ATHENS, Ga. — Mark Richt is within three weeks of embarking on his 15th season as Georgia's head football coach.
Nine of his first 14 Bulldogs teams have won at least 10 games, including last year's squad that capped a 10-3 season with a 37-14 win over Louisville in the Belk Bowl. This year's team has been picked to win the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference and is ranked No. 9 in the USA Today coaches poll.
The secret to his longevity and success?
Not stopping to think about it.
"I also spent 15 years as an assistant at Florida State — not all in a row — but you just learn to go and go and just work," Richt said. "There is not an offseason for us. We are always doing something. Recruiting goes on all year long. We've got spring ball. We have offseason conditioning. We've got all these different things — camps and two-a-days.
"Well, we don't have many two-a-days anymore, but with fall camp and the season, it's just busy. You're always focusing on 'What do we have to do today to get better?'"
Richt has guided the Bulldogs to bowl games in all 14 seasons, but some years have definitely been better than others.
Georgia's 2002 and '05 teams won SEC championships, with the '02 Bulldogs ending a league title drought that had dated to tailback Herschel Walker's third and final season in 1982. They have not won an SEC crown since '05 but finished No. 2 nationally in 2007 and came within 5 yards of knocking off eventual national champ Alabama in the 2012 league championship.
The toughest stretch under Richt began with the 2008 season, when the Bulldogs were the preseason No. 1 team but suffered lopsided losses to Alabama and Florida and stumbled against Georgia Tech for the first time in Richt's tenure. Georgia was a combined 14-12 during the 2009 and '10 seasons, with those years ending in the Independence and Liberty bowls.
It has all added up to a 136-48 record for Richt and an 80-37 record in league play, which includes his 2-3 mark in SEC title games. Only seven coaches in SEC history have compiled more conference victories — Paul "Bear" Bryant (159), Steve Spurrier (131), John Vaught (106), Vince Dooley (105), Ralph "Shug" Jordan (98), Phillip Fulmer (98) and Nick Saban (86).
That is some lofty company. Not that Richt has time to stop and discuss it.
"Somewhere along the way, you will be able to look back," he said. "It's like a lot of the success we had as a staff at Florida State. We didn't think about it when it was happening.
"You look back and say, 'You know what, we had a pretty good run.'"
Odds and ends
Threatening weather Wednesday forced the Bulldogs to travel 41 miles to the indoor facility of the Atlanta Falcons in Flowery Branch. "We've just got to go to work, wherever we are," sophomore cornerback Reggie Wilkerson said. "The field was a little bigger and a little wider, but we got used to it quick enough." Georgia received the 16th commitment for its 2016 signing class on Wednesday and didn't go far to get it, landing a nonbinding pledge from Oconee County linebacker Jaleel Laguins. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder is rated by 247Sports.com as a four-star prospect and the No. 15 outside linebacker nationally.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.