Bowl game appearances became a rite of passage for the GMC Bulldogs, an inevitable extension to each season. But not for last year's sophomore class, the first under Bert Williams to miss out on the postseason in both their years. The shortcomings of the last two seasons are now providing motivation for the next.
"They understand that, look it's not just gonna happen," Williams said. "We gotta go out there and make it happen."
To do so, the 12th year Bulldog head coach has made 2011 a season of change, with new approaches on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, that stems from a new figure on the sideline. Ross Robinson filled the void left by Jeff Tatum, who left Milledgeville to become the head coach at Garden City Community College, and brings with him a no huddle offense.
"It went really well," Williams said. "It actually progressed a little bit more than we thought we would coming in."
That's partially due to the presence of Nico Rainieri, a transfer quarterback from Colorado State, who will enter the fall as the starter.
"Nico's a guy some people would call a force multiplier," adds Williams. "He makes all the guys around him play better."
With a strong contingent of returning playmakers, including Wilco Co. grad and Georgia signee Lonnie Outlaw, moving the ball in the up tempo system shouldn't be an issue.
"The biggest problem we have with our skill group is we don't have enough balls," Williams said. "One of the things that's nice about this no huddle is we'll have more plays to spread the balls around."
The changes aren't as drastic on the other side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Rob Manchester will turn up the pressure, with more blitz packages, a move that has energized the unit.
"They start getting excited about those pressure packages, and you show them what's coming down the road and they get eager to get to it," Williams said. "They kind of work a little harder."
The extra effort will have to be a theme for Williams' squad. With some hard lessons in the past, they're now shooting for a return to national prominence.
"Their work ethic in the offseason, through the spring and into the summer now has been much improved and that's been good to see."
GMC will get tested right out of the gates, with defending national champ Navarro visiting Milledgeville in the Bulldogs' season opener on Setpember 3rd.