(Note: We sat down with Georgia coach Mark Richt last week at the College World Series. It has been an eventful offseason for the Bulldogs coach. He has been to Honduras with approximately 25 players on a Christian goodwill mission. He also joined Yale coach Jack Siedlecki, Miami's Randy Shannon, Notre Dame's Charlie Weis and Auburn's Tommy Tuberville on a tour of Iraq and the Middle East.
At the end he was most moved by a letter handed to him by a soldier. Richt quoted the soldier as writing, "Tell your team and anybody in American that will listen that we believe in our cause and we are not doing this in vain.")
Dodds and Ends: Is it possible for the momentum from winning the Sugar Bowl to carry over to this season?
Richt: "Like I've been saying, all the momentum that was built, people build it, players, leaders. I like to describe last year that we somehow found the heartbeat of our team. We somehow rode it out the rest of the year. The culture is very healthy when it comes to work ethic, attitude.
We have a bunch of guys who want to be great. This year's guys will have a job of maintenance. It's not like they have to start this train from a stop. Keep it rolling. The juniors and seniors we got are just super hard workers.
We don't even have a senior lineman in the program, just a bunch of guys who love the grind. We know the SEC East is difficult every year. Our West opponents are Auburn, Alabama, LSU and we always play Georgia Tech. Decided to go to Tempe, Ariz. and play a preseason top 10 (Arizona State). Those coaches we're facing are responsible for nine national championships. No matter how good we might be, everybody is else is just as good."
D&E: What's harder to win a national championship in football or baseball? (Georgia, the SEC champion, lost the best-of-three championship series in baseball to Fresno State)
Richt: "I think it would be pretty comparable. Baseball seems like you've got to get hot at the right time. You look at Fresno State what were they the regular season (33-27)? If you have that regular season in football it's over. In football, the margin of error all season long is much smaller.
"My comments were a year ago were: as the season goes on we're going to be a very good team. I just hope we win enough in the beginning to be in the race at the end. As it was happening we were fighting for our lives until everybody else started losing and we kept winning. All we needed was Tennessee to lose one more time."
D&E: You've been on two fairly significant trips this offseason.
Richt: "This was my second trip to Honduras. Both of them were no brainers. You go. When they asked me to go the Middle East, I said, 'I'll go. I'll make it work.'
"They (soldiers) knew who we were. They just loved the fact we came. They were fired up. I didn't know how we'd be received to be honest with you. I thought we'd cheer them up. They cheered me up. It was like going to a Touchdown Club. We'd get into an auditorium, there'd be a section of Bulldog fans.
"Coach Tuberville coached a flag team against Coach Shannon and Coach Siedlecki. Charlie, he wanted to have the whistle. He was officiating. That was the thrill of a lifetime. One girlfriend of one the players on my team said it was like Christmas when we showed up. He said it was the very best day since they'd been there. They just loved it.
She wrote me a long letter to say thank you."