ATHENS — Georgia coach Mark Richt, under fire since the Bulldogs’ loss on Saturday, found himself on the defensive again during Wednesday’s SEC coaches’ teleconference. By the time he met with beat reporters at the end of Wednesday’s practice, he had resorted to sarcasm.
“I can only guess what I’ll be asked today,” he said with a smile.
When he got a somewhat loaded question, Richt decided to have some fun with it.
The question: “After the game on Saturday, was your response more encouragement and trying to be positive or have you reached a point where you’ve thrown chairs and really tried to light a fire?”
His answer: “Everybody want me to snap? Is that what they want? You all want to see me snap, is that what it is? Yeah? Well, we don’t discuss what happens in the locker room. But if you guys want me to throw a table or something I’ll do that, maybe smash a camera, if that makes everybody feel better.”
Reporters laughed and Richt did, too. But he has encountered a similar line of questioning for much of the last four days. In fact, six questions during Wednesday’s teleconference had something to do with his coaching status or the mood of his team or the fanbase.
“We’re just coaching ball, OK?,” Richt said. “You guys want to make things bigger than they are. The bottom line is like anything in life, you’ve got to control what you can and that is my attitude and my effort and our team’s attitude and effort. That’s true every season. . . . Everybody’s locked in, everybody’s working hard and everybody’s confident we’re going to have a good ballgame.”
Offensive line issues continue
Richt pointed to third-down pass protection as the Bulldogs’ biggest breakdown after last Saturday’s 35-21 loss to No. 4 Boise State in the Georgia Dome. Four days later, he was seeing the same problems on Woodruff Practice Fields.
“Some things just got in my craw,” Richt said after the Bulldogs practiced in full pads for a rare second day in a row in a game week. “Third-down pass protection was just not very good today. You’ve got to win the possession downs, third-and-short, third-and-medium, third-and-long. You usually pass more than you run and we just didn’t protect very good, not good enough to beat anybody.
“Our boys better get it going or Murray is going to be on his back. That’s what made me the most mad.”
Sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray was sacked six times and pressured another 10 times against the Broncos.
Enter South Carolina, which is believed to have one of the best defensive fronts in the SEC. The Gamecocks are particularly strong at defensive end, where junior Devin Taylor (6-7, 248) is a first-team All-SEC and Jadeveon Clowney (6-6, 250) was the No. 1 freshman signee in America.
The key for Georgia, senior center Ben Jones said, is being better on first and second down.
“That’s what happens when you get in third-and-long,” Jones said. “If we had been in third-and-short they couldn’t have brought those blitzes because they would have known we might run the ball. So that’s what we’re focusing on, getting into third-and-mediums and third-and-short so they have to guess run or pass.”
Kwame Geathers still sidelined
Starting nose guard Kwame Geathers was unable to practice with the No. 1 defense for a third consecutive day. The 6-foot-6, 350-pound sophomore from Georgetown, S.C., suffered a neck sprain (aka, “stinger”) in the opener. Nonetheless, Richt believes Geathers will be ready to play on Saturday.
“Kwame is from South Carolina and he wants to play in this ballgame,” Richt said. “I don’t think you could keep him out of this one. We’re just trying to be wise. We don’t want to light him up again and set him back.”
The good news is junior college transfer John Jenkins has been getting almost all the repetitions in practice with the first team. And he needs them.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said this week he believes that Jenkins and Geathers together can help Georgia defend the zone-read dive play up the middle the Gamecocks ran with such effectiveness last year. Tailback Marcus Lattimore had 182 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns on 37 carries in South Carolina’s 17-6 win in Columbia.
Etc. . . .
Richt said the Bulldogs will make a decision on the starting Mo linebacker on Thursday. “We will after we watch the film and discuss what happened today,” Richt said. Georgia is having to replace starter Alec Ogletree, who suffered a broken foot last week. . . . Wide receiver Marlon Brown practiced but was did not participate in contact. His left ankle was heavily wrapped. . . . Georgia practiced on the artificial turf fields Wednesday afternoon in hopes of it being lightly warmer than on the grass fields.