Q&A: Mark Richt expects position changes, intense competition in spring

Q&A WITH GEORGIA COACH MARK RICHT

Georgia coach Mark Richt answered reporters’ questions for a half-hour on Thursday afternoon. The Bulldogs are in the midst of their off-season conditioning program and preparing for the start of spring practice on March 19. Following is raw transcription covering most of what was discussed . . .

Q: There has been talk of rising sophomore Ray Drew moving from outside linebacker to defensive end in the spring. Is that true, and are there some other position changes afoot?

A: The thing about our defense is it’s very versatile. A guy who at one time might be standing up as a linebacker, the next play he’s got his hand on the ground rushing the passer. So the flexibility has been there since Todd came. The bottom line is we’re going to play everybody in any given game or in any given personnel grouping depending on what we’re trying to defend. The versatility of our defense allows that.

“People have also been talking about Malcolm Mitchell. Could he end up playing both ways? Quite frankly, we’re going to experiment with that a little bit. We’re going to see how much he can handle learning some cornerback. So that’s something. People have been talking about Richard Samuel, could he end up playing some fullback reps? There’s a chance of that, too. Again, we have got to make sure we take the entire talent base of our football team and get the best players out there in whatever situations we need them in. If that means a guy playing both ways or two positions on defense or , if that means we have to put the entire starting lineup on offense and defense playing special teams, I don’t care what it is, we have to do whatever we have to do to get the best players on the field. We’ve got to take advantage of everybody’s abilities.”

Q: What are the kicking and punting competitions going to look like in the spring?

A: “First of all, I doubt either of those jobs get finalized before we get to the fall. We’ve got guys that we signed we think have the ability to win those jobs in Marshall Morgan and Collin Barber. Those guys were signed for a reason. We also have Jamie Lindley who has been a kicker but can also punt and has been working on his punting. Adam Erickson is here working. Those guys are the top candidates who will be pushing them. Other guys will get an opportunity as well.”

Q: How do you feel about your secondary with the dismissals of defensive backs Nick Marshall and Chris Sanders and the two-game suspension of Sanders Commings?

A: Well, it’s a lot thinner for sure, right this minute. It affects special teams play as well. Our cornerback position took a hit and our special teams took a hit. Do we have enough of a talent base on this team to still play at the level we expect to play? I still believe we do. We may have to stretch guys a little bit here and there from a learning standpoint and from getting more reps. But most every great player who’s not a quarterback or certain other positions such as offensive line or extra piont in field goal, most of the other guys are going to play some special teams at one time or another. So we’ve got to get all hands on deck. We’re going to make sure everybody understands how crucial they are and how special teams are just as important as playing first down on defense or offense.”

Q: Speaking of Commings, you went ahead and handed him a two-game suspension despite the fact he has yet to appear in court on the domestic violence charges. How did you arrive at that decision and why did you go ahead and make it?

A: “We don’t like anything like that. We’re not going to have that kind of behavior. We don’t condone it. There are always circumstances that some people know or don’t know. I wasn’t there so, certainly, I don’t know exactly for sure what happened. But I got enough information to feel comfortable that he didn’t behave as well as he should and he’s going to have to  face the consequences for that. Of course, playing time seems to be what everybody cares about the most. . . . But there’s a greater price that’s being paid than just that. As always, there’s an educational piece to this thing. And when things are done properly with regard to the discipline and the education, we keep loving these guys, too. So, right now he’s living through the consequences of his actions and that’s just the way it happens here at Georgia.”

Q: As for the three players you dismissed, are you leaving the door open for them to possibly return to Georgia?

A: “All I can tell you right now is I want these guys, wherever they’ve landed, to do great where they’re at and still be able to chase their dream of playing major college football and getting a degree and playing pro ball or whatever their goals may be. That’s what I hope for any of our guys if they ever end up being dismissed from our football team. As far as [coming back], I’m not going to sit here and say 100 percent yes or 100 percent no. Right now they’re on this journey in which they’ve got to take care of business. So maybe later on we can talk about the possibility of that. But I’m not really in a position to say.”

Q: How do you feel as far as an eight or nine-game SEC schedule and do you favor the 6-and-2 or 6-1-1 models as far as the 2012 slate goes?

A: “Just speaking for myself, I know our league is a very difficult league. Eight league games are plenty to me to prove you’re a good football team. And when you always play Georgia Tech to go along with that, that’s another one you’ve got to deal with that takes everything you’ve got. So if you go to nine league games and you continue to have Georgia Tech on there, which I’m sure we will; then, on top of that, if you win your division you have to play in the SEC Championship Game; and then if there ever is a day when they play a plus-one, then you have to win that game and play another game; for me, personally, I think eight is enough to prove that you’re a good football team and you deserve to move on.

“As for the format, I know our rival game with Auburn is very important to us. It’d be kind of hard to not have that game, in my opinion, for a lot of reasons. It’s just like people thinking about Texas and Texas A&M not playing. It’s just sad when you lose rival games. So I don’t know anybody who’d be excited about losing one of those rival games.”

Q: Any concerns about your new contract not being complete at this point?

A: “It’s going to happen in due time. I don’t have any anxiety at all. There’s some different language in there. When you re-write a contract there’s just things that everybody’s got to feel comfortable with. So we’re just ironing out all those little things. It’s more just crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s type of stuff. Greg and I have been together on our discussions and everything’s going extremely well. I don’t have any issues at all.

“Sometimes there’s people going to China or going wherever. Everybody’s life is busy. We didn’t really get going much, to be honest with you, until after signing day. So it wasn’t like this has been worked on since December or something like that.”

Q: Will it be strange for you playing Auburn with Brian VanGorder and Willie Martinez now on its coaching staff?

A: “My gosh, I don’t know if it could get much more emotional for our team or our coaching staffs. Every time we play those guys it’s huge to us. We’re always hoping whenever we play that game it’s very meaningful for both teams as far as division championships and that kind of thing. When you know guys real well and you know them and you love them, it probably adds something to it on a personal level.

“When I first got to Georgia and we played Florida State in a bowl game, you get that different sensation as you prepare. But as soon as you get competing, you just want to win the game just like any other game. You just want to win it. The thing about that bowl game was Coach [Bobby] Bowden was a lot more to me than just my boss. Y’all know about our relationship. It was a whole month or whatever it was to prepare. This, of course, will be a normal cycle of being in a grind and preparing. I don’t know if there will be much time to reflect on all that other stuff.”

Q: What’s it mean to have so much of your defensive talent returning for 2012?

A: “Having a majority of our starters coming back and a majority of our defensive players coming back is a big deal. A lot of them are going to be seniors and leaders and there are a lot of guys that have been proven play-makers. So that’s a very good thing for us. First of all, we don’t want to rest on any accomplishments of the past. But I don’t think our coaches will allow it and I don’t think our leaders will allow that.

“The one thing they all want to do a better job of is finish. We could’ve finished better in our last two ballgames as a team, not just defensively. Our defense knows, at the moment of truth, when we’ve got to get a stop, we’ve got to get a stop. Same thing offensively; when we’ve got to score, we’ve got to score. Defensive statistics are good and all that kind of thing, but the bottom line is we all know, whether it’s offense or defense or special teams, some time in the course of a game, somebody’s got to rise up and make a play. So I think everybody feels the need to be ready to rise to the occasion.”

Q: We never got to ask you about the signing day drama surrounding Josh Harvey-Clemons and the letter-of-intent delay. How stressful was that?

A: “The one thing we knew talking to Josh was, in his heart, he wanted to be a Bulldog. There was no doubt about that. Even though it got delayed there a little bit, he never wavered in his thought process. So that was the thing we were talking to him about. The next morning everything got settled and it was fine. But I’m a big fan of Josh and his entire family. I’m a big Woodrow Clemons fan as well.”

Q: Any truth to reports y’all are considering playing Harvey-Clemons at safety?

A: “I don’t think that. We see him more as a linebacker who we hope can stay in the game in the base looks and the nickel looks. Sometimes you’ll put a nickel corner at the Sam linebacker position or you’ll put a safety into that position in certain situations. If you’ve got a guy with his kind of ability, you may not have to take him off the field. That’s where we want to allow him to grow. He’s also got some offensive skills [as a wide receiver] and he may be just the right guy to throw the ball to in the red zone. So whether he can handle all that as a true freshman, I don’t know. But before his career is over we’ll definitely give him an opportunity to do some things offensively as well.”

Q: How are early enrollees Faton Bauta, Mark Beard and Keith Marshall adjusting to college life?

A: “We just got through going over academics and we covered every player as we always do, every player, every class every grade. Talking about the young guys, one of my questions was just to see what kind of attitude and effort and work ethic they’re bringing to the academic realm and our academic people were really pleased with all three of the new guys. They’re just coming in and being about their business and doing really well. With their ability and their work ethic academically, those three guys are going to do very well.”

Q: It appears offensive line is the biggest area of concern heading into spring practice. What’s your assessment?

A: “When you’re replacing three starters you’re always going to have question marks. The question is do you have the talent base on the team to get the job done. And you know what, I’m really encouraged. I’m not going to say we’re going to line up and whip tail on every single down because that’s tough to do in our league. But I’m encouraged because I see these guys work hard, I see them fighting through the off-season conditioning stuff that we’re doing. I see some athleticism. I see some guys who I think can learn and not have assignment busts and things like that.

“If you can get a group of linemen that have got a little toughness about them, have a little athleticism and know what they’re doing and are coordinated and don’t make a lot of mistakes, they’ll do all right. You hear people say get your hat on the guy. If you’re right on you’re assignment and you fight, you’ve got a chance to move the ball. You’ve got a chance to create space in the running game and have time to throw it. So think we’ve got that. We’re trying to determined how many guys will be game ready by the time we get going. There may be as many as eight or nine, in my mind. If they keep progressing, they can line up and play SEC football. That counts the guys we signed as well.”

Q: You were going to reassess special teams play in the offseason. Any plays to the change the coaching set up as far as the division of responsibilities?

A: “We’re not changing who’s doing what. We’re just making sure we’re real comfortable with what we’re doing and we’re comfortable with the personnel we put on these teams and so that we take the time that it takes to be good at it.”

Q: Is it true you’re considering the addition of a “speed specialist” for your strength and conditioning staff?

A: “I think it’s good to have a lot of versatility within your strength team, because it’s more than just getting strong. It’s conditioning. It’s flexibility. It’s speed and quickness. It’s the entirety of your off-season program. What are the things you want to get accomplished? You definitely want to get stronger; you want to get more flexible; you want to get faster; you want to have great agility; and you want to have stamina. And so, you want to have that kind of diversity on your staff.

“And if you work the muscle well and don’t feed it you have problems. That’s why we made the move with Jenn Ketterly last year in nutrition. We think we have really improved that part of the equation. The other part is trying to find time for these guys to get rest and part of that responsibility is theirs, to get to bed. The other part is to manage their day the best that we possibility can with all the academic and athletic and traning room and community service responsibilities. Whatever these guys do, we’ve got to help them manage their days and rest time.”

172 comments Add your comment

chiefdawg

February 23rd, 2012
5:57 pm

trupert

February 23rd, 2012
6:04 pm

Good luck in the off season. Work hard and no injuries. Can’t wait till the G-day game. Go Dawgs!!!

Columbus

February 23rd, 2012
6:06 pm

Score Check

February 23rd, 2012
6:08 pm

I’m so glad Mark Richt is our head football coach.

BTW: Coach Sick Satan = SCUM

trueUGAfan

February 23rd, 2012
6:11 pm

GTBob

February 23rd, 2012
6:14 pm

Why are they adding a speed specialist? Do the players not come with SEC speed out of the box?

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

February 23rd, 2012
6:19 pm

thanks for the interview Chip!! Kicking game is a HUGE question mark this year as well as O-line. I think Malcom & JHC will be beasts on both sides of the ball.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

February 23rd, 2012
6:21 pm

still not sure about Faton Bauta?? what is going to be his role?? special plays at QB or a possible FB??

Finebaum

February 23rd, 2012
6:27 pm

Keep drinking the kool aid fellow dawg fans. We will never win a national champinship with him here. Should have cut him lose and gotten Kirby. Watch again how many players leave the state to go elsewhere mainly Alabama. Kirby and Saban is kicking Richt’s butt in the state.It’s a sinking ship in Athens.

Worm

February 23rd, 2012
6:33 pm

Samuel at FB will be huge..Best blocker we have plus speed to take it to the house up the gut!

Frank Lane

February 23rd, 2012
6:54 pm

I am feeling good.

Beast from the East

February 23rd, 2012
7:01 pm

“The one thing we knew talking to Josh was, in his heart, he wanted to be a Bulldog. There was no doubt about that. Even though it got delayed there a little bit, he never wavered in his thought process. So that was the thing we were talking to him about. The next morning everything got settled and it was fine. But I’m a big fan of Josh and his entire family. I’m a big Woodrow Clemons fan as well.”

Not so sure about this statement. He committed to UF the weekend before NSD. Here’s a quote from the Gainesville Sun’s Zach Alboverdi:
“Harvey-Clemons and his family drove to Gainesville the weekend before National Signing Day and committed to UF. I was told that by numerous sources and it’s now been reported by multiple media outlets. What am I supposed to predict with information like that? He was all set to sign with the Gators and caught everyone off guard when he switched to Georgia. His family members were stunned and his grandfather refused to sign his letter of intent.”

LakeDawg

February 23rd, 2012
7:04 pm

Saban really does suck.

Red Stick

February 23rd, 2012
7:06 pm

Score Check

February 23rd, 2012
6:08 pm

“….BTW: Coach Sick Satan = SCUM”

A classless post and obviously someone who is jealous of a championship coach.

Geaux Tigers
2011 SEC Champions

Dawg_Mike

February 23rd, 2012
7:09 pm

I am not in favor of Malcom Mitchell playing on defense.

Bud

February 23rd, 2012
7:09 pm

I think our O-line is going to be much improved in 2012.

Mountain Dawg

February 23rd, 2012
7:22 pm

No mention of how Crowell is doing and the possibility of an attitude adjustment.

Coach Johnson

February 23rd, 2012
7:24 pm

Im with GT Boob, what is that “speed coaching thing”?

Coach Johnson

February 23rd, 2012
7:26 pm

Still checking legality of that foward pass thing.

A Father

February 23rd, 2012
7:28 pm

CT, you have a great title and then the article misses the main two main questions..

1. Is there going to be a legitimate QB competition for the starting position, if not why?

2. Will you ever play a second quarterback during games and if not why?

P-Man

February 23rd, 2012
7:29 pm

Good interview. Thanks for the update, and Go Dawgs!

Birdhair

February 23rd, 2012
7:50 pm

Should’ve asked me about renewing my tanning contract, shades, red ford truck, my headset, my mic, church, collection plate, going to nicaragua, building huts.

WDE

February 23rd, 2012
7:54 pm

@GTBob yes Bobbi boy they do come with SEC speed out of the box…we just have to keep getting better to deal with all the other players with SEC speed we will compete against…you ACC boys just won’t understand.

Rama-lama-ding-Dawg

February 23rd, 2012
7:55 pm

Worm:

UGA fullbacks had one (1) carry in 2011.

If Samuel plays FB, he’ll never touch the ball.

WDE

February 23rd, 2012
7:56 pm

@Finebaum fellow dawg fans??? ….that will be the day….troll boy.

WDE

February 23rd, 2012
7:57 pm

@Rama-lama-ding-Dawg thanks and while your predicting the future try picking 6 good numbers.

DRO

February 23rd, 2012
7:57 pm

A Father, the answer is because A Murray is the BEST QB in the SEC and one of the BEST in the nation. Ask analysts and coaches alike, they will tell you the same. Those of you who think otherwise can’t see the forest for the trees. Give A Murray an offensive line and a consistent running game he would be all world. Unfortunately, he never has had a good offensive line or a consistent running game. Watch out when he does.

ole dawg

February 23rd, 2012
8:02 pm

A Father…. dumb questions.

Finebaum…. dumb comment. For your information I had a conversation with one of the most successsful coaches in the history of the state of Georgia this week that contradicts your little comment. He is a fan of Saban’s coaching abilities however, he has spent a good bit of time talking with Coach Grantham and he stated that he honestly believed Grantham was Saban’s equal. He also gave Coach Richt extremely high marks for upgrading his staff and conducting his recruiting with great character. He likes Saban but he believes his recruiting methods in Georgia will catch up to him. I respect his opinion more than most of the stuff I read on here.

CHDawg

February 23rd, 2012
8:04 pm

Very nice interview Chip and CMR! For Doc, Bauta really did look like Tebow on the field with HS players. He throws with a really nice touch, btw. If he puts some meat on, he might be good to bring in on the short yardage situations like Oklahoma did last year, and the Gators did with Tebow in his freshman year. I really like moving Samuel to FB. Richard could play TB, but most of the TBs couldn’t play FB. He can, and he would enable us to get a lot more talent in the backfield. Also, I think his time at LB would make him a good blocker of LBs. I think it would be his best shot at the NFL. He is certainly big enough. The OL is the biggest unknown, but honestly I think our schedule and defense should give us time to get something going. I wish we had an all American line, though, because I think we would win it all or come real close with an outstanding OL next year. I hope the coaches will really think hard about designing plays that take pressure off of the OL and perfect them in the Spring and Summer–screens, rollouts, trick plays, etc. The rest of the O and D will be top notch. Go Dawgs!

georgedawg

February 23rd, 2012
8:07 pm

Coach Stallings a great and famous high schoool football and wrestling always said sports is 90% quickness. Thjat’s why!

6-18 Against Ranked Teams Since '05

February 23rd, 2012
8:12 pm

this new CMR contract will doom the Dawgs to continued mediocrity for the next decade….

the sad thing is, there seems to be plenty of “loyal” UGA fans and alumni who seem to be happy about this ……(big sigh!!!)

UGAKev

February 23rd, 2012
8:21 pm

But there’s a greater price that’s being paid than just that. As always, there’s an educational piece to this thing.

Amen Coach, I hate losing as much as anyone. I want to win National Championships. But, at the end of the day I want to be proud of my school for more than just Championships. I want these kids to get their education and become better people. I want a coach of great integrity. Never having to worry about when my coach is leaving and if were going to be on probation. I’ m proud of the fact that I can say I love the University of Georgia and there not be a national title since 1980. No one can ever accuse me of being a bandwagon fan. It’s going to make it that much sweeter knowing when the natonal titles do come, and they will, that I was always there loving my Dawgs no matter what happened. It’s not easy being a dawg fan, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. GO DAWGS!!

cmdawg99

February 23rd, 2012
8:29 pm

Why don’t we beef up the offensive side of the ball and learn how to sustain a 5,6 0r 7 minute drive. Then the defense will take care of it self.

cmdawg99

February 23rd, 2012
8:33 pm

More interested in seeing what changes are on the offensive side of the ball. Our top reciever to Defense????

cmdawg99

February 23rd, 2012
8:34 pm

Someone please help me out with this one!

P-Cola Dog

February 23rd, 2012
8:39 pm

beast, that really has to sting!

pmdawg

February 23rd, 2012
8:41 pm

savannadawg

February 23rd, 2012
8:44 pm

@ Beast from the East. Recruiting ain’t over until the checks have been signed!!! Ooops, did I say checks, of coarse I meant to say LOI. lol

savannadawg

February 23rd, 2012
8:52 pm

I don’t believe coach Richt should get more than a one or two year extension on his contract until the University wins convincingly and consistently. We have to play better against the door mats of the SEC. We cannot loose to South Carolina for a third strait year, and we have to win a National Championship.

6-18 Against Ranked Teams Since '05

February 23rd, 2012
8:55 pm

UGAKev….and you must be so proud that Richt recruits such standout kids that we win the “Fulmer Cup” award year after year…..

As for UGA winning another National Championship….you might have to add your kid’s lifetime to that time frame….

WDE

February 23rd, 2012
9:01 pm

@Wet Willie…keep on smiling as long as our coach has a winning record vs your bunch..we can run that mouth…and we have the record to back it up …you boys talk a big game but vs UGA you don’t deliver vs CMR…and that is a fact.

WDE

February 23rd, 2012
9:03 pm

@UGAKev great post Kudos !

NCAA probation and vacated wins poster child Bama

February 23rd, 2012
9:11 pm

6-18 , another tech troll, and which fulmer cups has georgia won year after year? and willie 3rd tier program ? Richt still leads bama last time I looked 3-1.Has more SEC titles and wins than Bama since Richts been there too. Welcome back to relevance after vacating 21 wins 2 wins from 2005-2007, losses to La. Monroe, at least UGA beat Hawaii and didn’t lose to Utah. every program has its ups and downs and bad losses, your wife must sleep with a picture of Rricht under her pillow for you to bash him so.Fosters in Athens doesn’t mean he’s going to flip or does it?Be honest your a tech troll aren’t you? You never won anything in your miserable life, that s why you have to come on a Georgia blog and thump your chest like a pimpley teen that just got laid for the first time.

Beast from the East

February 23rd, 2012
9:13 pm

P-Cola Dog and savannadawg,
I’m well aware it ain’t over until they sign the LOI. Just not a big fan of the kids that do those type things. UF got a kid that flipped from FSU in much the same way (D. Fowler). Is it strange that I don’t think nearly as bad of Fowler as I do Clemons? LOL!!!
It all depends on whether you’re wearing red and black glasses or orange and blue ones.

6-18 Against Ranked Teams Since '05

February 23rd, 2012
9:19 pm

@NCAA Probation…..

you feel better now honey??? I’m here for you. As a matter of fact, can’t stand the nerds on North avenue

As a Dawg fan expecting better, all I can see is a whole lot of NOTHING in that trophy case at Buttes-Mehre where it says “Crystal Trophy Case”

Richt’s gotta go, not get a new contract…..but, it looks like you’ll get your wish and we’ll get our Outback Bowl year after year

hipdawg

February 23rd, 2012
9:25 pm

Get your best athletes on the field!Maybe CMR has learned from CTG and if Murray starts playing poorly…..yank him.GO DAWGS!!!!

dan

February 23rd, 2012
9:28 pm

I think they should add AU to the SEC EAST. Geographically that makes sense. Then you add Mizz and A & M to the SEC West with Bama, LSU, Ark, Ole Miss, and MSU. That would give you 6 conference games. Then you have one team from the other division that you play every year. Under my format, that would go as follows:
Bama vs. AU
Fla vs. LSU
UT vs. Ark
UGA vs. Ole Miss
SC vs. MSU
UK vs. MIZZ
Vandy vs. A &M(or vice versa on the last 2)

Then you can alternate the other 2 non-divisional games every year. That would leave you 3 games left. 2 gimmes if you want, and either a non-conference math up, or the traditional non-conference rivalries( UGA vs. Tech, FSU vs. FLA, Clemson vs. SC). I think this would preserve the traditions while still allowing for variety in the schedule. This makes the most sense to me, but college football doesn’t do things in a logical way, so….

Also, why a 9 game conference schedule is such a big deal is beyond me. So they’d rather have 3-4 gimme games and water down the schedule? Pathetic.

dan

February 23rd, 2012
9:32 pm

Oh and future prediction…with all these “Super Conferences” taking shape, in the next 5 years, we will see the first National Champion with 3 losses.

Pago Pago DAWG

February 23rd, 2012
9:40 pm

Can we at least win a major bowl game in the next couple of years!

Brainiac(Dawg for life/Richt fan for life)

February 23rd, 2012
10:11 pm

@ Finebaum:

If you are not happy with things in Dawg Nation there are over 100 other D-1 schools out there. Pick one you idiot…………..and soon.

CMR is not leaving so I assume you are the one to move on.