Summer’s over and Richt rejoices

Bells were chiming, confetti was falling from the ceiling, doves were being released. That was the scene in the second-floor office of Georgia coach Mark Richt Sunday night at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall.

Metaphorically speaking.

One of the longest offseasons in recent memory officially ended at 5 p.m. Sunday when 105 players checked in to begin preseason practices. Richt had to be the happiest man in Athens. Now there can be no more stories of “offseason arrests.”

We can’t be sure about Richt’s feelings because he hasn’t been taking calls the last couple of days. Seems he’s been a little tied up between preseason coaches’ meetings and legal briefings.

I kid, of course, but I’m sure CMR is not finding much humor from this trouble-riddled summer. Eight of his players – or an average of one a month – managed to get themselves arrested and thrown into jail since the Bulldogs’ Sugar Bowl romp against Hawaii. By all accounts that’s the most in the SEC.

The latest arrest (and indefinite suspension) came this past Saturday when snapper Jeff Henson was popped for public intoxication and urinating in public and two other players wound up in the hospital after getting smashed in the head with beer bottles in a barroom brawl. One of those players, safety Donavon Baldwin, was indefinitely suspended because he was already on probation for a January DUI. Seems a couple of players tore up some property at the hospital while waiting on their teammates to get treated. The hospital has chosen not to prosecute.

That it all happened two days before camp had to have chapped Richt to no end.

At least now those young men will be under the full-time control and supervision of Richt and his staff. There will be very little idle time for players between now and the first week of December. But you’d have thought the mere prospect of having a team good enough to compete for the national championship and wanting to focus every ounce of energy to that end would have been cause enough to avoid an embarrassing streak like the Dogs put together this summer.

Now Georgia has five players suspended or dismissed. Think their absence will adversely affect the Bulldogs in 2008? And what about intangible effects? Does this mean the Dogs will be an undisciplined team on the field as well? Is it an indictment of Richt’s leadership style or coaching ability?

Let me know what y’all think. I’ll let you know what Richt has to say when I cover his press conference around lunchtime.

– Courtesy of AJC.com

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