ATHENS – Some highlights from Georgia’s weekly news conference Tuesday to discuss Saturday’s game against Tennessee. . . .
GEORGIA COACH MARK RICHT
Richt opened talking about former Bulldogs who are flourishing in the NFL . . .
“Bulldogs accounted for 10.5 sacks this past week and I thought that was pretty cool. Tim Jennings is leading the NFL with interceptions with four. Blair Walsh made NFL history. He’s the first kicker in NFL history to kick a 50-yarder in the first three games of his career. He kicked them and made them. I don’t think he’s missed a kick yet, so they got him straightened out. A.J. Green is second in the league in receiving yards with 311.”
On the play of 3-1 Tennessee so far . . .
“It sounds kind of weird to say Coach Dooley with any other team but Georgia, but Derek of course, the head coach at Tennessee, is getting them going. They’re 3-1 right now playing extremely good football, and especially offensively they are. I know the first four games that they’ve accumulated more yards than any team in the history of Tennessee football in a four-game span. They’re also number one in the league in passing and first downs, they’re scoring 38 points per game, and they’re over 500 yards per game so far (on average). They’re doing an outstanding job. Quarterback Tyler Bray is a very talented passer, and one of the most talented passers that I’ve seen in awhile throwing the football. They have some tremendously skilled receivers. They’ve got a vertical passing game that I know I envy. We like to throw it down the field, but they can really lay it out there good.”
On the Vols having a winning record (10-9-1) in Athens . . .
“We need to do a good job of defending our turf. We’re excited about the opportunity to play another SEC game.”
On trying to make Tennessee a one-dimensional team . . .
“If I had those receivers and that quarterback, I’d have a hard time trying to stay balanced. I like throwing the ball, and they’ve got great pass protectors. When you have those tackles like they do that don’t need any help, you can release five guys out and then you’ve got a guy that can spin it like Bray. I don’t know if I would sit there and say that I need to be totally balanced, but I think if you do shut down a running game and you just know someone is going to pass, it’s just much easier to defend. But they’re not that. They’re running the ball well, and they have good play-action pass. They’re really good at throwing and catching, I can tell you that.”
On walkon quarterback Parker Welch playing ahead of Christian LeMay this past Saturday . . .
“Coach (Mike) Bobo is basically allowing Parker and Christian LeMay to compete on a weekly basis to see who earns the right to get in the game first if we get into that type of situation. Parker has been doing well. Parker has been in the system a little bit longer, and he’s very diligent in the way he prepares as well. Coach Bobo felt like he earned the right to go in first, so that’s what we did. We’ll continue to do that.”
On the competition in the SEC’s Eastern Division . . .
“Preseason everybody had an opinion on everybody’s schedules, and I felt like we just aren’t going to know how tough everybody’s schedule is until you play the season and you have a better idea of how tough it is. We felt like we had some very outstanding teams in the East, and so far they are proving it.”
On talking to the team about the 2004 Georgia-Tennessee game . . .
“I told them that this situation reminded me of that season. We played a game like we played against Vanderbilt when we played LSU in ’04, one of those what people would call a complete game. Everything just seemed to work that day. Everything went well that day. The very next week we were favored to beat Tennessee. Tennessee came in with a freshman quarterback and beat us. I wanted to help them understand that it could happen and we better get our minds right. We better prepare just as hard or harder than the week before. I just want us to play our best. If we lose, we lose, but you want to play your best. That’s what I’m trying to make sure we do.”
On Tennessee’s edge pressure and whether Georgia’s tackles have been tested to the degree they will be Saturday . . .
“We’re going to find out. We just have to keep working and start playing. We’ll have the ability to slide protections and chip the backs and use tight ends. We’ll also see if the tackles guys can do it on their own as well.”
On Tennessee changing to a 3-4 defense this year . . .
“Anytime you do something new it’s tough. There’s a learning curve for everybody. A lot has to do with do you have the personnel to do it. I remember our first year we didn’t have the big nose guards, or at least Kwame (Geathers) wasn’t ready to be the player he is today. We didn’t have John Jenkins. We were playing DeAngelo Tyson if you remember, kind of an undersized guy for that position. (Tennessee) has a big beast in there who can do it and edge guys who can do it and play coverage in space as well. It doesn’t really change your perimeter much. They may have had better personnel year one to start it out than we did. Are they going to be better a year from now? I’m sure they will, but they’re still pretty darn good at it now.”
On freshman tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall . . .
“When you have success early you do have fun. They’ve had success early, and they’ve earned it. They’ve worked hard. Of course Keith (Marshall) paid the price of coming in as a mid-year enrollee, so he went all through spring. He had a pretty good working knowledge of what was going on by the time camp rolled around. Todd (Gurley) came in the summer and being friends, Keith, I’m sure was helping him. Murray and some of the other boys were helping him learn what to do. Both of them were very diligent in wanting to learn what to do and how to do it. You watch them when they practice our blitz pickup. They are really locked in and wanting to improve every time they get a rep in practice. They know how important that is as well. I’ve been real pleased with them. They are a very mature couple of guys.”
On center David Andrews facing Kwame Geathers and John Jenkins in practice. (Tennessee has a 6-6, 377-pound noseguard in Daniel McCullers) . . .
“That will help him. David has been going against some huge nose guards. Whether you go against the number one or number two guy, he’s a huge man. Whether you are in a pass pro drill or an 11-on-11 just every single day he’s used to blocking guys who are taller and much heavier than he is. The one advantage he does have is he has the leverage as the low man. He is going to get under those guys whether he wants to or not. In some ways that’s helpful, but it won’t be the first experience of going against a big man like that.”
On the plan for Malcolm Mitchell in the game on Saturday…
“I would say his reps on offense will increase and his reps on defense will probably decrease, but it’s hard to say for sure on that.”
On appreciating the SEC officials in wake of NFL disaster . . .
“I think our officials do a good job, and I think Steve Shaw is doing a good job of leading the group. Every week we turn in things that we have questions about, and he gets it back to you in a hurry. We have a system now where we’ll watch the coach’s copy, and he’ll be running it back and forth, and as he’s running it back and forth he’ll have a voice-over. As he’s explaining a situation you’re watching exactly what he’s looking at. With the new technology that we’re using it helps you to understand his line of thinking on a decision that’s been made by the staff. He’ll say we should have gotten that one, or I think this was a good call. He’s real genuine in his approach to it. I like it.”
On Georgia’s offensive line play …
“They’re doing well. I think the biggest contrast you could have is if you were at our very first spring practice in pads. If you watch that and then you watch them today, the difference is unbelievable. I know Coach (Will) Friend, Coach Bobo and myself and probably every other offensive coach were trying not to hang our heads, thinking we have some problems, we have some things we have to iron out. To their credit they have worked their tails off. The linemen knew we had some issues. All summer long they decided as a group to get up at the crack of dawn and be the first ones there in the weight room. They worked extremely hard with our strength staff. Going against the defensive front they were going against day after day after day they just had to get better or get embarrassed. They got better.
“I don’t know if they are the best offensive line in America, but they sure have made a lot of improvement, and they are playing well. They are playing well together. If you have five guys who know who to hit and they’ll get after you, they’ll fight hard, they’ll play hard, it gives you a chance. That’s kind of what’s going on right now. We’ve had very few missed assignments, and they are playing together well, they are communicating well. They like each other, and when you’re blocking for these young backs I think it kind of fires them up. When you’re blocking for a guy like Murray, who can get the job done, they know if they give him enough time to get the job done with the receivers we have, it gets them excited. Coach Friend has really done a great job.”
On the status of free safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree…
“During pregame we’ll have a really good idea if they are going to play. If they are in full gear there’s a good chance they’ll play.”
On play of OG Chris Burnette…
“Chris is playing great. He’s just playing harder. He’s really making a point of trying to finish blocks. I think just the thought of getting engaged to be married made him decide it’s time to be full-grown man. He’s always had what coaches call punch. Some guys are stout on contact. There might be a big, strong-looking guy and for whatever reason he can’t get movement. He doesn’t have that punch to knock people and move people. Burnette’s body type, when he got here especially, it wasn’t all that impressive frankly, but he had some natural punch about him. Now that he’s gotten bigger and stronger, he’s always been athletic, he just moves people. He’s been finishing blocks better than probably anybody up front. Although David Andrews is finishing blocks pretty good as well. It’s contagious. I see (Kenarious) Gates starting to want to do that more. They are all trying to finish a little bit better now instead of blocking their guy long enough to let a back go through. Now they are trying to run their feet until the whistle blows and try to get them on the ground. Burnette is doing a good job, and Chris is a very good leader. In order to be a good leader you have to be very strong in your character, and I don’t know if there is anybody stronger in character than Chris. And the guys know it and respect that about him. When he talks they listen. He gives some pretty rousing pregame speeches in the locker room from time to time when it’s just the players.”
On what makes Jarvis Jones so disruptive…
“When you talk about a guy being long, he’s tall, he has long arms. He is very quick off the ball. He has some strength about him. Some guys are just speed rushers. Some guys will beat them on the edge and show them an upfield move and slip underneath. That causes problems. There are some great rushers, and that’s all they’ve got. Jarvis, every once in a while, he just decides to lift them out of there shoes because they are kind of on their heels trying to worry about whether he’s going inside or outside. Then he just runs them over. So he has a big bull rush as well. A guy with that ability and that kind of motor, you are going to make plays. If you notice he’s very stout against the run as well. He’s versatile enough in his knowledge of our system where Coach (Todd) Grantham can play him in the middle at times, mirror a quarterback if he takes off running or play the run from sideline to sideline rather than just play one half of the field. He’s a special player.”
On Cornelius Washington’s role on team . . .
“Cornelius has taken on a big leadership role for us, especially in the spring and the offseason. From what I understand the motto that the seniors came up with ["Our Team, Our Time, No Regrets"] was as much or more of Cornelius’ idea than anybody’s. I think he was the one who said we like ‘Finish The Drill” and G.A.T.A. We think it’s important at Georgia, but we’d like to have a slogan for this season that the seniors come up with. He was also very involved when Murray got together with the leaders this summer to divide the team up and have some accountability. He was one of the stronger guys in that area too. I like seeing him correct guys if they need to be corrected. When your veteran players drive the team in a positive way and say this is how we do it at Georgia, you are in a really good spot. That’s where we are right now.”
QB AARON MURRAY
On his preparation…
“It’s something I’ve always prided myself in – trying to out-work everyone else. I use the analogy of being in school, and if you’ve got a test you want to feel good going into it. You want to feel prepared, not that you wish you’d studied more or read another chapter. I never want to have that feeling come Saturday. I want to know that I know their defense, the gameplan, everything, and that I feel confident. I don’t want to go into a game not feeling confident and ready to go.”
On his relationship with Tennessee QB Tyler Bray…
“We met at the Manning [Passing Academy] Camp and became friends. We text every week, a group of us from the camp. It’s fun – the quarterbacks can check in on each other. Tyler and I text to see how each other are doing. He’s a great kid, a great competitor. He competes hard. We pick each other’s brains on different aspects – playing in the SEC, their offense, our offense. He’s a cool kid.”
WR TAVARRES KING
On the wide receivers’ performance so far…
“I think it’s going great. I said early on we’d have success with our weapons out side, and it’s going well. The opposing defense can’t key in on one person.”
On Aaron Murray’s preparation…
“That guy is here for hours watching film. He puts so much effort into what he does, and he’s passionate about it. He wants to succeed and help others around him succeed. He does his best all the time.”
On the improvement of Georgia’s offensive line this season…
“It’s been amazing. I knew it had to happen and that it would happen. They’ve had to go against our defense every day, and our defensive front is just amazing. There was only one thing the line could do and that’s get better, and they have.”
On the Tennessee wide receiving corps…
“Those guys are great. They play with a lot of energy and passion. They’ve got some good wideouts up there, but I feel like we have some great ones here as well. We’ve got a special group.”
On Tennessee’s defense…
“They’re very good. They’re not going to beat themselves, they’re very fundamental. They’re going to test us – ‘us’ meaning the wideouts. They’re going to get in our faces and press us up a bit. It’s another challenge we’ll see this week, but we’re taking pride in that this week getting the work done and working on our man to man and getting after it.”
LB CHRISTIAN ROBINSON
On getting off to a fast start against Vanderbilt . . .
“I think it was really just a matter of honing in quickly. It’s not that we couldn’t make plays in the other games, we just didn’t. It was always a mental thing. We were on point against Vanderbilt this past week; everyone showed up and was ready to play. If you start strong then I think it’s easier to finish because you can just keep up what you’re doing and allow the coaches to just stick to the game-plan.”
On making Tennessee one dimensional…
“Our goal is always to come out and stop the run first. Tennessee has a great passing attack but it’s very tough to win in this league if you can’t establish a balanced offense. Coach [Derek] Dooley has said that he wants to be able to run the ball a little more, so we’re going to be watching for that. We’ve been good at defending against the run the past couple of years with big guys like Kwame [Geathers] and John [Jenkins] plugging up the holes so hopefully we’ll be able to keep it going.”
On Tennessee’s passing attack…
“That’s their strength for sure. They’re all clicking very well right now. We can tell, watching film, that [Tyler] Bray really trusts his receivers to come down with the ball. Some of the errors that he’s made recently had to do with him not seeing guys dropping out of coverage. We are going to have to bait him into throwing some passes sometimes. If we can change it up while keeping sound coverage and don’t give up any big plays then I think we’ll have a good shot at limiting them through the air.”
LB AMARLO HERRERA
On previewing Tennessee’s offense…
“[Tyler] Bray has a great arm and they have some very good wide receivers. They’ve been playing very well with each other this season. Everyone on their offense is a potential play maker so it’s going to be a challenge for sure.”
On making Tennessee one dimensional on offense…
“We try and make our opponent one dimensional every week. We try to stop the run first and then try and force them to pass. Then we cover their receivers with the great defensive backs that we have. They have a lot of great players in their passing attack but we also have a lot of great defensive backs, so it’s going to be a challenge.”