Richt Meets the Press
Mark Richt
Publisher
Posted Dec 2, 2011


ATLANTA - Mark Richt talks with the media before the 2011 SEC Championship Game.

Q.  Is there any part of you that wants to go out at the 50 tomorrow and just gesture and say, hey, I made it to all your detractors, give some sort of signal?

            COACH RICHT:  No, no.  I mean, I'm thankful.  I've always tried to have a thankful attitude anyway, but this year in particular I'm very thankful for what has happened.  I'm thankful for a group of men who bought in back in January and went through all the things that you have to go through to prepare a team and to create a team atmosphere and a great chemistry.

            Then we, of course, had our camp and it was an outstanding camp.  I just felt very good about the football team, and then all of a sudden we're 0‑2 and coming off of a 6‑7 season and all the things that I knew were swirling around, I'm sure, intensified.  I didn't pay a lot of attention to it, quite frankly, but I knew it was out there.

            I'm just real proud of how everybody just stayed the course, kept believing, and we began to win.  I knew we had the ingredients for a very good football team.  Over time we began to prove it.

 

            Q.  For those of us that weren't there, what was that week like and maybe locker room like after 0‑2 and South Carolina?

            COACH RICHT:  Right.  Well, I've mentioned this a few times, but after every game you address your team.  After a loss you've got to think of something that will hopefully keep the spirits of your team and keep your team together.  Sometimes you, quite frankly, you've got to make something up.

            But after South Carolina, I was encouraged, because I saw a team that fought so valiantly.  We had some mistakes, a fumble for a touchdown, interception for a touchdown, fake punt for a touchdown, another fumble to the 5 or whatever it was.  But every time we kept coming back, we kept fighting, we kept taking the lead back, and it was back and forth.

            So I just saw a team that was very resilient, a team that had a lot of talent and had the ingredients to be pretty darn good if we weren't so generous with some of the gifts we were giving out.

            So when I talked to the team, I just said, you know what?  I think we've got what it takes to be pretty darn good, so let's just stay together, keep fighting, keep believing in each other and get back to work and start grinding.  Thankfully, everyone did, and we began to win and had a lot of fun celebrations along the way.

            Not to ramble, but the hundredth victory for me, personally, I wasn't trying to make it much of a big deal, and it wasn't that big of a deal to me until the game was over and I saw the players respond in such a way that really blessed me.  They really cared about that and wanted to celebrate that with me.  That was great.

            Then the Florida game, coming back from 14, and after all the history in that game, for everybody to keep it together, we got a chance to celebrate that.  The Auburn game, I don't even know why we celebrated that one.  That was just one of our better games, but we had a good time in the locker room after that.

            Of course the next week we played Kentucky, and by winning that game, we won the Eastern Division, so we're celebrating that.  Then you go play Georgia Tech, and that is a season unto itself for us.  Governor's Cup on the line.  It's just one of those 365 day a year games, and we've got a chance to celebrate that.

            So we've had a lot of really special times with this team this year.  I've enjoyed it maybe as much as any season that I've coached.

 

            Q.  Coach, you guys played LSU in 2009.  It's been a little while.  Jordan Jefferson gets a decent game in that game.  Talk to me about how much has he grown since you played him last and matured and whatnot?

            COACH RICHT:  Oh, yeah.  Well, the college experience helps guys grow period.  The more reps you get in football, the better you're going to get.  But he's become a true dual‑threat.  He's a tremendous passer, very good runner, a very physical runner.  He's 6'4", 220 pounds.  He's a big man and he's hard to take down.

            When you add some triple option ‑‑ well, maybe not triple option ‑‑ but some option football to a power running game and a guy that can just drop back and swing it and has the weapons he has, it's very, very difficult to defend.

            I've got a lot of respect for Jarrett Lee, too.  He's a heck of a football player too, and there is a chance he may end up in the game.  Of course, they have another quarterback we know pretty good in Zach Mettenberger, known him since he was just a young kid, have a lot of respect for him too.  He's a really fine player and a fine person.

 

            Q.  Who is the most likely candidate to start or play the most at tailback for you tomorrow?

            COACH RICHT:  I'm not telling (laughing).  I haven't really talked much about the tailbacks this game.  I don't even know why.  I just got tired of talking about it.  I didn't tell our local media guys, so we'll wait until the game.

 

            Q.  (Indiscernible)?

            COACH RICHT:  We'll wait.  We'll wait.  Game day decision.  How about that one?  That's a good one.

 

            Q.  I think you played New Mexico State in the afternoon that day, right?

            COACH RICHT:  I would think that was an afternoon game.

 

            Q.  Did you see LSU‑Alabama that night?

            COACH RICHT:  Oh, yeah.

 

            Q.  Just your general thoughts on it?

            COACH RICHT:  It was about what I thought it would be.  Just a highly charged, emotionally charged game.  Guys laying it on the line and extremely physical ballgame against two power houses.

            I wasn't shocked at how the game went, necessarily.  Just the fact that it went to overtime.  They're two great football teams.

            Some people who didn't like that game don't really understand football to me, because some people might want more offensive fireworks.  But you talk about drama and every play meaning something, and you know, great defense, great players, great coaches.  It was a heck of a ballgame.

 

            Q.  Can you just talk about in all your time as a coach, have you seen anybody, or any team with LSU's depth, even when you were at Florida State?

            COACH RICHT:  I mean, it's as good as I've seen.  You can't go too deep in your lineup.  Not many people go to third and fourth stringers very much.  But they certainly have a lot of guys that they can interchange and get the same level of play out of.

            Actually, because of the depth, it makes the first teamer better because of competition.  It also makes them better because he's fresh.  He doesn't have to play every snap.  He doesn't get worn down as the game goes on.  He doesn't have to get worn down as the season goes on.

            It also creates a tremendous amount of morale on your football team.  The more guys that play significant snaps on your team, the better morale you're going to have.  The better practice is going to be.  The better off‑season you're going to have.  And it helps you recruit.  Because kids know, you know what, I'm going to get a chance to play, even if I'm not the starter.

 

            Q.  I thought I saw on a TV interview or something you actually say straight out that even if you guys beat LSU, you thought they should and would still play for the National Championship?

            COACH RICHT:  I would think so.  If you go by how the BCS is set‑up, and if you look at all the one‑loss teams, if, in fact, they became a one‑loss team, you just look at who at the played.  They played Alabama, they played Oregon, they played West Virginia, and they played the SEC schedule.

            Absolutely, I would think they'd be a shoe‑in to play.  I know that's not what they're focusing on, because you don't go 12‑0 unless can you focus on every game.  I understand the importance of it.  I know that they're doing that.

            But when the question was asked if, hypothetically, if we won, do I think they should be in the game?  I said yes.

 

            Q.  President Adams said yesterday he'd be very surprised if you were not coaching at Georgia next year.  How long do you envision yourself coaching at Georgia?

            COACH RICHT:  Well, I don't know if I'll give the Bobby Bowden answer or not, but what Coach Bowden used to say is as long as I'm healthy, as long as Georgia wants me.  That's kind of how I feel today.

            I don't know.  Life can change things.  When I came to Georgia, my goal was for Georgia to be the last stop for me.  I left a place that was awesome, Florida State and Coach Bowden is one of the most influential men in my life other than my father, and to leave there it had to be a special place, and it had to be a place where I wanted to spend the rest of my career.  I didn't want to go somewhere thinking it was a stepping stone to go somewhere else.

            It's too hard emotionally for me to recruit guys and look them in the eye and say I'm going to be your coach and knowing deep down, maybe, if something better comes along I'm leaving.  I just didn't ever want to operate that way.  So Georgia's my home and my family's home.

 

            Q.  You touched on LSU's focus in this game.  Could you talk about your team's desires and maybe what this game means to them and what they feel they could prove with a victory here?

            COACH RICHT:  I don't think we're trying to prove anything other than trying to win the next game.  It gets kind of boring to hear that answer, I know, but that's kind of how we operated all year.

            We were 0‑2, 0‑1 in league play.  We still had the initial goal of winning the Eastern Division, and we knew we'd probably have to win every single game to just keep pace, let alone hopefully overtake South Carolina in the standings.

            So it became a one‑game season for us.  Every game was an elimination game for us in league play.  Then the games that were non‑conference games, those games we tried to sell that we're pursuing the Eastern Division Championship to play for the Southeastern Conference Championship.

            This game may not affect that if it was non‑conference, but this game may affect what happens when we get there if we're fortunate enough to get there.  In other words, we've got to improve.  We've got to improve this week.  We've got to improve next week.

            Not only did we want to get here, we wanted to improve enough that when we got here, we'd have a chance to compete well.  We have improved a lot.  Have we improved enough?  I don't know.  That's why we'll play tomorrow.  But that's been the mindset all along.

 

            Q.  Now that you're here, what does this accomplishment mean?  Do you have a bigger priority for your program?

            COACH RICHT:  Well, there is no bigger priority than this game to us.  I mean, this is what we gear all of our ‑‑ all of the hours that we work, all the things that we do we're trying to get to this game.

            I mentioned it earlier at the luncheon, but the Southeastern Conference is an awesome conference in that if you win the league, you know you've done something special.  Your fans know you've done something special.  It's not easy to get here, and it's not easy to win this league.

            So if you do that, you've had a tremendously successful year where I think in some other conferences you might win the league, but it's like oh, well, so what.  And that's not the way it is in this league.  That's not the way this game is.  It's a great league for that reason.  It's an unbelievable challenge, but if you happen to win it, you'll lay your head on the pillow that night and know you did something special.

 

            Q.  If you win, you'll be the conference champion.  What about the concept of two teams that haven't won their leagues playing for the National Championship?

            COACH RICHT:  Well, we were in that situation in 2007, I guess, where we were fourth, and then two teams ahead of us lost.  So we thought maybe we'll move up to the top two and get to play.  But everybody had a big uproar about, well, Georgia didn't win their conference championship.  They shouldn't play in the game.

            I didn't agree with that.  I still don't agree with that bottom line is if you play a game or have a season or have a system, there are certain rules that you abide by.  If the rules say you must be conference champion, then that's the way it is.  But if the rules don't say that, I don't think you have to be conference championship to play in that game.

            I felt that way then, I still feel that way.  If you want to change the rules and everybody understands, that's the rule.  But if it's not a rule, why should somebody go stumping and try to convince everybody that should be part of the criteria when it's not.  So it's not part of the criteria.  I think it's fine to have people that don't win the conference play in the game.

 

            Q.  I caught some of your interview on Monday.  You had very high praise for LSU's fullback J.C. Copeland.  You spoke very highly of him.  I wonder if you can repeat some of those sentiments?

            COACH RICHT:  Well, Mr. Copeland, 44, a lot of people will take a guy that big and maybe make him a fullback on the goal line or short yardage.  It makes a lot offence.  You want to get that yard and get somebody big and physical to knock somebody out of the way.  Well, they do it every down.  Not every down, but, you know, he's ‑‑ I see him and their fullback more than anybody else.

            I know he's substituting and all that kind of thing, but he is their fullback.  I've never seen a fullback quite as physical as this kid.  I've seen people just start jumping out of the way of this guy, literally.

            I've seen him bury guys.  I've seen him wear people down.  By the end of the game, they want nothing to do with him.  6'1", 270, 280, I don't know what he is in reality.  I think the flip card says 270, but who knows what he weighs right now.  But he's a big man, and he's very agile.

            Not many guys that big ‑‑ you might get a big, strong, tough guy that can run a straight track and everybody's going to get out of his way.  But you have to redirect a little bit from time to time to really strike a defender, and he is a very good athlete.

            I think it's a tremendous idea.  I mean, I've been looking around our campus or our practice field just scoping out either a D‑lineman or a guard or somebody who maybe is not playing a lot, but could maybe do that.  I'm thinking about doing some of that in the spring myself.  I think it's a good idea.

 

            Q.  I just learned the status of DeAngelo Tyson and Richard Samuel, neither one of those guys will make it to Atlanta?

            COACH RICHT:  Yeah, they're both coming.  Whether or not they play, I don't know.  I think if they do play, they'll be gutting it out.

 

            Q.  Do you guys get a big lift playing in this building with the fans you may have, or does the first year against Boise kind of indicate it's about the teams on the field?

            COACH RICHT:  Well, it is about the teams on the field.  I mean, I never feel bad playing in a place called the Georgia Dome.  That is a good thing.  I think that's a tremendous neutral site, quite frankly.  As a matter of fact, it's probably my favorite neutral site.  Let's not get into that.

            But our fans will be there.  I know there is a certain way to give out tickets.  I think this game is sold out maybe a year in advance.  I don't know how it works, but so many tickets are saved for Georgia people and LSU people and whoever wins their respective divisions.

            So there will be a lot of noise.  One thing I know for a fact is it's going to be loud for both teams.  We did underestimate how much noise could be created by Boise State fans.  No disrespect on their fans, but there weren't many in the Dome compared to what we were going to have.  They created enough noise for our guys to flinch and jump offsides, and be late off the snap.

            Because we started the game with a verbal cadence, thinking it was going to be okay, and it wasn't okay.  That was the worst decision I've probably made all year is not to be ready for the noise that first game.  That won't happen again.

 

            Q.  I'm guessing that means you're going non‑verbal?

            COACH RICHT:  Oh, yeah.

 

            Q.  Could you talk about Tyrann Mathieu is probably the explosive player on their defense, but Claiborne is the consistent one.  Could you touch on Claiborne?

            COACH RICHT:  Right.  Both are dynamic players.  Both will probably make All‑American teams.  So different in style, really.  Mathieu is not as big, but he's perpetual energy.  He plays with maybe more intensity of anybody I've ever seen.

            David Pollack played with a lot of energy.  David Pollack ripped the ball out.  It wasn't enough for him to make a sack.  He wanted the ball out.  Pollack would block field goals.  Pollack would block extra points.  Pollack would block punts.

            He'd be a punt safety and he'd run through there and block a punt.  So those guys are a lot alike in how hard they play, and how they're always looking to do something special above and beyond what's called for.  I think Claiborne is a very polished player and one of the best cover men in the country right now.

 

            Q.  On Monday, Les basically said he doesn't understand how people at Georgia could not appreciate the body of work you've had there.  Knowing how much and what you've done lately kind of business that you're in, just talk about that and how demanding the job can be.  Coach Miles was in a similar situation as well in terms of criticism in the last couple years.

            COACH RICHT:  Yeah, it's that kind of a business.  People ask me how did I personally handle all the noise, all the stuff swirling around, and I would just real briefly point them to Jeremiah 17:7.  You can look that one up and you can look up Colossians 3:23, then you might even throw in Psalm 56:11, and that will give you a good idea of how I handle that kind of stuff.



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