“We’re fired up,” he said, regarding the bowl selection. “We’re thankful. You know, when you start the season, if you’re like, ‘Hey, you’re going finish in the Orange Bowl,’ how excited would everybody be? And then you start winning, and before you know it, if you win one more, you might be in the playoffs. So everybody gets to dream a little bit about that possibility, including us.
“We fought as hard as we could fight. We didn’t fight well enough, obviously. But to not win that game and live through the disappointment of that, and then to find out, guess what guys, we’re going to the Orange Bowl, that is a huge blessing. Two years ago our guys were freezing in the snow.”
* Richt spent part of Wednesday’s radio hit reminiscing about the Florida State win, which he called the “most euphoric” moment of the season. “I don’t care how they finished,” Richt said of the Seminoles (6-6), who will play Southern Mississippi in the Independence Bowl. “At that moment it was huge.”
* Fun moment on WQAM when co-host Channing Crowder, a Florida alum and former Dolphins linebacker, bellyached about Richt selling “paradise” to recruits after his alma mater had a losing season.
“If you want the college-town atmosphere that maybe 80 percent of the Division I schools have, Miami’s not for you,” Richt said. “But if you like the chance at this diversity, this diverse city, this diverse student body, and just living in paradise — if you don’t mind living in paradise, it’s really a pretty good place to be.”
“Stop that, coach,” Crowder said. “Don’t do that right now.” Co-host Marc Hochman, a UM grad, joked that Gainesville “has a Zaxby’s,” and that’s about it. Richt wouldn’t take that bait.
“I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything about Gainesville,” he said. “It’s an awesome college town. There’s a lot of great things about it, there’s no doubt about it.”
Richt said Mark Walton’s decision to declare for the NFL draft was far from a surprise (we reported the possibility last summer). “I’ve been knowing for a long time that’s what he’s going to do,” Richt said. “He’s such a great kid. He didn’t want to take away from what’s happening.” Richt said he told Walton to announce his decision when he wanted, but Walton didn’t want to distract from UM’s “8-0, 9-0, 10-0” start.
“That guy, he was the best player on our team last year,” Richt said. “And we missed him desperately. I know (Travis) Homer came in and did great, but Walton showed up every day to practice and got our entire team going. You know how it is, you might have one running back who is so tough he makes your whole team look tough. That’s the kind of guy Walton was. We miss him dearly. We’re thankful for what he did and we’re happy for what’s going to happen in the future.”
* Do he and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz discuss potential Diaz job opportunities elsewhere? “It depends if something comes up or something’s cooking,” Richt said. “The big thing is, it’s a compliment to your program when someone wants to talk to one of your assistant coaches.”
In saying how highly he thinks of Diaz, whom he considers a perfect fit at UM, Richt said he thinks Diaz can afford to be choosy with his next move.
“Great defense works everywhere,” Richt said. “He’s as good as any coaches I’ve been around. I’m hoping he loves it enough to not go until it’s the very best opportunity for him. … I don’t think he has to leave here, to get the next job, to get the job. I think he can leave here as a coordinator to get the job.”