HOOVER, Ala. -- This time last year, Georgia football coaches and players were asked repeatedly about a preseason No. 1 ranking and the star power of quarterback Matthew Stafford and tailback Knowshon Moreno.
There are no such questions this year. In fact, there haven't been many questions at all.
"It's been a different summer in a lot of ways," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said Thursday at SEC media days. "There has not been nearly as much demand for me or our players to talk about being the preseason No. 1. It's been a blessing."
Richt has enjoyed the more tranquil summer on a personal level as well. After going to Honduras on a mission trip and visiting U.S. troops in the Middle East last year, he has spent more time resting at his lake house with his family.
A significantly smaller list of offseason incidents has helped in that relaxation.
After finishing 11-2 and No. 2 nationally in 2007, the Bulldogs dipped to 10-3 last year and a ranking of 13th. Georgia allowed a staggering 135 points in losses to Alabama, Florida and Georgia Tech, and a stout offense was depleted in January when Stafford and Moreno left early for the NFL.
"Our expectations haven't changed, and we know that a lot of people are overlooking us," new starting quarterback Joe Cox said. "That's probably the best thing for us. It's made us have a good offseason, and we're looking to keep rolling through the camp and into the season."
Said defensive tackle Jeff Owens: "Last year, we were more uptight because we were No. 1. This year, I think we're more laid back. We're the underdogs."
Cox, a 6-foot-1, 198-pounder from Charlotte, made one start as a redshirt freshman in 2006 and enters his senior season having completed 33 of 58 passes for 432 yards with five touchdowns and an interception. He recently was rated in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette as the SEC's 12th-best quarterback.
"I'm probably the one with the least amount of playing experience," Cox said. "If I had to choose just based on all the guys in the conference and who had played, I wouldn't put myself up very high. It's something I'm going to have to prove to everyone."
Richt likes this season's offense because "we won't have to baby Joe schematically, and we won't have to baby our offensive line schematically." He said he likes the defense because he believes it will come out hungrier than it has in a long time.
The Bulldogs will have to come together quickly, because they have anything but an opening cupcake.
"Usually it's a home game, and usually it's not Oklahoma State," Richt said. "We're going to a place that's going to be so excited. They've got the greatest preseason ranking they've ever had and have all these returning starters from a team that was so explosive.
"We're not used to running into that in our very first ball game."
Georgia entered June with four commitments for its 2010 signing class but now has 18. Richt said he told concerned fans late this spring at his Bulldog Tour events that everything would be fine, and he has enjoyed receiving commitments while on vacation.
"I'm laying on the lounge at the lake and the phone rings with a guy saying, 'Hey, I'm committing,'" he said. "One day I'm working out, and a guy's like, 'Hey, I'm committing.' We're on vacation and all this stuff starts happening, and I'm thinking this isn't a bad way to go."
Odds and ends
Richt didn't know if there would be a "blackout" this season at Sanford Stadium, but he said the Bulldogs still have the jerseys to do it. ... Owens tried to break Ben Watson's team bench-press record of 565 pounds this week but wound up with 545. ... Richt said he's finished discussing the location of the Florida-Georgia game, stating he instead will focus on trying to win that game. ... Richt on Florida quarterback Tim Tebow: "That guy might be the greatest player/leader ever in college football."