An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to SEC Championship week. This will be our final teleconference of the week. This will be with three student‑athletes from each participating school. Christian could you just give us some brief thoughts on Georgia as it enters the SEC Championship game on Saturday?
CHRISTIAN ROBINSON: We're a different team than last year heading into the SEC Championship game. We were really excited, and I think we were just simply excited to be there and didn't realize what we could have done. We came out, had a great first half, and didn't finish like we wanted to. That's been dwelling on our minds since then. Obviously, we lost a bowl game as well.
This whole season we've won a lot of games, but we haven't celebrated like we want to yet, because we're not satisfied with where we're at. Once we accomplish all those goals, that's when we'll start celebrating. So we're hungry and humbled group that's ready to get to the game.
Q. Is there going to be any trouble, the offense that you faced the last two weeks, the triple spread option to adjust back to what Alabama does? Of course you all have the pro set as something that you see in practice every day, but talk about that for a few seconds?
CHRISTIAN ROBINSON: I think our coaching staff has done a great job every week just getting us prepared for what we face. And we did happen to play two option teams back‑to‑back, but we also went against our offense every day in practice for at least four periods of just getting back to normal football for us. It was intense. We did well.
I know that we'll just take what we've done up to this point and continue to be disciplined and work hard. Our practices haven't slowed up. We've intensified in the past two weeks. I think we're in better shape than we were prior. That would just help us getting ready for this game. We've played two physical teams, cut‑blocking teams, and we have our hands full this week, obviously, with a big offensive line and some great skill position players.
Q. Could you just talk about Alabama? I mean, what you see on film, how similar are they to Georgia? They've got an efficient quarterback, good tailbacks, receivers that have battled injuries. When you see them on film, do they kind of remind you of the offense you face in practice?
CHRISTIAN ROBINSON: They are very similar. They have great ‑‑ like I was saying, they have great skill position. Great quarterback, he makes it all happen, running backs, and multiple running backs that pound the ball and wear you down like we have as well. The offensive line, the first thing I noticed is the size they have, and Jones makes it all run in the middle. He's the leader there. In the film we've been watching recently just getting prepared, a lot of times people run right down the linemen and they really hold the fort.
They are very similar. They have a lot of size up front, and when we're looking at them, I see a lot of comparisons to our offense and that gives us hope to be able to prepare like we should for Saturday.
Q. What do you think this means for Todd Grantham. Here's a guy who said he learned a lot from Saban, and Saban gave him his first big break in this business. What do you think this means for Coach Grantham going up against Coach Saban?
CHRISTIAN ROBINSON: I think it's big. You always at any level you're just trying to get out and do your own thing. But you also remember who taught you and where you came from. I think that this one is big for us and especially for him. Coach Grantham is a very competitive guy. He takes everything really personally. And everything we do in the meeting room, in the practice field, whether it's a rep against an offensive lineman or one of his outside linebackers is practicing. Even at this big of a level, coach to coach, I think it's a huge match‑up for him, and it will be a test of how far we've come.
Q. Just wondering, you were probably better suited to have an opinion on this than anybody. Certainly you're going to be biased with Todd Gurley, but watching film and what you know about Alabama, and T.J. Yeldon, I'm trying to compare these two freshmen backs. You know Todd intimately, but are there similarities, differences? Which one is better, do you think?
CHRISTIAN ROBINSON: They are very similar. They both run really hard. When I look at Todd I just see lower body. You know, people try to hit him high a lot of times, and he just keeps turning his legs and gets those extra yards and makes a lot of people miss.
What I've seen of Yeldon, he has the speed to get around the edge. He turns up a lot on people that don't think he's as fast as he really is. You've got to hold the edge of the defense or else he's gone. I think Todd has speed as well. He's obviously looking a little bit faster. But I would say Todd's a little bit bigger and more of a bruiser.
Q. What can you say about their run game in general?
CHRISTIAN ROBINSON: It's designed to put the ball in their hands and their line really fires off well. You don't see a lot of missed assignments. You see hat on a hat. If you get a hat on a hat, that means the running back finds the hole and is able to get to that second level a lot faster than some other teams we've maybe played in the past. Both of those backs are able to hit it up and spin, and turn for those extra yards that a lot of other backs that we've faced to this point haven't been able to do.
So you've got to gang tackle. Again, another week of disciplined football similar to Georgia Tech. You've got to hold your gap and set the edge of a defense so those two guys can get out in space.
Q. Aaron's not talking to us this week. He's been kind of a spokesperson since he's been there. I know you're his buddy and teammate. What do you think of his tact of saying I don't want to talk to the media this week.
CHRISTIAN ROBINSON: I don't think it has anything to do with the media. Just him, personally, I don't think he's trying to send a message. I just think he's dedicated to this week, and being prepared. He wasn't at the house yesterday. He was here studying film all day. He's just a great competitor, one of my great friends, and I know this one means so much to him.
He works his tail off every day, and people really don't see that sometimes. He just wants to be completely ready and not have big distractions. Sometimes talking to me takes a little time away, but at the same time, he's just trying to get prepared. And I don't think it's bigger than that. This is the biggest game of our career.
Q. When you look at Alabama's offense, I know they've had some struggles against Texas A&M and LSU, but do you think this is going to be the toughest test of the defense considering the running game and the fact that they can throw the ball here and there?
CHRISTIAN ROBINSON: I think so. They have great athletes and great coaching. When those two things are as well done as Alabama does, you're going to have some problems. Even just preparing like we always do, and we have an opportunity. We're just going to do everything we can this week to get prepared for it. They're the best team we'll face up to this point.
Q. When you looked at film on Sunday what really stuck out to you about that offense?
CHRISTIAN ROBINSON: Mainly the offensive line and their skill players. McCarron doesn't make a lot of mistakes, and when you have that offensive line, he gets a lot of time back there to throw. And the running game, they're able to get down there quick on you. When you're able to run the ball and do play action and you have the skill guys outside, that's dangerous. Everybody has to do their job, and that's what we've been trying to do ever since the South Carolina game. Everybody do your job and play physical, and that's how you win games.
Q. Christian, tell me about Jarvis Jones, what makes him special?
CHRISTIAN ROBINSON: Jarvis is a special guy. He makes a lot of plays for us. He works his tail off in practice and he really cares. It's hard to just match‑up with him one‑on‑one. When you have a guy like that on your team, you know in the back end if you're covering a guy or on the other side, that if you do your job, if he doesn't get there before you, you have a chance. He comes to practice every day and makes it easier for guys to want to play like he does.
Q. What is the most amazing thing you've seen him do?
CHRISTIAN ROBINSON: I'd have to say he just back‑to‑back Florida games. I think those are the two games he showed up the most on a national stage for us. He made plays when we needed them. On the fumble at the end of the game, he was running and rushing the passer. He turns around and hustles and doesn't give up on the play when it looks like they're about to run in the score.
He just doesn't give up. That's what won the game for us. That one always stands out in my mind.
THE MODERATOR: Could you address Georgia as they enter the championship game in Atlanta on Saturday?
JARVIS JONES: It's just a wonderful opportunity for us. I mean Bulldog Nation to get a chance to play in this game means so much to us. We're just looking forward to it. Very happy. Had a great season thus far. Lot of guys sacrificed a lot, many hours, practices, fighting through injuries and all that stuff just to get to the point where we are today. We're just grateful for this opportunity.
Q. You guys were involved in one of the games last week that obviously bolstered the image of the SEC yet again. Now you're in essentially a one‑game playoff for the BCS title game. If you can put yourself back in the shoes of someone who is picking a college, this league is so good, obviously, I wondered do you think it mean even matters anymore to see events like last weekend with what the SEC went through with the ACC? Has the league gotten so good does this stuff even residential center anymore with people externally?
JARVIS JONES: I really don't know. I think for us we can only control what we've got. Last week was Georgia Tech, and that was our main focus was to control what we have in front of us just taking advantage of our opportunity. I think our coaches did a great job of game planning and staying focused and not letting outside things distract us.
Q. You kind of I guess are looking forward to facing a more conventional offense this week, but still the triple option the last two weeks. But you're facing a much more talented offense that can run and pass. What kind of challenge is that going to make for the Bulldog defense?
JARVIS JONES: A great challenge, a great challenge. A well‑respected program from over the nation. They're capable of doing a lot of things, running, passing the ball. They've got tremendous athletes that can take the ball to the house and make big plays when they need to. For us it's about discipline, and understanding our game plan, and understanding what we're doing and doing it our best. We've got to make plays and get off the field and give our offense a chance to score the ball.
Q. This defense has played light's out since the Florida game. What was it that really clicked? The whole Shawn Williams thing was a big part of the Florida game. But how have you been able to stay so consistent since then?
JARVIS JONES: I think everybody just locked in and understood why we're here and what we're doing this for. Obviously, we made some goals early on at the beginning to come back and get to the point where we are today. I think South Carolina did a great job of reminding us and humbling us and got us on the right path. And you know, Shawn's stepped up and been the big leader that he is. That was a turning point for us of giving guys to see that we've got to work hard and we've got to improve every day. Then the guy just locked into it. We've been focused and we've been disciplined and very coachable. That got us to the point where we are today.
Q. Do you think the defense lost focus at the beginning of the season compared to now?
JARVIS JONES: I think we got a couple distractions, couple guys suspended, and people expecting so much out of us. You're hearing this, you're hearing that. And I think it took that to get us back to where we are today. Things happened. I think we're playing great ball right now. Guys are focused, and we're making plays and enjoying our season.
Q. Since it is basically a play‑in game to the BCS title game, how much do you use that as motivation or maybe a carrot at the end of the stick for this weekend?
JARVIS JONES: We understand the weight that this game holds. It's a big challenge for us. I mean, it's a great opportunity, so we really want to make the best of it. We're glad to get to this point. We've worked tremendously hard all season, and off‑season, our focus is to go in here and give it everything we've got. We understand if we win this game we'll play in the title game.
Q. The fact that Notre Dame will be on the other side of that, does that matter at all to you? Does that interest you or completely ignoring who will be there at the other end of it?
JARVIS JONES: It doesn't matter. Like I said earlier, man, we only can control what we have and that's us. If we do what we're supposed to do against anybody, I think we've got a great chance of winning. If we do what we're supposed to do, execute, and make plays, you've just got to go out there and play ball no matter who you're playing.
Q. Your defense, when Coach Grantham came in there and put that defense in the three‑four, and you look at your personnel, is that pretty much a perfect fit for the way you guys like to play and the kind of players that you have right now?
JARVIS JONES: I think we've got a great group of guys that understand the defense with the help of our coaches. Our coaches took us from just being football players to students of the game and really understanding the concept of our defense and why we do what we do. That's allowed us to play fast. It's allowed us to play comfortable and understand where you can be in a defense. Knowing you have that.
I love this defense, actually. I think it's one of the best defenses and a lot of the teams play it. Alabama plays the same defense, and they're dominant in it as well.
Q. Coach Todd has said Saban is sort of his mentor. He got his first break from Coach Saban. How much do you think this game along those lines means to Coach Grantham going up against Saban and that same type of defense.
JARVIS JONES: This game holds a lot of weight. I know Coach Grantham wants this game bad, Coach Saban too. I want this game and personally a lot of the guys do. It's going to be a lifetime game for 60 minutes. A lot of hard hitting, just a lot of fighting in this game for 60 minutes. I'm excited to see it.
I know Coach Grantham will be pumped up. It's going to be an exciting game on a national stage. I mean, everybody's going to be going crazy.
THE MODERATOR: Could you talk about your team as you enter Saturday's game against Alabama?
TAVARRES KING: We're very excited about the opportunity that we have playing such a great Alabama team. To meet them where we've met them and the SEC Championship is going to be a very high energy game. I think our focus this week is going to be keeping the main thing, and that is getting after it like we have week‑in and week‑out this season, in practice, and hopefully that correlates over to the game on Saturday.
Q. Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown went down, both of them. Did the receivers come together and have a meeting and rededicate themselves into stepping up? It looks like they've done that down the stretch. It seemed like a really good balance. Maybe no superstar, but a great band of receivers working together. Get your comments on that?
TAVARRES KING: We know when those two guys went down and when Marlon went down, I sent Chris Conley and Justin Scott‑Wesley and Taylor Bradberry a text, and I said the time's now for you guys to step up. I knew they were going to be getting more opportunities. So I sent them a text, I said the time's now for you guys to shine.
They've done a great job thus far. We've always prided ourselves on having depth at our position. Any guy making a play at any time. I still believe that holds to be true.
Q. When you look back at last year's SEC Championship game, how much does that motivate you guys to be back on this big stage and approve you guys can have a running game like this?
TAVARRES KING: It was very motivating. You know, we were in that game last year. We know what it takes to get there. I feel like now we know what it takes to win. That game last year was a tough one, still tough to swallow because we were playing so well for a half, and came out flat in the second half we know we can't do that. We know it's going to be a 60‑minute fight, and we can't worry about it.
Q. How long did you dwell on that loss?
TAVARRES KING: For a while. I know I personally did for a while. Still a little bitter about it, but got another opportunity. Glad to have another opportunity to play in an SEC Championship, and I'm going to try to make the most of it.
Q. I don't know how much you've seen of Alabama's defense. How much does their three‑four remind you of what you see in practice every day? Are the two defenses pretty similar?
TAVARRES KING: I think both defenses are great. Alabama really gets after it. I was watching film on them yesterday afternoon and it just seemed wherever the ball was, there were 11 hats flying to the ball. They fly around the ball, and that's what you want in a defense. As a defensive coordinator, I'm sure Coach Smart is extremely happy with his guys flying around the ball. That's something they do is get to the ball.
Q. As far as the receivers, when Marlon and Michael went down, obviously, those were two of the big receivers. How do you think you guys have done these last few weeks from a physical standpoint?
TAVARRES KING: I feel we held our own, really. We've really held our own. Blocking is something that we take very serious as a unit. I feel like we've done a good job doing so, and, hopefully, we can continue to do that.
Q. How much or in what way do you take the consequences of being in the national championship game if you win this week as motivation?
TAVARRES KING: If you need any added motivation to be a champion in any way, shape or form something's wrong with you. If we win this game, we're SEC champions. That alone is enough motivation for us to get after it this Saturday. We do know what lies ahead. We win this one, and we'll have the opportunity to play Notre Dame.
Q. Is the fact that there's a specific opponent out there and it's Notre Dame, does that add anything at this point?
TAVARRES KING: It's too early. It's way too early. We're not even focused on that. We know it's out there, but our main focus and objective is winning this game and winning the SEC Championship. Our focus is all on the Crimson Tide right now.
Q. When Aaron Murray first showed up in Athens, can you remember what struck you about him in the beginning, and after these years (Indiscernible)?
TAVARRES KING: He's a hard‑working guy. It's something I noticed from the git‑go when we got here. He was picking everybody's brains. He's always the first one in the meeting room. It's been like that since he got here, and it's been like that now.
The way he prepares is crazy. About six minutes ago I was in there with him watching film of Alabama. We were talking about some things. They did this. What are you going to do if they did that? The way he prepares is phenomenal.
Q. Is this the kind of game he's lived his whole life waiting for?
TAVARRES KING: I think so. I think it's a game that we all want. This is what you come here to this university to play. You come here to play in big games. What bigger stage is there than the SEC Championship right now?
Q. I think this is the fifth or sixth straight year that this SEC Championship game has had going in. You knew it had implications for the national championship. When you play in this league at the start of the season and the off‑season, does it pretty much just entrenched in you guys that if you can get to the SEC Championship game, you're probably going to have a shot to play for the national title?
TAVARRES KING: Oh, yeah. That's pretty much the gist of things around here. If you're in that game and you win that game, you're a national title contender, I think.
Q. Along the same lines, could you talk about what it takes in this league to get to the grind? It's not like one game in October. You've got to win one game in November. In a lot of cases, it's a two, three, four‑game stretch. Just navigating your way through that grind, and what has to happen if you're going to do it successfully?
TAVARRES KING: It's just what you said. It's week‑in and week‑out. It's a fight. It's a battle. Every Saturday you've got to put the pads on and go to work because it's a tough league. Anybody can slip up and beat anybody. So I think it's so rewarding to get to the SEC Championship because it's a hard road. It really is.
Q. What is unique about the Alabama secondary and the physical stature?
TAVARRES KING: I think that those guys really get after it. They're very physical. I thought they were going to try to stay on top of you and not give up the big play. I felt like the physicality of those guys out wide is just different from anybody we've played up until this point.
Q. Do they compare to anything else you play during the season?
TAVARRES KING: I don't make comparisons. I don't think that you can make comparisons. I don't think it's fair to any player because they play the game their own way. I think they're just very physical. I think that's what sets them apart from people.