Auburn Week: Press Conference Quotes

Posted Nov 10, 2009

ATHENS - Georgia head coach Mark Richt and several football players addressed the media during the Bulldogs’ weekly press luncheon on Tuesday. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt


Opening statement…

“Nothing like a Saturday night between the hedges. We are going to get a couple of those in a row, so we are going to get revved up for it.  This game this week—Auburn, coach (Gene) Chizik has done a great job of getting his team started the first 10 games into his tenure there at 7-3 and 3-3 in the league. He really has it going well. Offensively they do a fantastic job. They are No. 1 in our league in total offense, and they are probably top 10 in every offensive category. They do a very good job of mixing the run and the pass. They have multiple formations. They have a lot of motion and a lot of misdirection, but they are still going to come after you and run the ball in a very physical way. They dress it up a little bit, but it’s still power football with Ben Tate doing a great job of running the rock for them, a senior really finishing off his career in a very, very strong way.


“They also have Mario Fannin doing a great job running and catching the ball for them and (Ontario) McCalebb, who has been out a little bit as a freshman. I hear he is questionable for this ballgame, but he is lightning quick and can cause trouble when it comes to running the ball. Also Kodi Burns will get in there as the wildcat quarterback, but has the great ability to run the ball along with his ability to pass it.


Chris Todd is a senior quarterback running the system extremely well. He has 17 touchdowns and three picks, just a tremendous ratio. He’s one of the best in the league and best in the country when it comes to touchdown-interception ratio. He’s running their system well. He’s protecting the ball. He’s been very accurate and is close to 60 percent completions. He has just performed extremely well.


“At receiver, (Terrell) Zachary and (Darvin) Adams, 81 and 89 respectively, are really doing a super job for them. Zachary is probably their fastest guy and their biggest deep threat. Adams has the most catches at this point and is doing a very, very nice job there. Tommy Trott at tight end is doing a good job for them.


“Their offensive line, they have four out of five starters that have returned. They are very solid, run and pass. To be able to throw the ball the way they do and run the ball they way they do, you have to be doing it up front. They are definitely getting the job done there. What can you say other than a first year head coach coming in and putting together an offense that leads the league is fantastic.


“Defensively they are very fast and very physical. Antonio Coleman, I was kind of surprised to see him on the depth chart. I thought he had already started four or five years for Auburn. He is doing a great job. He has 12 ½  tackles for loss, 6 ½  sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, 10 pressures, a pick, a bunch of pass break-ups and is just playing great football for them. He and (Antoine) Carter on the other end are very athletic guys who will pressure your quarterback and give your tackles all they want.


“Their interior defensive linemen are tough, rugged, big, strong guys who get after it. At the linebacker position, (Eltoro) Freeman at this point is going to be a starter for them. They’ve had he and (Adam) Herring kind of going back and forth at the will linebacker position. The top two tacklers on the team are (Craig) Stevens and Josh (Bynes), 79 and 77 tackles respectively. That’s a good sign when your linebackers are making your tackles for you and they are doing a great job in that regard.


“In the perimeter, their corners (Walter) McFadden and (Neiko) Thorpe are both doing an outstanding job. McFadden plays mostly to the field. He’ll be matched up with A.J. Green the majority of the game I would think. He has four picks. They are both very tall, lean guys who can run extremely well. They have good ball skills. At safety, I guess No. 4 (Zac Etheridge) got hurt. I don’t think he’ll play the rest of the season. He is a very fine football player. I’m sure he is a great kid and I’m sorry to hear that he was injured. They had to take (Demond) Washington, No. 14, and move him from a little bit of a corner play and move him into the strong safety spot along with (Daren) Bates. Washington is also the guy who plays their nickel most of the time when they make that transition.


“As far as their kicker is concerned, Wes Byrum is really on the same track that Blair Walsh is. I think they are both 13-of-14 kicks made, tops in field goal percentage in our league and one of the tops in the country. I think they are in the top five or so in the nation in PAT field goal percentage. Byrum does not kickoff. (Morgan) Hull, No. 37, is their kickoff guy. He is very, very accurate. He places it exactly where they want him to in either corner actually. I don’t think he’s kicked one out of bounds yet, but still does a great job of getting it close to that sideline and allowing them to just have to cover two-thirds of the field, so he’s doing a great job there.


“(Clinton) Durst, their punter, is very, very steady. He has good operation and very good hang time. He’s averaging over 40 yards a punt and has been very solid for them in that regard.


“Their punt returners, they’ve kind of been going through it a little bit in that area. (Anthony) Gulley, Fannin and others have taken turns of being the punt return man. Washington has done a little bit of it. They’ve struggled catching the ball from time to time, so I think they are trying to find a guy in there who is going to be real consistent in that area. Their kickoff return also, they’ve had six different guys return kicks, which is fairly unusual. Fannin has taken most of them, but all of them are averaging 22 yards or better, so they are doing a very nice job in that regard.


“Overall it’s a great rivalry game played for the 113th time. We’ve won 51, they’ve won 53. There are just a few points separating the two teams. We know the history of coaches who played at Auburn and coached at Georgia in Vince Dooley. Of course Pat Dye played at Georgia and coached at Auburn. You have coach (Rodney) Garner and coach (Stacy) Searels, guys who played for Auburn who are now coaching for us, and we’ve had a few of their guys who have crossed over here and there. Certainly it’s a very big game for us and another chance to play on national TV and show the nation what Georgia football is all about. We are very excited about the opportunity to play it and again glad to be home between the hedges at Sanford Stadium.”


On the Georgia-Auburn rivalry…

“I know there are at least 20 Georgia players on their roster, so I know there are a lot of guys who have a Georgia background. We don’t have nearly as many Alabama guys as they do Georgia guys, but our guys understand what this thing is all about. Auburn being so close to our border, just about every guy that we have on our team was more than likely recruited by Auburn and has been to Auburn and has seen what they are all about. I think that adds to the flavor too. Just the fact that the series is very, very close, I think our guys would love to inch a little bit close to evening that thing out without any doubt. It’s a big deal for us as a staff, it’s a big deal for us as a team. We definitely want to get ourselves in position to finish out this season in flying colors, so this game can help us do that.”


On the importance of the Auburn game to the Georgia fans…

“It is big. Of course the fans that live nearest to Auburn will feel even stronger in the Bulldog nation about the Auburn game than someone who lives in north Georgia. Everybody has their team. When I go to the Bulldog Clubs, they will say, ‘Coach no matter what happens, you have to get this one.’ You would think it’s just one or two teams, but it’s about five of them that they all feel like you’ve just got to have. It is a big deal and I think our fans will get jacked up for it.”


On Auburn’s offense…

“I think the change for this game will not nearly be as drastic as when you play Georgia Tech’s triple-option football. They do run the option in their game, Auburn does. So there is some assignment football in there. As far as having to change everything we do or the total thought process of what we do, I don’t see it in that way. It is a unique system. It’s not one that you could just flip on the film and say we are going to do exactly what we did last week. You have to get a good, strong plan and get the guys as many reps as you can because they are into creating chaos for you. That’s what they want to do; they want to create confusion and bloody your nose in the meantime. “


On Auburn’s offense being similar to another offense in the SEC…

There are some similarities between what they do and what Florida does. That might be the closest one.”


On Auburn leading the SEC in offense with a new coaching staff…

“There is something to be said for that. I’m sure some of the personnel has matured some from a year ago, but to get them in position to make the plays that they’ve been making, especially offensively, is a tribute to their staff. What happens to sometimes is if you have a couple of good things happen to you early in the year, you will gain confidence quickly and you can build on that. It looks like that’s what’s been happening for them.”


On whether Logan Gray will play in a pre-determined series…

“I wouldn’t sit here and promise it right now publicly, although we would like to continue to help him grow as a quarterback. I wouldn’t say going into this game we are going to nail it down, at least not publicly.”


On how he will handle penalties…

“They will come out of the game if they get a penalty.”


On whether Georgia’s players who are penalized will sit out the remainder of the series…

“I don’t know about that, but they know it’s coming. We’ll handle it in practice too.”


On Geno Atkins…

“I think he’s played very strong all year long. When you’re an interior defensive lineman, it’s hard to predict what kind of stats you are going to get. I always go back to Johnathan Sullivan. My first year here he was a sophomore and he had all kind of numbers. His next season, he didn’t have nearly as many tackles for loss or tackles or sacks. We thought he was playing like an All-American, and the guy that really benefited from Sullivan getting double-teamed was (David) Pollack. We had had some veteran defensive ends when Sullivan was a sophomore when he had his big numbers. Then we had three of four defensive ends leave the program, and everybody started focusing on Sullivan, then Pollack kind of took off. As it turned out, I believe the Saints moved up in the draft to get him as the eighth pick of the draft. Interior defensive linemen can be playing lights out and not necessarily get those kinds of numbers.”


On Georgia’s practices and whether the defense will tackle to the ground…

“Last year a lot of it had to do with the injury situation we had. We had been tackling in practice until about two weeks ago. We’re still going full pads, we’re still going what we call ‘thud’ which is everything but tackling a guy to the ground. I always keep an eye on it too, because if I get the tempo I want, the ‘thud’ is good, it’s outstanding. If you go from a line drill to a thud drill and somehow you lose the intensity, that’s when you have to step in there and do something about it. They’ve been practicing with a lot of intensity in those drills, still. It’s more difficult to thud a guy than it is to tackle a guy. In order to thud a guy, you have to get right up on him, get your feet under him and strike him, and wrap him up and allow him to go free once you’ve wrapped him. If you are just going to tackle a guy, you could just reach out and grab him and throw him to the ground and you could get into some fairly poor habits, even in a tackling drill. In order to get a good, solid thud, it forces you to run your feet, get in position, strike him, wrap him and let him go. It’s a true form tackle. It’s even better than some of the tackles you might get when you are actually taking them to the ground.”


On not practicing indoors…

“This day in particular, we need to get the work in. We can’t get too far behind schedule. The last time we went inside, it was in the middle of an open date and we were ahead of schedule. We didn’t feel like we were going to get behind. It was the week that we were going to have two dress rehearsal days and we actually ended up having one inside and one outside. This week we have to get it in.”


On Clint Boling

“He’s been great for us. Of course when he was laying on the ground holding his knee the other ballgame, we were all very concerned about him first of all and about his welfare, but also what it might mean to the offensive line and what kind of juggling might have to be done if he wasn’t able to play, so I don’t think there is any question he’s been the most consistent offensive lineman throughout the year. It’s more than just consistency. He’s played consistently well.”


On Arthur Lynch

“Arty getting two catches I know was big for him. He’s a very fine prospect. He’s going to be not a good one, but a great one. I really do believe that we have some wonderful tight ends at Georgia right now. Most of them have a great future ahead of them. Art has been doing some special teams work for us and some short-yardage goal line work for us. To let him get in there and be the guy who was the point of attack was nice. Two balls went to him and he caught them both. He had a big smile on his face coming off the field. We had a lot of freshmen get in there and do some great things. He’s just one of them.”


On Branden Smith playing offense and defense…

“I don’t know if we’ll get to Champ Bailey numbers as far as the amount of plays in a game, but I don’t think that’s out of the question. I think that our plan, even when we recruited him, I told him your first year, you have to learn defense. You have to spend most of your time in those meetings. To think you are going to spend some time here and some time there, it just doesn’t work that way. In high school, what happens is the whole team will practice offense and then the whole team will flip around and practice defense, so a kid has a greater chance in high school to do both as far as how the practices are planned. With us, when we are practicing offense, we are also simultaneously practicing defense. When we’re meeting on offense, we are meeting on defense. If he’s doing something offensively, he’s missing something defensively. We want him to get comfortable in that role and really understand it well. It may be as early as this spring that we could spend a few days exclusively learning more offensive football. This first year we wanted to give him just enough to get him lined up and get the ball in his hands. I think our coaches have done a good job with that. Hopefully it will grow as we go.”


On Marlon Brown and not redshirting him…

“He actually did play a good bit (against Tennessee Tech). He didn’t get a lot of balls thrown in his direction, but he did play a good bit. He is absolutely improving as a route-runner, as a ball-catcher, a blocker. He’s understanding what we’re doing much better. He’s so much further ahead right now than he would have been hanging around on the scout team. We think he’s going to be making a big impact sooner than later. I don’t regret that right now.”


On the matchup with Auburn’s Demond Washington…

“You are trying to find certain matchups, so if we are in a three-receiver set and they are playing some type of a man coverage scheme, he’ll be covering somebody man-to-man. He’s also their nickel guy where he ends up on the third receiver even as a nickel. Of course we’ve seen him in coverage already with the wide receivers. We’ve had some 5-9 corners that would match up with big, tall guys. The reason those guys can play is because they can leap. They have good ball skills, they are competitors. I don’t see it being all that unusual or being that big of a deal, really.”


On Georgia’s injury situations…

“(Justin) Houston, we feel, will be back for the ballgame. A.J. Green was able to practice full speed. I don’t think there is anyone else we are concerned about right now. Other than the players that we know have season-ending injuries, I think everybody else is ready to go.”


#14 Joe Cox:

On playing against Auburn this week…

“First of all, it’s a good opportunity. They are a good team, and it’s another chance for us to have another good week of practice and prove our record. We know they are a solid football team, a top-25 team. We’re excited about the chance to play them in Athens in a night game in Sanford Stadium.”


On Georgia’s offense facing Auburn’s defense…

“Execute. When you play good teams you’ve got to execute your game plan and minimize penalties and turnovers. Those are the things that good teams will capitalize off of and turn them into points for themselves. We’re going to have a good game plan. We just have to execute it and not make mistakes.”


#49 Shaun Chapas:

On fellow fullback Fred Munzenmaier

“He’s having a great year. He’s gotten better every week, and it really showed against Tennessee Tech. He had some great clips and played a really good game.”


“He’s been around for a while and has gotten better every year and every practice really. He’s had a great season. He’s a really hard worker, tremendously, in the weight room and practice field. The hard work has paid off, and he’s looking good.”


#81 Aron White:

On the Georgia-Auburn series the past few years…

“They’ve definitely had some great players in the past couple of years, and we’ve won some good games. I remember the blackout two years ago was a big game for us, and then last year, we went down to the wire and they even had a chance to win it there close to the end. Our defense came out on top, and that was huge for us to win that close game. It gave us a little bit of fight knowing we could go down to the wire with a team like that and come out with a win.”


On playing this year’s Georgia-Auburn game with the teams going to the SEC Championship game already decided…

“Auburn has reinvented itself with a new coaching staff and a high power offense, so definitely, I feel like it’s still there as far as it being kind of renewed this year. Last year, there wasn’t as much emphasis on it. This year, I feel like people are going to get up for it a little more. It’s a night game, and we are trying to redeem ourselves this season and get bowl eligible. That’s another big thing. If we win this game, we are bowl eligible, so I think the rivalry is going to be a little bigger this year than it was last year.”


#35 Rennie Curran

On preparing for Auburn’s offense…

“Every time (Ben Tate) and I meet up, whether I am hitting him or just watching him, you can see that he is a strong runner. A couple times he gave me some pretty big licks. I thought I was coming in for the hit, but I was the one receiving the lick. In practice we are just going to have to work on great form tackling and be ready for their best shot.”


On being undefeated against Auburn the past three years and this could be the fourth time in a row beating them…

“It’s everything. There is so much riding on this game; a lot of reputation has been built on the each of the schools winning or losing and it is a game that usually results in a lot of good and bad memories for both teams. I remember playing them my freshman year when we had the blackout game, and that was my 19th birthday so there are a lot of great memories to be made in this game.”


Thoughts on if the rivalry has lost a little meaning because of two team’s rankings…

“From being on Georgia’s team and speaking for Auburn as well, the rivalry is still there. When we hit that field there’s going to be a lot of emotion, and it is going to be a huge game for both of us. If we win this game we become bowl eligible and if they win that’s another win in their column to where they can go to an even better bowl game. A lot is riding on this game.”


On Montez Robinson

“He has worked hard, earned the coaches trust and finally got that playing time. I was in the same position when I came in my freshman year. It took me a little while for the light to come on and for me to earn the trust of my teammates and my coaches, but I always believed in myself and I feel like he is the same way. He believes in his ability and what he can do, and we need all the player makers that we can get on defense, especially at defensive end.”


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No Mistake: Auburn a Major Georgia Rival
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Three & Out: SEC Thoughts, News & Notes 11/11
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