ATHENS, Ga. — Mike Bobo reared back, grabbed his red hat, and threw it down at the quarterbacks feet.
We throw it down there! Bobo yelled, as Hutson Mason stared blankly back.
Then Bobo, Georgias suddenly-irate offensive coordinator, turned his ire elsewhere.
Bottom line there, the tight end gave in! The left tackle gave in!
And finally Bobo, turning and walking back towards the sideline, issued his parting shot.
Last years over! You gotta work!
And this year has all but officially begun for the Georgia football team. It was the first day of preseason practice on Thursday for the Bulldogs, and the dichotomy has been established:
The defense, with all its youth and new faces, is in a patient, wait-and-see mood. Its coaches were much more subdued during the first half of the opening practice.
The offense, with almost everyone back after a record-setting year, is trying to avoid what befell the defense last year: Failure to live up to high expectations.
First thing (Bobo) said to us it might have been right before the summer is that we havent done anything this year, Malcolm Mitchell said. So weve gotta come out there and play, and not worry about what everyone says about how good we were, and how good we could be.
Bobo wasnt the only coach fired up during Thursdays practice. Receivers coach Tony Ball gave it to his players during the same offense-defense drill. At one point Ball could be heard yelling something not fully intelligible, but the word South Carolina was mentioned. One would make the easy leap that Clemson was one of the words that couldnt be heard.
Prior to practice, Georgia was reminded once again how monstrous a first month it has to its season. The preseason USA Today coaches poll was released, with Georgia at No. 5, and three of its first four opponents in the top 13:
Clemson at No. 8. South Carolina at No. 7. LSU at No. 13.
Coach (Mark) Richts been saying its a race to get ready, because weve got a whole bunch of teams we play off the bang, and weve got a strong schedule this year, tailback Keith Marshall said. We dont have the time to have bad practices and not get better.
Junior receiver Chris Conley, apprised of the preseason poll, called the start to the season a great opportunity.
Because as soon as we come out on the field were gonna have to test our mettle. Were gonna have to see what were made of, and were gonna see what Georgia can do, Conley said.
For the offense, that might be easier, given that 10 of the men who finished last year as starter are back this year. Quarterback Aaron Murray is a fourth-year starter. Tailbacks Todd Gurley and Marshall are coming off their own-record setting year. The receiving corps is overloaded with talent.
Even the offensive line, the top concern, returns everybody. The first-team line at the outset of Thursdays practice was the same five in the same spots as finished last season, though there was some shuffling around later in practice.
Still, its no surprise that Bobo and the offensive coaches would be trying to break down their players before (perhaps) building them back up. After all, they witnessed a defense last year that returned an equal amount of starters (10) plus some quality backups after finishing ranked fifth in the nation in total defense. Everything was set up for another stellar year.
Instead the defense struggled for most of the season, before a strong late season, then struggled again at times in the SEC championship and Capital One Bowl.
Mitchell explained why he doesnt think that will happen to the offense this year.
I dont think everybody is in the same situation that they (the defense) was last year, Mitchell said. I mean they had a bunch of seniors, a bunch of people who were worried about where they were going. We do have offensive linemen who might be in that place, but as we know offensive linemen dont get very much attention as the defensive players would last year. So I dont think we'll have that problem.
But expect Bobo, Richt and other team leaders on offense to keep pressing this month.
Were gonna see how far this team can go, really early, Conley said. So with that in mind we cant prepare as if were going up against an easier team in our first game or our second game. We have to be in midseason form in Game 1.