Tenn. Tech Week: Press Conference Quotes

ATHENS – Georgia head coach Mark Richt and several football players met with the media during the Bulldogs' weekly press luncheon on Tuesday. They offered the following comments:

"Good to see everybody. I'm just going to talk some about the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles. First off, start with Watson Brown, the head coach. This is his third season there, and they're having their finest season under his time there at 5-3 already. I actually think they've beat everybody in the state of Tennessee that plays their level of ball, which is a great accomplishment for them. They're kind of riding high right now. I had a chance to coach against Coach Brown while we were here at Georgia and he was at UAB. If you remember that game, it was 16-13 final. Actually, it was 16-13 late in the game, their driving the field, and I think we had a sack, a turnover or something – a big stop – to keep them from getting into field goal range to tie it or even go ahead. I have the ultimate respect for Coach Brown and what he's capable of doing with his team. I'm sure he'll probably bring that memory back up to his players even though they weren't at UAB, but I'm sure he'll make mention of that, or at least know in the back of his mind that you can get after Georgia with one of his teams.

 

"Offensively, you've got to start with their quarterback Lee Sweeney. Lee is a guy who is a Louisville transfer. He's a guy that is an outstanding passer. I would say they would rather throw the ball to set up the run than vice versa. He's got a bunch of outstanding receivers. (Tim) Benford I would say is the number one guy. He's the leading receiver with 25 catches. The thing that impresses us the most is all the guys they throw to just have tremendous ball skills, and I don't think we've seen a ball dropped all year long. They've got some play makers out there. Henry Sailes, their running back, is the fastest guy on the team. He's also their punt return man, and he does an outstanding job as a punt returner. They will play maybe three or four backs in their system. They throw an awful lot of screens to them. They find a way to get the guys the ball out there in space so they can make you miss. Up front, they got four returning starters. Their left tackle, number 77 Calvin Smith, I would say is the one that we believe is the most athletic guy. He's a senior at 6-3, 297. They're very impressive as a group. Again, because they throw the ball they are very good in the pass protection and can still do a pretty good job of running the ball.

 

"Against you defensively, they've done a very nice job. They've got six returning starters. We've had our issues with turnovers. They've done a nice job of gaining turnovers. They've got 13 picks to their credit defensively, and 10 of the interceptions have been by their defensive back groups. It's not really one guy over the other. All of them have gotten their share of getting their hands on the ball and done a nice job of catching it. Their safeties, (Dustin) Dillehay and Caleb Mitchell, numbers 45 and 15, are their two leading tacklers, and you can see why in just how they play the game schematically. If you are in two receiver set, their safeties are going to be not quite a linebacker level but they're going to be very near to the ball. Really, both of them can get into the running game - get in to the box as people say - on any given play at the same time. By doing that they do put an awful lot of pressure on their corners to play a lot of single coverage, but they've done a great job. Like I said before, they've had a good share of picks. With A.J. Green being out this week, it would make me believe they'll keep doing what they've been doing. I'm not sure if they would have changed if A.J. was there to be honest with you, but they might have thought about trying to get some kind of double coverage on him. Right now, I don't know who they would double cover if they had already started on that plan, so my guess is they're going to do what they've been doing and continue to try to do it well. (Dedrick) Miley is a kid out of Georgia who's their leading sacker with four sacks. He's actually blocks four kicks at this point, so they do a good job there. Their interior front and linebacker core, they roll them all. They let them play, and they all do a very good job.

 

"As far as their specialist are concerned, their kicker, number 99 (Timothy Donegan), he's struggled. He's 2-of-6 in field goals this year. His kickoffs are usually returnable. He doesn't knock many out of the end zone, so I think the kicks will be returnable. He does do a very nice job of moving it around, so we're not going to be certain where that ball is going to land and it will take some work to figure out how to best handle that. (Jason) Lennartz, the punter, number 89, didn't start the year as the punter. (Nick) Campbell started out and struggled a little bit, and they made a change. Now, Lennartz is averaging 41.6 yards per punt. Sailes, again, is the tailback I mentioned earlier who is their punt return man, and he's averaging over first down – over ten yards a return – which is kind of what you are hoping for. If you can catch that ball and get a first down, it's pretty darn good. (Mauricio) Wallace, number four, is their kick return man, and I'll say this: just looking at the film throughout the year, they might be the best coached kick return team we've played. They do a great job of getting a hat on everybody, and the guy is averaging 32 yards per return, which is outstanding. He's a guy that we got to do a good job on. If Blair (Walsh) can kick it the way he did last week that will help. He knocked a couple of the end zone and the ones that were in play had very high hang time and in the spot we wanted it. If we can continue to do that, we'll have a chance to contain Wallace. On last thing I'll mention on their punt return-block team, I believe it was the last ball game, they had a return down to the 20 I think to set up their game-winning touchdown, and they also blocked a kick that game. Their special teams have played extremely well to keep them on winning side of .500 football."

 

On Georgia's offense this week without A.J. Green…

"I hope that it is an opportunity for guys to know that they've got to make plays, and they do. Unless Tennessee Tech changes drastically, they challenge you to throw to the wide receivers. They are built on stopping your run game. They'll literally have their seven, their linebackers and defensive line in the box and those two safeties, like I said, very near and they'll both get down in there. Those guys are going to have to make plays, and I'm hoping that they do make plays and gain confidence. In the long run, it may end up being a blessing for us to get some guys with some more opportunities, so we plan on doing that."

 

On if he expects A.J. Green to be back for the Auburn game…

"We do. We're not 100-percent certain but the history of this type of an injury by the second week everybody has played to this point, so we don't have any reason to think that he won't.

 

On addressing the decision to announce Joe Cox as the starting quarterback for Saturday's game…

"The reason why I did it yesterday is because we had our little press conference at 5:30 or whenever it was, and the question was being asked. When I hung up the phone, I figured it was going to become a big debate, and we hadn't even practiced yet. I didn't want it to become a bigger deal than it needed to be. We did think it through. It wasn't like we didn't have the conversation of what should we do. In the end, the premise was 'who gives Georgia the best chance to win this week and for the rest of the season.' Quite frankly, it was unanimous that Joe still is the guy that we believe can do that for us. We do think that we need to give Logan (Gray) an opportunity to play and see if he can become very productive. The young guys (Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger), we just didn't feel that this late in the season that it was time to do it and they had earned the right to be the starter. My feeling is this - if you're going to put a freshman in there, you start him and you start him the rest of the way. But did anybody really earn that? They didn't. Do you think that one day they will be great players? I think yes. I think both those guys got tremendous potential. We've got extremely high hopes for their careers, but to say one guy earned it over another, that didn't happen. That's kind of the thinking behind that whole thing.

 

On if both Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger would redshirt barring injury…

"That's pretty safe to say, but you could tell it was discussion. It wasn't just like 'well their freshmen don't do it.' We talked about it, but basically all the things I just said were the reasons why."

 

On if it's been in his mindset to look toward next year…

"I can't do that. I can't do that to our seniors. We tell our guys to finish the drill. We tell our guys to never quit. If we made that move with a young guy, I'd have the confidence that I could say in all honesty that he gives us the best chance to win right now. Because we couldn't come to that conclusion, we went with the guy that gives us the best chance to win right now. If we made a move and say we are playing for next year, in my mind, we've given up on the season, we've quit. We don't quit at Georgia, and we don't teach our guys to quit."

 

On in his experience, when teams go through down periods, how much can he or other coaches reevaluate the big picture…

"You can try to do some things as it's happening, but I think it's got to be more of a tweak rather than a wholesale change. Every offseason you must reevaluate. You must. Did I see this coming? I know every season is a tough season. I know every season you can have great successes or you could stumble. The only thing I could refer back to is 2006 because there haven't been many seasons that I've lived through that would even resemble this one – 2006 resembles it as close as anything that I've been the head coach or even an assistant coach of. In 2006, we struggled with turnovers and we lost four out of five, and we lost a couple heartbreakers. Then all of a sudden we quit turning it over, and we started to win. We beat three highly ranked teams three games in a row. Not much changed. If you look back, we didn't make a bunch of wholesale changes. We didn't start throwing guys in and throwing guys out and changing your scheme and all those kind of things. We just stayed the course, and we finished very strong. We finished very honorable. It did build momentum for the next season, so my feeling is to build the most momentum towards the future for Georgia is to get it back on track and begin to win. That's where my thinking is right now."

 

On if there is concern with Logan Gray's interception that was returned for a touchdown having a lasting effect on his development at quarterback…

"I don't think that will be a long lasting problem for Logan. If you said your first-ever experience starting was a game like that and he has an awful day and the entire game he's making mistakes and just getting the heck beat out of him – that could maybe set a guy back. I think the experience that Logan went through should not have any lasting effect on him. We don't look at it like 'oh my gosh, he was awful.' We don't look at it like that at all. We ran a play-action pass really at a time where they probably didn't care a whole lot about play-action, so a linebacker that would probably get close to the line of scrimmage wasn't too concerned about the run. Logan's got a vision the receiver that he's throwing to and he kind of buzzed in it. Does he need to expand his vision on that? Probably, yes. That play certainly was one that is much more effective on first and 10 when the game is close rather than it's late in the game and we're trying to get something going in the passing game."

 

On if there will be a plan in place for how Georgia will play Gray…

"Right now you can count on at least a series with Logan more than just a situation like red zone or something like that. We want to give him a chance to play at least one series. You hate to promise anymore than that because sometimes things will make you decide not to do that and you don't want to tell somebody something. We did want him to know that we do want him to play, that he will play, so prepare your mind and body for that."

 

On if there are any other positions that will see a change in personnel this week…

"Caleb (King) will start at running back. We're not highly disappointed in Washaun (Ealey) at all. Washaun will continue to play, but Caleb has proved to be the one guy – at least between him and Washaun – that is much stronger in his pass protection right now. He played a pretty solid football game (against Florida). I think all the runners ran better. Caleb had a really fine run that got called back on a holding call I think. I think the guys who had opportunities in the Florida game ran well. Florida is one of the better defensive teams in the country versus the rush, and I thought our line actually had a pretty good day providing some space for those guys. I thought the guys ran well and broke some tackles. I thought we made improvement in that area."

 

On Washaun Ealey's pass protection against Florida…

"He didn't have a great day protecting the passer. On the (second) pick that Joe had, we had it real deep in our territory and we're moving the ball, and I think might have even crossed the 50 and we're only down by two scores, he ended up going for the right guy but didn't do a good job of finishing it. He's a true freshman. That's one of the main reasons why Knowshon (Moreno) ended up redshirting because when it got time to doing those kind of things, especially early on in camp, he was a freshman. He was struggling at it, and we had three veteran guys, three very proven guys. So if we played Knowshon, how many reps is the guy going to get? He might have got a lot more if we tossed it to him a couple times, but this time around we are playing the freshman and kind of taking some of the lumps."

 

On dealing with criticism as a coaching staff and how does he address those concerns…

"I don't think one fan has brought up something we haven't thought of, so we think about all these things. We're trying to make the best decisions that we can make. Again, it gets down to a couple of things. One is your focus. You must focus on what's important now, and that's what we're doing. We're focused on getting ready for this next ball game. We have to. That's what we're called to do. That's what we are hired to do. We try not to even listen or watch or any of that type of thing because the bottom line is I want to do things that I think gives us the best chance to have success at this particular moment. The other thing that you focus on as staff and as a team is 'how are we going to handle adversity?' There's adversity is life. We are still educators with these young men. We still have a responsibility to these guys to help them handle life after ball, after their college experience. So we are trying to model how to handle adversity and we are trying to help them handle adversity. Not only do we want to handle it, we want to turn it around. It's one thing to kind of hold everything together, but another thing to turn it around. First you start with keeping everyone together, keeping everyone on the same page and keeping everyone focused on the important things. That's very crucial, but then you also got to be strong enough to turn the thing around. That's really our main focus right now."

 

On the return of linebacker Akeem Dent

"It's great to have Akeem back. I'm sorry he went through what he went through with that injury. Akeem was slated to be a starter going into camp. We though Akeem and Rennie (Curran) would be playing side-by-side a good bit. Akeem also knows how to play the Sam linebacker position. The injury kind of kept him from becoming a mainstay or at least having the opportunity to become the mainstay as the Mike linebacker. But I'm glad to have him back, and hopefully he'll feel healthy enough to run out on some of our coverage teams too because he's been a very good protector and cover man on our punt team over his career. Hopefully, we feel comfortable letting him do that."

 

On his take if there were to be empty seats for the Tennessee Tech game…

"Again, that's another thing that we can't control. I'm not going to try to control the things that I can't control. I don't know what's going to happen. I wouldn't underestimate our fan base. Our fans do love the Dogs. You can tell by the passion. I'm sure they want to support the young men. We want the fans to handle adversity well too. I can understand their feelings of being upset or being curious, whatever it might be, there's different levels. But we're all still Bulldogs. We all still want to support these young men, so I think our fan base will do a good job."

 

On since he has not been in a situation like this season before, if he would reach out to anyone for advice…
"Especially in season, everyone's got their own problems. They don't need our problems. You could. Coach (Tommy) Tuberville is in town tonight, so maybe I'll grab him and see what he's got to say."

 

On evaluating how this year's team has performed compared to his expectations throughout the season…

"I really believe if we could protect the ball like we should and knock it out. We've knocked it out actually. I think it's up to 10. We've forced 10 fumbles and got one. We've fumbled it 12 and lost eight. Why is the ball bouncing that way? I don't know. If I thought that fundamentally when the ball is on the ground that we've had a chance for it and we're missing it and they're getting it, if they're doing a better job of getting on the ball – I've studied that film, and for whatever reason, we the ball is on the ground it ends up closer to one of their guys than our guys. Why's that happening? I don't know. It's just happening, but that's football. But I do think that if we did a better job in that area who knows what the record would be today, so that's definitely a big issue. Again, I'm not going to sit here and say 'we could have done that' or 'should have done that,' but it's just like in the middle of a game for me. If something happened that's not good – first of all, you know bad things are going to happen. No one plays a perfect game. It never goes exactly the way you want. So when something bad happens, my personality has always been I'm going to focus on 'where are we now and what do we got to do to win?' I've stated that before. It's severed me and Georgia and Florida State pretty well over the years. Not to worry so much about who am I going to blame for this or blame for that, just where are we and how can we win from this point forward. It's really the same philosophy as the season goes on. I do want to try and correct anything we can correct, but if you try to do too much, then you may have an avalanche and you don't want that. You want to continue to believe that success is not that far away, and we're not too far off. We've just got to keep knocking at it until it breaks free and the good things happen.

 

On the sentiment that he's too nice of a guy and if he feels people misread his leadership…

"I don't know. I'm not reading that because I'm not reading anything, but I guess if you are saying that's what is out there. Coach (Bobby) Bowden made that comment way back when I got the job. Let's face it - we've had the best winning percentage in the history of Georgia football. We've done pretty well. This year we have not. We are averaging 10 wins a year, we won the SEC twice and we hadn't won one in 20 years. It's not like just been floundering around. This year we have been, let's face it, and I don't like it. People that know me well or the team or the coaches, they know that I've got another edge to me that I don't show publically all the time. Maybe that's what the public wants to see, but if you are going to be accused of something, being accused of being a nice guy is not one of the worse things to be accused of."

 

#14 Joe Cox

On the discussion of changing quarterbacks…

"I know that there are things that I've done that I should be doing better, and if there was a change that needed to be made I understood why. It was just one of those things where it was out of my hands and it was up to them whether or not they wanted to make a change and they ended up not making that change."

 

On Coach Richt announcing that Joe will still be the starting quarterback…

"It meant a lot, but at the same time I still had in the back of my mind that they were still considering making a change. That's a reality check. You really have to look at yourself and how you've been performing and see what you can do to make it better the next time. I was glad he told me what he told me and now it's just a matter of working even harder."

 

On the stands possibly not being full on Saturday…

"We are not worried about who's in the stands or how many people are watching or what TV station we are on, or if we are even on one. We just want to finish up these last four games as strong as we can, and it starts Saturday whether there's 10 people in the stands or 90,000 in the stands."

 

On the offense without A.J. Green this week…

"I think this is somebody's opportunity to step up. One guy's name you'll probably hear a lot of is (Rantavious) Wooten. It seems like every week this year he has gotten better and better. You can see it in practice with the plays he makes, and I think he is ready to step up and be a guy that can make plays. I think he is going to be one of the guys that fill in for A.J. this week. We are definitely going to miss A.J. You are always going to miss a guy like that when he can't play, but this is somebody else's opportunity to step up and show what they can do."

 

#81 Aron White

On being ready for the game against Tennessee Tech…

"We are not going to have any problem getting up to play this game. We definitely have a lot to prove. We haven't played as well as we hoped throughout the season so far, and we are not going to let this season go by the waste side. We owe it to our coaches who have been there putting in all this work. We owe it to all the guys who put in work on the off season getting better, killing our bodies, going to class, going to workouts and then watching film. We really push our bodies to the limit week in and week out, off-season or not. We didn't do all that just to look forward to next season and next year, so we are definitely going to be up for this game."

 

On people criticizing the team…

"I have read some stuff. I don't read too much into it, maybe just the Red & Black and a couple things like that. But anytime you have an outside opinion, that's all it is - an outside opinion. I know the playmakers that we have in this program, I know the work that we've put in during the off-season and I know the type of team that we have. A 4-4 (record) is not reflective of what we've done in the off-season, and we definitely are a better team in my opinion. We just kind of dropped the ball and let ourselves down. I feel like we are taking it upon ourselves personally to come back this game and the game after and then the remaining two games after that and prove to people that we are still Georgia and that we will fight to the end and win games."

 

#38 Marcus Dowtin

His feelings on Coach Richt being called "too nice"…

"Coach Richt is a great coach. When it's time for him to get stern with us he does, and when it's time to play around he does. When he is serious everybody knows it. He doesn't have to raise his voice for everybody to know that he's serious. He is definitely capable of handling anything that you throw at him, especially a season like this. So there is no doubt in Coach Richt. We know that he is a great coach and that is behind us 100-percent, and we are behind him. So it's not the case that he is too soft of a person, that's definitely not it."

 

#35 Rennie Curran

On Akeem Dent's return…

"He makes plays when he has to, and he is a real accountable guy. He is an impressive athlete, and it has been disappointing that he has had to miss so much time because we all worked together the entire summer and been in the film room together just trying to get as good as we can. It is real sad when you see your teammate who wants to contribute and who has worked so hard and he is not able to play. I still believe in what he can do and that he can make a substantial contribution toward the end of the season. I am excited to see what he is going to do. On Saturday, he did pretty well from what I've seen. He is the kind of guy that we can count on that is not going to make mistakes."

 

On Joe Cox remaining the starting quarterback and Coach Richt believing in him…

"It's huge. This season has really tested our character, and it's great to know that you have coaches that believe in you even if you make mistakes. They try to encourage you in different ways and stay on top of you and sometimes it's not what you want to hear but you know that they only want the best for you and they want you to succeed and that is what you need in times like this. All we can look at are the things that we have done wrong, try to improve on those things and finish up these games strong because nobody is feeling sorry for themselves or pointing fingers. This is a test to our character, and it's really helped us to become stronger. We are going to continue to fight and looking to the next opportunity to get on the field and show that we have learned from our mistakes."

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