The University of Georgia Bulldogs did not have a cold for five seasons. They were not suffering from the flu. The team was cancer-ridden, malnourished and suffered from bipolar disorder. On the outside, many could see the symptoms of trouble, but could not properly ascertain the problem. Kids were getting into trouble. Wins were declining. Overall attitude was poor. At the same time, the teams surrounding UGA were flourishing. So, it was easy for the excuse-making sick mind to think, "Hey, we were simply bested by a better squad." At some point though, it became obvious that this was not the case, or at least that it wasn't that "simple." Indeed, Georgia was bested by many "better squads" over the 2006-2010 seasons. But, it wasn't because the other squads were blessed with immunities to the maladies suffered by Georgia, or that they were granted Superpowers. No, these teams were simply better at going about the business of winning football games.
There's no Web-MD for bad football. No, it takes some serious soul searching and time in the mirror to realize that you have proceeded down a path that can not be successful. I wonder when it happened. I wonder when the "fog lifted" for Head Coach Mark Richt, and he had his moment of clarity. I have said publicly that I love Mark Richt, for all that he does and the man that he is. Still, it is hard to ignore the direction in which the team and the program digressed over the second half of his first decade at the wheel. He will even admit to it. What was that "defining" moment that brought him to see where he needed to go?
Richt was forced to get rid of long-time friend Willie Martinez and brought in an NFL mind with a new scheme and a firey attitude. Was this the first dosage of a cure? Richt then removed long-time friend Dave Van Hallenger from his post at the top of the strength and conditioning program. He turned to "old school" veteran Joe Tereshinski to whip the boys' bodies back into shape. Call it physical therapy. Then, player after player left the program for one reason or another. For the most part, the defections came from "problem players" who didn't want to get with the new system and "Fly right." Character shows in times of trouble. A 6-7 season isn't one you want to go through, and if you're not a strong man, you could buckle. Some did. But, there are many who did not buckle. There are many who tightened the laces on their cleats and pushed harder toward their goal. These are the "survivors" who would fight for a better day. They're the people who are told they have 6 months, and live on for a decade. They are GEORGIA.
Right now, the Dawgnation is embracing greater positivity than it has at any time that I recall since 2008, when the Dawgs were preseason #1. Many people across the college football media world are starting to claim that Georgia can make a serious stab at the SEC. Fans are listening. It's like a family "reunion" for an addict who's returned from a long stay at rehab. They WANT to believe that everything will be right again, and that everything will be gone. Still, deep down, there's that tinge of fear that what they are seeing is only a facade...that the demons still lurk within.
It is hard to ignore the steps that have been taken. Best friends have been fired. Greater discipline has been instilled. Bad blood has been removed from the system. New blood has been infused. If the 2010 season was that of the Dawgs learning how to walk again, perhaps 2011 is when they show they can run - all the way to New Orleans, and the BCS National Title.