The Peach State Pigskin Preview is one of the signs that the college football season is edging closer and closer. On Monday the men that roam the sidelines in the fall huddled up in Macon.
For the 10th year the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame welcomed the state's college programs. The marquee names, Mark Richt and Paul Johnson, were in the building. As well as the leading men in Central Georgia; Fort Valley State's Don Pittman, and GMC's Bert Williams. And for the first time there was a hometown team among the Georgia ranks.
Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb was on hand, making his Pigskin Preview debut. The Bears announced their return in November, and will take the field in 2013.
Lamb has begun to lay a framework for his program. His official duties don't begin until July. Events like Monday's allow him to soak up the experience before the heavy lifting really begins.
"You really get to see the quality of head coaches that are in this state, and you get to see all the schools at every level in the state. What a great state for football," Lamb said. "I'm the most relaxed guy here because I don't have players to worry about, and I don't have a team to worry about. It won't be like that for long, but right now I'm pretty relaxed."
One man who hasn't had much time to relax is Mark Richt, who is hoping to breathe new life into his program following a historically disappointing 6-7 2010 campaign.
The incoming 'Dream Team' has helped build optimism about the direction of the program. The 2011 recruiting class joins second-year starting quarterback Aaron Murray, and year two of the 3-4 defense.
Richt said there is a renewed energy in Athens, which could also have something to do with adjustments made to their strength and conditioning program. All changes made in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the 2010 season.
"I want to make sure that we don't repeat some of the things that we did a year ago," Richt said. "Nobody wants to finish the way we finished, finish the season the way we did, and finish a bunch of our games the way we did. That's gonna be one of our main emphasis, to make sure that we do finish strong."
It's a similar story for Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets went 6-7 in the follow-up to their 2009 ACC Championship. The Triple-Option sputtered at times. It didn't help when Joshua Nesbitt went down with a broken arm, but that allowed projected starter Tevin Washington to get some valuable experience.
Tech also had some hiccups in getting accustomed to the 3-4. One of the anchors on that side will be Westside grad Julian Burnett, who led the team in tackles in 2010.
With a wake-up call of a season behind them Johnson likes the resolve he's seen from his squad.
"Certainly we were disappointed in the way we finished last season," Johnson said. "I think our guys have regrouped and are working hard. We're still gonna be a young team. I'm excited about the work ethic and attitude of the team and hopefully we can transfer that into some wins to start the season."