Georgia Bulldogs (2000: 8-4)
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Coach and programDespite 40 wins in five seasons and four bowl victories, Jim Donnan was fired as Georgia's coach, taking with him a severance package in excess of $2.3 million. In the end, the record that mattered was his 6-14 mark against Georgia's four biggest rivals -- Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech and Tennessee.
Another factor in Donnan's demise: The Bulldogs haven't won an SEC championship since 1982. How long has it been? Vince Dooley was still coaching the Bulldogs, and Herschel Walker was breaking tackles and setting records between the hedges.
Suffice to say that dry spell hasn't gone over too well with Georgia fans.
That's where Mark Richt comes in. As Georgia's new head coach, he knows precisely what is expected. The Bulldogs not only need to win, but they need to start evening out some of those series with their rivals. And most of all, they need to re-enter the SEC championship picture.
"Georgia is one of those places where you can compete for a championship every year," said Richt, who learned his craft under Bobby Bowden at Florida State.
Richt spent 15 years on the FSU staff, the last seven as offensive coordinator. Known for his innovative offensive styles, Richt developed two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks -- Chris Weinke and Charlie Ward -- and has sent six quarterbacks to the NFL.
The trick now for Richt is squeezing more out of the Bulldogs in the games that count. They wore the underachiever label well a year ago. Georgia had five players selected in April's NFL draft, including four in the first two rounds, yet lost games to Georgia Tech and South Carolina -- a pair of teams that had no players drafted.
OffenseQuarterback Quincy Carter has bolted to the NFL ranks. Of course, it was Carter's inconsistent play a year ago that played a key role in last season's upheaval.
The quarterback situation will be a central theme for the Bulldogs this season. Junior Cory Phillips (6-1, 214) and redshirt freshman David Greene (6-3, 222) ended spring practice in a battle for the job.
Phillips started five of the last six games a year ago for the injured Carter and passed for 400 or more yards in two of those five games. Nonetheless, Phillips failed to nail down the job in the spring. Greene closed the gap considerably during the final few scrimmages, and Richt simply wasn't ready to pick a starter.
"They both had their moments," Richt said. ''After reviewing tape of all the scrimmages, they are basically even and we'll have them go into the fall as co-No. 1s and let them battle it out."
The health of sophomore tailback Musa Smith (6-1, 212) will also be crucial for the Bulldogs. Smith started the final two games a year ago, rushing for 144 yards against Mississippi. He led all Georgia running backs with five touchdowns. But a knee injury caused him to miss two games, while a shoulder injury also hampered him. He missed the spring after undergoing foot surgery.
The Bulldogs return their top six pass catchers from last season, including junior Terrence Edwards (6-1, 165). Edwards led the team with 53 catches for 704 yards and four touchdowns. He was the MVP of the Oahu Bowl victory over Virginia.
Defense and special teamsThe defense has a chance to be one of the top units in the league despite the loss of tackles Richard Seymour and Marcus Stroud to the NFL. Senior cornerback Tim Wansley (5-9, 172) led the SEC in interceptions last season with six.
The linebacker corps will be the strength of the Bulldogs' defense, and it starts in the middle with junior Tony Gilbert (6-1, 246). The Bulldogs' leader with 96 tackles last season, Gilbert is making the move to middle linebacker after starting 10 games a year ago at strong-side linebacker.
Gilbert moved into the starting lineup after starter Boss Bailey (6-4, 218), a junior, was injured in the season opener. Bailey's return from knee surgery is a huge bonus. He was third on the team with 66 tackles in 1999, but was hurt on the opening kickoff in the season opener last year against Georgia Southern.
And the starter on the weak side is senior Will Witherspoon (6-2, 217). He started 10 games last season and was the club's third leading tackler with 85. If all three stay healthy, the Bulldogs will have one of the most athletic groups of linebackers in the conference.
Sophomore kicker Billy Bennett (5-8, 159) connected on 13-of-14 field-goal attempts (92.9 percent). To put that accomplishment in perspective, three former Georgia kickers who went on to play in the NFL never attained that kind of success rate in one season: Rex Robinson made 15-of-17 in 1978, Kevin Butler 23-of-28 in 1984 and Todd Peterson 13-of-16 in 1992.
Bottom lineThe Bulldogs' defense needs to be better than good if they're going to contend in the Eastern Division. Florida is being picked by many to win the national championship, and Tennessee is a consensus Top 10 national pick.
The good thing for Georgia is that the schedule allows some time for the offense to evolve. The first four games are at home-against Arkansas State, South Carolina, Houston and Arkansas-and it's conceivable that the Bulldogs could come out of that stretch 4-0.
All in all, it looks like another seven- or eight-win season, but no better than third in the East. It's a familiar (and frustrating) procession for Bulldog fans and one Richt knows must change if he wants to put down roots in Athens. Just ask Donnan.