Richt, Dawgs Preview Florida; w/ HD Video
Mark Richt

Posted Oct 23, 2012

ATHENS – Mark Richt and a delegation of football players met with the media Tuesday.

Head Coach Mark Richt

Opening statement…

“It’s Georgia-Florida. Looking forward to going to Jacksonville. It’s a big game for us and for them to decide who is going to take the lead in the SEC East. That’s what’s at stake. They’re an outstanding football team, obviously. They’re undefeated and No. 2 in the BCS and really have earned it the hard way, starting out the season at A&M and at Tennessee – two very tough places to play to start the season. I believe they got behind in both games and came back and won both. That kind of set the tone for their season. They’ve played outstanding defense. They are a very solid running football team, and their special teams have been off the chain, and that’s been their recipe for victory. They play tough, hard-nosed football and don’t turn the ball over much. They are No. 9 in the country in the turnover ratio, so that’s been their formula for success. Coach (Will) Muschamp has done a great job in year two.”

“It’s a game that is going to be a tremendous challenge for us, we know that. They are an outstanding football team and very talented. They have a lot of momentum and confidence right now, and those are tough teams to beat. We have our work cut out for us. We are looking forward to it and looking forward to today’s practice and trying to get better. This will be the only day we’ll be in full pads, so we have to make sure we take care of those fundamentals today as we implement our game plan.”

On Georgia’s running game the last two games…

“The defenses are definitely trying to gear to stop us in the running game on first and second down especially, maybe a little bit more. We were getting a lot more two-safety looks and a lot more one-safety looks on the early downs rushing the ball. We still need to run the ball better than we have been. Of course to say that against one of the best rush defenses in America, you may run for less yards than you are averaging and still have a heck of a day running the ball when you’re rushing the ball against a team like Florida. We definitely don’t want to abort the run by any means. We have to make sure that we run it well and run it to the point where they have some respect for it and it helps you reduce yardage on third down and helps you have some decent play action opportunities as well.”

On Shawn Williams

“I think Shawn is a real passionate guy. I think he loves Georgia and loves his team and wants us to play the best we can possibly play. I think (his comments on Monday) were more public than you would like, but I don’t think he meant any harm by it. I think his teammates know that, so it’s really not an issue. I did talk to him this morning about it. It was more of him coming to me. I think he read the comments and didn’t like not necessarily how it was reported, but when he read it himself, that’s really not the tone and what he was trying to communicate in his heart. He’s an emotional guy, and he wants to have success, and he wants to try to help motivate not only himself, but his teammates to play better. So, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you’d just assume not have it as public as it was. I don’t really think it’s a big issue. That’s how he felt about it, so he has a right to say it.”

On how to beat Florida...

“First of all, you’ve got to be just very fundamentally sound. We’ve got to block well and tackle well. We’ve got to be disciplined in our gaps and assignments, and we’ve got to do a good job of protecting the football. We can’t allow them to continue the trend of winning the turnover ratio. If they win that battle, it’s going to be tough to win the game. It’s been historically true in this match-up especially, so we’ve got to do a god job of that and do what we do best. We need to execute well. It’s certainly going to be a game that’s going to take one of our better efforts to have a chance to win it.” On the importance of Aaron Murray’s play in this game…

“I think just about everybody’s quarterback has to play pretty good to win a game like this, but Aaron in particular. He’s just been so valuable to us to get us into the right play as many times as possible in games. We do give him options at the line of scrimmage to try to give us the best chance of success, so that’s huge for him, and I think that the way he studies the game and just historically he’s done a very good job of that at this point in his career. I think that he’s got to do a good job of just making decisions back there when he drops back and reads coverage. He’s got to stay with his progression and not try to go off the beaten path in any way. You know, there’s going to be some situations with a defense like this that somebody’s not going to be open or the protection may not be as good as you want, but how are you going to manage that? Are you going to manage it by throwing it away and not taking a sack, or do you have to take a sack, or are you going to wrap it up where the ball doesn’t come out? That’s really what it comes down to. There will be times when he’ll move out of the pocket, I’m sure. He’ll be in a situation where he’s scrambling, and will he keep his eyes downfield and find an open man or when he crosses the line of scrimmage will he do a good job of not taking a vicious hit if he can help it and protecting the ball as he gets tackled? Those are just the fundamental things that he has to do well. If guys are open and the protection’s there, you’ve got to put it on them. The way that they play defense, it’s going to be tighter coverage than some of the games (we’ve played this season), but not all of the games. Like last year particularly, they played a ton of a five-man rush man coverage and one safety deep, and they matched up on our receivers. We kind of came limping into that game with some receivers and some inexperienced guys, and all of the sudden those guys made plays. But they were tough plays, and even the fourth down catches were hotly contested throws and catches in very tight coverage.

On Aaron Murray’s emotional state entering the Kentucky game…

“Aaron just seemed very normal in his preparation. I think going home was really good medicine for him to see his dad and to see his mom and just to see his family and to know that the surgery went well, and to know that his dad was able to go back to work not too long after that. I think that all just helped ease his pain, and he went back to work.”

On the possibility of assigning a special teams coordinator in the off season…

“First of all, you can assign somebody within your staff to do it, or if you don’t, that means that if there’s no attrition, you’re going to fire somebody to hire a special teams coordinator. So, I don’t know if I’m interested in doing that, but I think one thing that I can do as head coach is at least spend time learning the kicking and punting fundamentals well enough to be their coach. Which right this minute I wouldn’t say that I have enough expertise to do that, but I think this off season it would be wise for me to do something like that because I am freed up enough to do that, and if that’s my contribution to special teams in the future, I think it’d be valuable.”

On the importance of special teams play in this game…

“We’ve had some pretty good punters and kickers over the years since I’ve been here. We’re not doing anything any differently than we’ve done before really. But, they (Florida) have done a very good job on their special teams, and there’s no doubt about that. But there are some people in the country who do a good on special teams and need a special teams coach, and there’s some that do it and split the responsibilities. Some people say they have a special teams coordinator, but he may just be coordinating the practice time, or he may be coordinating the meeting time. So there are a lot of people who have a special teams coordinator and he’s coordinating what happens, but he doesn’t necessarily coach every single team on every single kick. There are a lot of people that are still dividing up responsibilities, but they (Florida) are certainly outstanding at it this year.”

On preparations for the Florida game…

“With the 20-hour (practice) rule, you can’t change much. We have it planned out to the minute every week, so if you do a little more here, you’re robbing something. Now this particular week on Friday, there’s no school, so you literally can have a four hour day on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, which is 16 hours plus three hours on Saturday, so that’s the max that we can have this week. But, Friday is unlimited, so you can actually have a little bit more time Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and have a little bit more time Friday. It’s not because it’s Florida week as much as it’s the fact that there’s no school on Friday. So we’re able to do a little bit more of anything that we think is important.”

On the emotions of the Florida game…

“I think it’s just one of those weeks as a coach where you don’t sit there and wonder how you can motivate these guys this week. They are just motivated to play this game, so I don’t think that’s an issue.”

On Florida’s changes from last year to this year…

“They played a lot of young guys last year. When you have eight returning starters on offense and nine returning starters on defense, that’s a lot of playing time. They got a lot of valuable experience and another year within Coach Muschamp’s way of doing things and strength and conditioning. So, they’re one year more experienced and one year just bigger, stronger and faster. We talked about this before, but year two in a lot of coaches’ tenures, there is a lot more of a big jump from year one to year two. Everybody has bought in and everybody understands what the coaches are looking for. In this particular case, they did play a very young football team last year, and there aren’t a lot of players that they lost.”

On the performance of the defense this season…

“We want to play championship defense, there’s no doubt about that. Part of that is being able to stop the run or at least slow it down and force people into some situations where they’ve got to throw the football and force them into situations where they can’t just comfortably do what they do. Whatever they do, we have to find out what they do and make them do something different, and we just haven’t been able to do that enough. So that’s been frustrating for everybody.”

On Jarvis Jones

“He practiced yesterday, and we think he will be able to play in the game.” On freshman offensive tackle John Theus…

“The thing about John now is that he’s played for seven games. That’s a lot of plays and a lot of them in the SEC, so he’s not quite just a pure rookie anymore. He’s been trying to protect some pretty good football players, so he just has a better gauge of what it’s all about. But he’s still a rookie. One year from now, he’ll be stronger and more experienced, and he’ll have a little bit more confidence in knowing what’s coming at him. So he’ll certainly be a better player a year from now than he is today but he’s a better player today than he was a month ago or six weeks ago.”

On Malcolm Mitchell

“Malcolm loves football, obviously. He loves offense, defense, and special teams. He loves to play, and he wants to make plays and be significant every time he’s in the game. We think that he has a lot of bravery and speed and agility to be a good kick return man. You have to have some nerve back there. He’s starting to become much more productive as a wide receiver and getting more opportunities and getting more comfortable. So, I hope he continues to improve in all areas because he’s a very talented guy.”

On motivation the team for this week’s game…

“Let’s think about it. Number one, we’re playing Florida. Number two, we’re playing for a shot to go to Atlanta. That’s huge. Even if we weren’t playing for that opportunity, it’s still a big game and a game that those guys like to play. It’s a game that there’s just so much tradition to it. People know about this game across the country, and it’s a game that people look forward to. People say it’s one of the better rivalry games in the country year after year, so players see that growing up in high school and they want to be part of that game.”

On the coaching staff’s mentality after the South Carolina game…

“I kind of look at things cut and dry when it comes to preparing. When we prepare, we’re going to study film. We’re going to look at their personnel and their schemes, and we’re going to look at what they do. We’re going to look at what we do, and we’re going to try to find ways to get a first down and stop a first down. So I don’t look too much and try to compare this game to that one. I guess the only thing you can compare it to is that you have top 10 teams playing each other and the significance of what it might mean in the Eastern (Division) race. I mean, last week was significant. If we don’t beat Kentucky, we’re not talking about the Eastern Division race, so it’s very big. But, everything put together, it makes for a big game and a game that guys get up for.”

On Florida’s strengths offensively…

“I think knowing that they have some veteran offensive lineman, and that (their running back Mike) Gillislee and their quarterback have some great run in them, I think they’ll diversify more in their passing game. But right now, by playing great specials, defense, and running the ball well without turning it over, it’s a very good formula for victory. It’s worked for them. I think Coach (Pease) is a very smart coach, and he understands as a coordinator that it’s not always what you might like to do best, but it’s what your players can do best. That’s what you have to evaluate year in and year out and play to the strengths of your personnel.”

On Mark Beard

“Mark Bead has really come on for us. He played a little bit more in the Kentucky game than in some of the games prior to that due to Dallas Lee tweaking his ankle a little bit, but he’s an athletic guy. He’s getting more comfortable as we go, and it’s not a bad looking lineup when Beard’s in there. I think Beard will end up playing, and I think Dallas will end up playing. I’m not sure who will start. If Beard starts, Gates is a guard, and if Lee starts, Gates will be a tackle. But he will play in this ballgame.”

Quarterback Aaron Murray

On Kentucky’s young team…

“Their young players are talented and capable of making plays, but experience is big in SEC games. The more experience you have, the more comfortable you feel out there. We just need to be ready for whomever they put out there. We know they’ll be ready defensively, so we need to make sure we’re hitting on all cylinders.”

On the bye week…

“Obviously it’s great to have the bye week to get your body feeling better, but I kind of wish we had a game this past week just to get the bad taste out of our mouth [from the South Carolina loss]. We tried not to be sitting around thinking about it for two weeks – we put that game behind us and we know this is an extremely important stretch for us if we want to reach our goals. We need to win our next six games.”

Wide Receiver Marlon Brown

On Kentucky’s young defense…

“I feel like from playing in this league for a few years our team knows what to expect in these games and has the experience. It’s tough for a freshman at any position to step in there, but Kentucky’s players are doing it so we’ll see on Saturday.”

On Michael Bennett’s absence…

“We didn’t get a good chance to see how much we miss him vs. South Carolina because it wasn’t a big passing day for us overall. I think we’ll be fine as receivers – we’ve got guys with a lot of experience. Me, Malcolm [Mitchell], Tavarres [King], [Rantavious] Wooten, we’ve all got experience.”

On playing on the road again…

“Playing on the road in the SEC is always tough. We’ll need to keep focused and we’ll be alright.”

Linebacker Amarlo Herrera

On preparing for Florida…

“We’re working hard and getting after it in practice this week. We have more hitting and full contact periods every day, and we have more live periods for us to practice game time situations.”

On the atmosphere in the locker room…

“We’re all pumped up. It’s now or never for us. We have to get everything together and play a complete game for this week and for the rest of the season or else we won’t be able to accomplish our goals.”

On stopping the run against Florida…

“They’re a great rushing team. Obviously we’re going to have to stop the run, and we’re going to try and make them do what they don’t do a lot of, which is pass the ball. We’re going to try and give them a longer field. Anytime you give a team a longer field to work with, it’s harder to score. We have to do a better job of containing the quarterback and getting pressure on him.”

Linebacker Christian Robinson

On preparing for Florida…

“Today is going to be a physical practice. We’re going to have a few extra periods of first team defense vs. first team offense. It’s going to be a very physical game and if we want to win we have to prepare that way. Emphasis will be on first and second down situations; that’s where they’re most successful. We want to stop the run and make them throw deep and try and be in the right place at the right time.”

On containing Jeff Driskel

“He’s definitely a running quarterback. He’s the second leading rusher on the team so he’s definitely a threat. It’s going to be all about containing him and taking away running lanes. We want to pressure him to make sure he feels like he doesn’t have time to find lanes and if we can do that then that will be a big help for us.”

On the atmosphere of the locker room…

“It’s the biggest game of the year for us so far, at this point. We have to try and keep our emotions in check because all of the fans are already down there getting ready for the game and we really have to just focus on what we have to do. We want to try and keep everybody positive because if we go in at halftime and things aren’t going the way you want them to, you have to be able to adjust and come back out and win the game.”

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