January 27, 2011
For most of the last decade or so, the list of the nation's most persistent underachievers has been topped by three teams, Florida State, Miami and Notre Dame. After last month's Liberty Bowl loss to Central Florida, Georgia can officially be added to the list. The Bulldogs still recruit with the best and make pro scouts drool, but with last year's descent to 6-7, they're going on five straight seasons without a division title and three straight seasons of clearly diminishing returns.
The clamor for a new direction after the disappointing 2009 campaign brought the ax down on defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, whose tenure was the definition of "diminishing returns." This year, the damage control was aimed at the strength and conditioning program, where Dave Van Halanger – strength coach for all 10 years of head coach Mark Richt's tenure – is out and longtime staffer Joe Tereshinski is in. Part of Tereshinski's old job was to edit game film for the coaches, and he makes no bones about the problems he sees there. "The film doesn’t lie. I'm the video coordinator, I see every play. Yeah, we were not winning the line of scrimmage," he told the Macon Telegraph, adding, "We are not Olympic training anymore. We are training for football."
And unlike last year, one of the wealthiest programs in the nation is back to working out in an actual football facility worthy of the ever-escalating SEC arms race. From Bulldogs Blog:
Tereshinski says one factor that hasn't gotten much notice is that because of construction [see here –ed.], the team has been moved to a different weight room, and for the previous 18 months had been largely operating out of trailers. They didn’t have much room for equipment: No dip bars, no incline presses, and some other machines.
"Last year's team was very limited, really because of the facility, of what they could get done," he said. "So we were very weak in our triceps. We were very weak in our upper chests. So what happens is now that we have our full weight room capacities we're really going to be able to develop our bodies fully. …
"That did affect this team. Because Georgia did not have anything that it was used to having. Now we have an unbelievable weight room, and we have everything we need."
Take the Bulldogs' exile from Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall however you like as a valid excuse. Something wasn't right. Georgia was 10th in the SEC in rushing offense in 2010 despite fielding the most grizzled offensive line in America, seventh against the run, and ultimately dropped six of seven games that were still in doubt in the fourth quarter; Mississippi State, Colorado and Auburn all outscored UGA by double digits in the final frame of close Bulldog losses, and Georgia Tech nearly stormed back from a two-touchdown deficit in the final 10 minutes of the regular-season finale. Certainly it's possible to do more with less than whatever Georgia was left with.
By prevailing 21st Century standards, though, is there ever an excuse for anyone associated with an athletic department that brings in a surplus in excess of $5 million a year, conservatively speaking, to even have the opportunity to claim the team didn't have everything it needed to compete on the field? Does that fly at all? Or was Tereshinski just looking to raise the expectations for the return to the first-class facility this year that much higher?