Following is a transcription of comments from Georgia coach Mark Richt and various players from Tuesday’s media luncheon at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall. The Bulldogs (7-2, 5-1 SEC) play host to Auburn (6-3, 4-2) on Saturday . . .
Head Coach Mark Richt
Opening Statement . . .
“We all know Auburn is the defending national champions. They have impressed me quite a bit, especially how they have fought to win a couple of fourth quarter battles, some very close games that they have prevailed in. Even game one, I remember watching a little bit of that on TV as we were getting prepared to play Boise State. It looked like Utah State had won the game and went up 10 with just a couple of minutes to go. Auburn scored, got the onside kick, and scored again. You can’t do that unless you have a special team, and you can’t do that unless you really prepare for those types of moments. That’s great coaching.
“Coach (Gene) Chizik has done a wonderful job at Auburn. They play hard, they are fundamentally sound, they have great special teams. I know they’ll be well-rested and have a great plan coming off of an open date. It’s going to be a heck of challenge for us. We are looking forward to it. We are hoping to have a great practice today. Today is huge for us.”
On Georgia’s run defense . . .
“I think our run defense is better for a lot of reasons. Number one, we are big. We are big up front. A year ago our nose guard was DeAngelo Tyson. Tyson is a pretty big man, but compared to what Kwame (Geathers) is and what Jonathan Jenkins is, it’s just a little bit different. Now at the end position, to be able to take DeAngelo and move him out along with Abry Jones, they are pretty big, stout guys up front. They’ve taken a lot of pressure off of some young linebackers and inexperienced linebackers throughout the year. If you can get those guys eating up a couple of blockers, all of a sudden your linebackers starting doing extremely well. I think we’ve also grown at the linebacker position. Mike Gilliard has been outstanding. The guy gets his opportunity and does well. You hate to play a freshman, but Amarlo (Herrera) has gone in there and done very well also. Getting (Alec Ogletree) has been big. The other thing is the support from the safeties has been big. I just think we understand what we’re doing better. I think Coach (Todd) Grantham, being in his second year, it’s been very, very good.”
Most striking difference from last year . . .
“Our third down conversions might be the most striking difference from a year ago statistically. We weren’t very good at getting people off the field, and now we are. That’s really another reason why you don’t see as many rushing yards because we are getting them off the field, and when you do that they aren’t scoring. I think offensively we’ve scored enough early enough to get people a little bit concerned about staying with the game plan. If their plan going in was to run the rock, once you get behind a little bit it’s harder to do that. You feel like you are less patient. I think you have to score points offensively too to get people to feel like they have to throw the ball more than they would like to. All those things together I think have been a big reason.”
On whether Georgia will rotate players at kicker again this week . . .
“I’m not going to divulge that right now because I’m not 100 percent sure. I will say I thought it went well. I’m glad we scored touchdowns and all we kicked was extra points, but it would have been a little more interesting to me to see guys attempt field goals under that rotation. We’re going to go through practice too and see how everybody does throughout the week. It’s a highly competitive situation, and I think that’s healthy. I think it’s good for them.”
On facing Auburn’s offensive tempo . . .
“I think we’re in good condition. I think we’ve benefitted from very mild weather. Most of our games have been where it hasn’t been extremely hot, and I think that’s helped us. We’re in the time of the year where it’s very cool. You have TV timeouts happening all the time. It’s almost hard to get tired out there. When a team like that starts running their offense and they don’t substitute, which means we can’t substitute and they get a couple of first downs back to back, you are going to get some people tired, especially the big interior defensive linemen. That’s been part of our strategy too. If you run off about four, five or six plays in a row without changing personnel and without having to punt somewhere along the way, you’ll get some guys a little bit tired.”
On how Aaron Murray has played in big games . . .
“I think Murray has progressed extremely well. I think he is a very good quarterback and I think he’s a great leader. The quarterback is not the only guy out there playing. Everybody is playing. Everybody has to make plays. I’m glad we’ve got him. I think he’s one of the best quarterbacks in our league, if not the best. We’re real pleased with Aaron.”
On Georgia’s youth and how they have matured . . .
“Going into the season I wasn’t thinking in my mind that we were going to be that young of a team, but as it turned out some young players kind of rose up and started making plays for us. They got a little bit more playing time either through their production during camp or through injuries, whatever it might be. I think right now we have three seniors up front on offense, our fullback Bruce Figgins is in the starting lineup, and on defense DeAngelo (Tyson) and (Brandon) Boykin is all we have as far as seniors. Of course our kicker and punter are seniors. We are a relatively young team.
“What happens is when you get into camp and you start practicing and you spend time with your team day after day after day, you just get a good feel for them. By the time we got to game one I knew we had a really good team. I knew we had good unity. I thought the leadership was good. I thought we had just a very positive camp. We had guys who were playing hard. I think guys were totally bought into what our coaches were trying to teach. All those things I felt like we already had. The truth of the matter is when you lose the first two games it basically reveals if you have a close-knit team or not. It’s rare that you’ll have a team that’s not unified, lose two and then all of a sudden you get unified. I don’t think that happens. When you hit adversity, you find out what you’ve already developed and find out what you already have. I just felt like we had a good bunch all along. I’m glad there are a lot of young guys making plays. I think we’re doing a better job of playing more guys period and relying on different people than just everybody feeling like I can’t make a substitution here or this backup is going to not be ready. I think injury has forced us to do that in some cases, and not having an A.J. Green where everybody has to do their part, I think it’s been healthy for the morale of the team, too.”
On the team’s chemistry after an 0-2 start . . .
“Basically, you try to build team. You try to build togetherness. You try to build family. You try to build trust. That’s how you handle adversity when you have trust, when you have unity and when you have guys that believe. But you never for sure until it hits you in the mouth how you are going to react. I wasn’t shocked that they guys reacted in a real positive way. Again, if you back up to game one we just weren’t as ready for that game as they were. That’s just the way I see it, and they are a very good football team. Game two was our first SEC game, so we still knew we had a shot to win our league which is the only thing we can control. When the game was over I don’t think anybody left there thinking ‘my gosh, we’ve got no chance in this league, we can’t do it.’ We left there feeling like if we would be more disciplined and take care of the ball better and not allow certain big plays from happening we had a very good chance to win that game. We felt like as the season progressed we didn’t feel like there wasn’t any team on our schedule that we couldn’t beat I guess is the best way to say it. There wasn’t a whole lot of ‘woe is me’ in the there, it was more of ‘if we get our act together we together we can be really good.’”
On how Richt has personally handled criticism this year…
“I know you never know what tomorrow is going to bring, so it’s not like we’ve arrived or anything like that. But we have played well lately and we’ve won lately so that’s a big deal. Quite frankly, I love the game of football. I love my job. I love Georgia. But what I do is not who I am. I’ve said that before. I think sometimes if we become what we do, and then things aren’t going just right, then all of a sudden our entire world falls apart. I’ve got a faith in my Lord and savior Jesus Christ, and I know that God loves me and is going to take care of me. I just truly believe that. When all the games are done and all the life is lived, I know where I’ll be for eternity. Not to say I don’t care about what happens in this world because that’s not true. Colossians 3:23 says ‘whatever you do, do your work heartily as unto the Lord,’ so that’s what I was doing on a daily basis. I was doing my job as best I could and trying to do it for his glory and try not to worry about anything else. That’s kind of how I navigated that time and there will be more tough times I’m sure. That’s the way life is.”
On if he felt any relief when Arkansas beat South Carolina…
“No. Not at all because now the fact that we are in control of our own destiny really all this is on us. Before we really didn’t have control, and we could only control trying to keep pace. Now that we have control of our destiny I would say that’s even more of a reason to heighten your work ethic and prepare maybe even a little harder.”
On Cordy Glenn’s move from left guard to left tackle for this season…
“It is different. Cordy is a big strong, guy, and he is very athletic. When you play guard it is a smaller space. You’re not dealing in pass protection with quite as much. People talk about a guy being on an island and being on the back side of your quarterback that is a very important responsibility. You’re dealing with a lot more speed as far as the rushers are concerned. I think Cordy has improved every week. I think he’s very comfortable there now. I think his future is very bright. I think he could play tackle or guard in the NFL. I think he made a wise decision to come back and play another year and prove he could be athletic enough to play on the edge too in the best league in college football. Cordy is a man of very few words, but I’ve had a couple times with one moment being after the Florida game that I think he was very happy he decided to come back. Maybe for just that moment alone might have made it worth it for him, but I think he’s also really improved his stock in my opinion.”
On if Isaiah Crowell will start at tailback vs. Auburn…
“Isaiah is the starter right now. I can’t imagine him not being that. We’re expecting big things from him this week. I think he will do very well in practice, and I think he will be focused and ready to go. I don’t think there’s any question he’s learned some things through this and there’s no doubt he will be better and stronger for it I think. “
On any concerns with Isaiah’s maturity…
“I think it’s hard to be a true freshman in major college football. This first semester there is so many things being asked of them. You’ve got all the academic responsibilities – of course, going to class, but also we have tutoring sessions, we have academic mentors, study hall. There’s just a lot of academic support involved in that freshman year. We do micromanage our freshmen. We want them to get off to a good start academically, so because of that there is an awful lot of time and things he has to be held accountable to – and I’m talking about all freshmen. Then you’ve got football. You’re competing at a level that you’ve never competed at before. You’re learning things that you’ve never learned before. You’re being pushed by your coaches. You’re being pushed to your limits because now there’s a lot of great athletes out on the field compared to maybe what it was like in high school. There’s a lot – first time away from home – the list goes on. There’s just not enough time in the day for everything. For all these freshmen, I don’t think I’ve ever had a freshman navigate it without hitting a wall somewhere along the way or just shake his head and say ‘what the heck happened?’ I think all these kids are going through some tough times. I’ve got a lot of faith in Isaiah, and I think Isaiah is going to do real well for Georgia.”
On the BCS championships possibly being an LSU-Alabama rematch and having played Boise State if he thinks the system is fair…
“The system hasn’t played out. It’s just a bunch of people talking about it with what might happen and all that kind of thing. I think Boise State can line up against anybody in America and have a realistic shot of winning. I do think that.”
On WR Chris Conley . . .
“Chris is doing great. He works so hard. He’s very diligent in the meeting room, on the practice field and he stays after practice works on things. I remember just all summer long my office looks out into this green room and if I was in there for whatever reason – grabbing something out of the fridge or whatever – there would be Chris out there trying to get Christian LeMay to through the ball to him or something or trying to find a way to get better. You’d see him over the office getting in the film room or whatever it was. I wasn’t that surprised that he would make a contribution. I didn’t necessarily expect it this year. We weren’t even really sure we were going to play him right away. It took a couple games in until we decided let’s play the kid. Part of the reason why he did play was because he paid attention, he was diligent, he knew what to do and we thought he could line up and not get us beat. Beyond that he started making plays, and he’s really gained a lot of confidence and we’ve gained more confidence in him. As far as freshmen go, Malcolm Mitchell of course made a pretty big splash early on, but Chris Conley has also made a difference for us in some big games so we are proud of him.”
On when the decision was made to not redshirt Chris Conley…
“I don’t even remember when that moment of truth was when we said let’s play him. Whenever that first game he played – was it Ole Miss? – it was that time we said let’s play the guy. It didn’t look like (Rantavious) Wooten was going to play or maybe Wooten had just got hurt. I don’t know what happened, but we had an injury here and an injury there. I think Marlon (Brown) working on an ankle, and we said we had to play somebody and let’s play him.”
GEORGIA PLAYER QUOTES
DE Abry Jones:
LB Mike Gilliard:
QB Aaron Murray
TE Aron White