RINGGOLD, Ga. (WRCB) -- Mark Richt was happy to reminisce a bit with Georgia fans and supporters at Tuesday night's UGA Day at The Colonnade in North Georgia.
After all, his Bulldogs had plenty to celebrate after winning 12 games and narrowly missing a shot at the national championship.
However, with spring ball now also in the rear view mirror, Richt knows it's time to start moving on.
"The reality is last year is over and we need to look forward to this year," Richt said with a smile. "But we certainly know we came close and we're excited about the possibility of getting closer next time and getting to the ultimate goal.
"But that's what spring ball is about, and that's what this offseason is about."
The Dawgs have plenty of question marks to answer before living up to those increased expectations in 2013, especially on defense.
Georgia lost eight starters to the NFL, including first-round picks Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, though Richt believes his roster has enough talent to fill the void.
"There's a lot of guys that are still on campus that can help us. We've recruited well over the years and we've got some guys we believe can contribute immediately," Richt said. "Our job now is just to find out who the starters are and who is prepared to play."
Richt said at the end of spring practice that only four players are penciled in as starters next fall: Quarterback Aaron Murray, center David Andrews, running back Todd Gurley and safety Damian Swann.
With nearly every spot up for grabs, Richt has very much enjoyed the increased competition.
"We're going into the summer with a bunch of guys who think they have a chance," he said. "So many guys not only think that have a chance to start, but so many guys have a chance to play some or even just make the travel squad.
"Usually a lot of that is a lot more concrete by now."
This summer will go a long way to sorting it all out.
Coaches are not allowed to work with players again until August camp. That's when Richt expects to learn very quickly who put in the work and made the necessary strides on their own.
"When it comes to the workouts, those aren't mandatory things. The kids have take that initiative," Richt said. "If we micro-managed them every minute of every day, it's hard to grow up. You can't become a leader if the coaches are always leading.
"This is the time of year when the players take some ownership over what happens and we'll grow some leaders with that process through the summer."
Richt is hopeful several players separate themselves during this period of growth, and the veteran coach has seen it happen before.
He remembers a young defensive end who barely saw the field as a freshman, but became a different player after a making the most of his summer.
"I can think of one guy who going into his sophomore year, we didn't know how much he would play, let alone start," Richt recalled. "That player was David Pollack. He made tremendous strides from the end of the spring to the fall the year he led the SEC in sacks and was named defensive player of the year.
"It's all about understanding what the coaches want from you, then making the most of those 100 or so days to get it right."
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