Dawgs wait for bowl... Outback likely

ATHENS — In the last two seasons, the Sunday before the SEC Championship Game has been a work day for Mark Richt. This week, one day after a 19-13 win over Georgia Tech, he took it easy.

"It's the first time you get to mentally relax a little bit from football," he said. "It's kind of like you finish one stage and you move into the next one. It's always a welcome time because it's always quite a grind during the regular season."

This regular season was particularly grinding for the No. 8 Bulldogs (9-2, 6-2 SEC). They started the season ranked No. 3 in the nation but dropped a disappointing 19-14 decision to Tennessee on Oct. 9 that left them climbing up hill all season.

"We lost the wrong game early," Richt said. "Because we lost it and (the Volunteers) had already beaten Florida, there was really no way we could control anything anymore. That was the toughest thing to deal with."

The Volunteers, who are coming off unimpressive wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky, will play Auburn in the SEC title game on Saturday thanks to that early win over Georgia.

"It was a very difficult year to try to keep the edge and keep the motivation," Richt said. "I think this team overall did a real good job of not losing heart."

He also clearly thinks any person who considers the season a bust because it will end with no championships is way out of line.

"If we win a 10th game and people are disappointed, then I think they probably need a little reality check," he said. "If you win 10 games and people are upset, they probably do have their expectations a little out of line. There's nothing wrong with wanting to win very single game. We all want that and we all shoot for that, but to say a 10-win season is disappointing would be wrong."

Georgia won't learn its bowl destination until the day after the SEC Championship Game, but Richt acknowledged he taped Wisconsin's last game on his home television just in case. The Badgers are already locked into the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., which looks like the Bulldogs' most likely destination.

Georgia won't return to practice until Dec. 17th. In the meantime, its coaches will keep themselves busy recruiting. Seven coaches were on the road Sunday night doing just that. The Bulldogs picked up two verbal commitments from high-profile out-of-state players -- defensive lineman Kade Weston from Little Silver, N.J., and safety C.J. Byrd from North Augusta, S.C. -- after Saturday's game.

Weston (6-foot-5, 300 pounds), who has family ties to Georgia, is the nation's second-ranked defensive tackle by Scout.com. He picked the Bulldogs over Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Maryland and Penn State. Byrd (6-3, 184) is the nation's third-ranked safety by Scout.com. He picked Georgia over Florida, Florida State, Southern Cal, Clemson and South Carolina.

Richt is not allowed to talk about specific recruits, but he alluded to the two big catches Sunday.

"It seems that this year, more than ever, a lot more of the out-of-state, national blue-chip kids have had very strong interest in us," he said. "I don't know if it was all the offseason hype or just the fact that we've kind of sustained ourselves in or near the top 10 here the last three years."

Georgia now has verbal commitments from 14 players. Schools are allowed to sign as many as 25 new players each season, but the Bulldogs probably won't be able to bring in that many because they're too close to the overall limit of 85.

"I wish I could sign 25, but I don't know if we'll get to that number," Richt said. "I think it's going great, I'm really, really excited about what we've got committed verbally and the interest of a lot of tremendous football players. We feel pretty excited about the way kids are responding to us."

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