HOOVER | Georgia coach Mark Richt is excited about 2012. His Bulldogs are coming off their first 10-win season in three years and return the bulk of the offensive and defensive playmakers.
One of those playmakers, Richt said, has been a catalyst for excellence not only in himself, but for the entire team. Jarvis Jones turned in 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss, both Southeastern Conference highs, in his first year in Athens.
"The first time he played for us, he led the league in sacks," Richt said. "(He's) a very tremendous person and a leader for us, and a great job of working this offseason, getting guys fired up to do that."
Richt will also lean on quarterback Aaron Murray, defensive end Abry Jones and wide receiver Tavarres King. Richt said each of these players would be instrumental in his team's success in 2012.
Another reason for Richt's excitement is his team's schedule, widely regarded as one of the easiest in the SEC. The schedule features seven home games and avoids SEC West opponents Alabama, Arkansas, LSU and Texas A&M.
"I love having seven home games," Richt said. "I'd like to have 12 home games if we could, certainly, for our athletes and our players. This season is one that I think that the amount of home games is outstanding."
Still, Richt said having three divisional rivalries against Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Tennessee in the first half of the schedule would be a challenge. Even so, Richt downplayed the difficulty of these three games, saying every game on his team's schedule was important.
"All the games are so big," Richt said. "All the games are so important."
Although the Bulldogs have a good chance to lead the East for a second-straight year, Ritch said it's important for his team not to get too far ahead of itself, especially with a week six matchup against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
"We knew that South Carolina was a great football team," Richt said. "We knew once we got behind the eight ball, we'd have to fight our way out of it, and that everybody had a chance to beat us.
"We haven't won anything yet. The eastern division is going to be a rough road. All we're trying to do is play the best we can."