOOVER, Ala. — If Mark Richt is a coach on the hot seat, he clearly didn't show it during his appearance at SEC Media Days on Thursday.
Richt is entering his 11th season as Georgia's coach, and the Bulldogs are coming off a seven-loss season, their first losing season since 1996. But Richt said he's energized and believes the Bulldogs are ready to get back on the right track. Everything's all right in Athens, he said.
"I know if you walk in the Butts-Mehre (football facility) building, there's not one sense off doom or gloom," Richt said. "There's only excitement, only guys that are thankful that we've got a new season and a clean slate and the ability to play some great opponents to start the year. The expectations are just as high as they've ever been. … I don't worry about the future. I worry about enjoying the ride. We're in good shape."
The Bulldogs will find out quickly whether that's true. They open in the Georgia Dome against Boise State, then host SEC East favorite South Carolina. Richt said he's playing Boise State out of necessity.
"There's a risk in playing a team that might whip your tail because they might whip your tail," he said. "But in order for us to get back where we want to be, which is highly ranked and highly thought of, we need to play this game."
Richt confirmed that junior RB Carlton Thomas is suspended for the opener for violating team rules, which means redshirt sophomore QB Aaron Murray will be the only player in the backfield who touched the ball for Georgia in 2010.
Players say they want to do everything they can to make sure Richt remains Georgia's coach.
"It (criticism) kind of hurts a little bit because Coach Richt is a tremendous man," said Murray, a former Plant High standout. "I love playing for him, the team loves playing for him and we definitely want him to be here throughout our time at Georgia.
"So we're going to get things done this year. We're going to get some wins under our belt and make sure he stays here for the long run."
murray praise: One reason the Bulldogs feel good about their chances is Murray's quick rise last season. The 6-foot-1, 209-pounder ranked third in the conference with 3,049 yards passing. He threw 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions. "He's really a coach's dream in how he approaches the game," Richt said. "He understands preparation. He understands team. His motivation is for Georgia to win."
LIVE AND LEARN: It took awhile but ultimately Tennessee coach Derek Dooley faced a question about how he handled two of the strangest endings in college football last season: a 16-14 loss at LSU and a 30-27 double-overtime loss to North Carolina in the Music City Bowl.
The Vols thought they had won both games, but a penalty and an officials review allowed LSU and North Carolina final plays that changed the outcome.
"I told everybody I was 8-7 in postgame handshakes," Dooley said. "You live, you learn and you move on. I'm glad those things happened in my first year. I hope they don't happen as we get deeper into this experience."
teammates and buddies: South Carolina's two most recognizable offensive stars are more than teammates, RB Marcus Lattimore said.
Lattimore and WR Alshon Jeffery, who represented the Gamecocks at Media Days along with DT Travian Robertson, are close friends off the field, Lattimore said. "We hang out all the time; we do everything together," Lattimore said.
Lattimore and Jeffery fish together and spend plenty of hours playing the NCAA Football '12 video game, Lattimore said.
"I beat him up in NCAA a little bit," Lattimore said.
Lattimore is rated a 95 out of 100 on the video game, which is "about right," Lattimore said. Jeffery is rated a 96 out of 100.
"That one is kind of messed up a little bit," Lattimore said of the idea his teammate is a better player. "Naa, that's not true."
Information from Times wires was used in this report.