ATHENS – Georgia coach Mark Richt and selected players met with media as usual on Tuesday to preview the No. 13-ranked Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1 SEC) game against Kentucky (1-6, 0-4 SEC) on Saturday in Lexington.
The most pertinent news of the day was that All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones still has not practiced. Jones has been out since the South Carolina game with an ankle injury.
“We’re not counting him out yet,” Richt said. “He had been running on a treadmill underwater and did extremely well. We figured when we put him on land, he’d hit the ground running literally, but he wasn’t ready to practice [Monday]. . . . If he’s healthy enough to play, we want him to play. There’s no thought of holding him out this game so that he’s 100 percent next game.”
Following is more of the commentary from Tuesday’s proceedings:
HEAD COACH MARK RICHT
On preparing for Kentucky
“We have been getting ready the past couple of weeks for Kentucky. We’re looking forward to going to that ballgame. We haven’t had the best of luck out there in Lexington with some very close ballgames. I have a lot of respect for Coach Phillips, and he really does a great job. We also have a lot of respect for what Coach Sanders does offensively. It’s been tough for them going through two or three quarterbacks. I can’t imagine what that would be like. . . . They’ve had a lot of injuries on defense, too, so they’re p[laying a lot of freshmen. . . .Kentucky’s always done a great job on special teams so we’ve got to make sure we’re ready for that. We know we have a lot of big challenges in that area, as well.”
On defensive miscommunication issues . . .
“I know we’ve given up some big plays off not communicating well in the back and making mistakes and being over-aggressive on play-action fakes. I don’t think there’s been a ton of missed assignments offensively, but when you do have negative yardage plays, a lot of times it is a guy turning someone free rather than getting whipped. But I don’t want to talk about South Carolina anymore. They beat us soundly and congratulations to them, but we’ve moved forward. Every game you’ll have miscommunications, and we’re not going to sit here and make excuses other than that we didn’t do a good job and we have to get better.”
On quarterback Aaron Murray handling the news regarding his father’s health . . .
“Sometimes you just have to take off and forget about football, and that was one of those times. I think the family had some news before they told him, and they knew he’d have some time to come see family after the operation. As far as the timing, it was something they could time out in the open date, being a sports family like they are.”
On the experience that the offensive line gained against South Carolina . . .
“Anytime you play a game and you don’t have the success that you hope for, especially when we were rolling right along with running the ball and protecting well enough to put some good numbers up offensively, it’s disappointing. Then they (the offensive line) ran into a greater challenge and didn’t have as much success, so they had to look in the mirror, and they realize they still have a ways to go and need to get better. After a rough day, most guys want to come back and prove that they’re better than what they showed in the last one.”
On the play of left tackle Kenarious Gates . . .
“He’s done pretty well. We think he’s our best left tackle right now, no doubt about that. I think he’s done a good job. I don’t know (if he’ll stay at left tackle next year), so I wouldn’t say that he has nailed it down for the rest of his career.”
On the play of DT Garrison Smith . . .
“He’s done well for us. He’s been very productive and pretty stout against the run. He’s had some quarterback pressures, and we think he’s an SEC-caliber defensive lineman and we like what he’s doing for us. I think he’ll just keep getting more and more playing time as he goes.”
On moving forward after the South Carolina game…
“We need to beat Kentucky right now. That’s really all I’m worried about right now, and then the next week we’ll worry about that game. We’re a pretty good team, and we thought we could beat anyone we play when the season began, so that hasn’t changed.”
On sympathizing with Kentucky's plight . . .
“Well people have asked me those types of questions before, and especially last season when we go 0-2, so I think somebody addressed that question in regard to me and how we’re doing at Georgia. My answer was that I don’t expect anybody to feel sorry for me. I expect everybody to hook it up and play the very best that they can play. I expect everybody to watch film and get the best plan possible and try to exploit whatever can then be exploited and play 60 minutes as hard and as fast as you can play against anybody you play. So I’m sure that’s how all of the coaches feel in the league.”
On the play of John Jenkins throughout this season and his career . . .
“Considering that he’s only been here less than two years and he was a junior college kid that came in for the purpose of trying to make us more stout up front in this 3-4 scheme, I think he’s done very well. He was very productive in the last ballgame, and he’s been difficult to move out of there. He’s put some pressure on the quarterback, and not so much with sacks, but with pushing lineman up in the face and he’s been stout against the run. I think he’s done very well, and he’s been a great team guy. He’s a pleasant guy that shows up every day with a good attitude, and he’s fun to coach.”
On Josh Harvey-Clemons being named a captain for this game …
"He’s on three of our special teams, and every team that he was on, each coach felt like he played exceptionally well last ballgame, so he won the honor of being special teams captain for this game. It just doesn’t happen very often that a true freshman becomes a captain, whether it’s offense, defense, or special teams, but he’s got a lot of ability. He’s a great example of a very talented guy that just needs more reps on defense for the coaches to get comfortable playing him on defense on a consistent basis. But when he does, and you add another year’s worth of muscle and conditioning and knowledge, he’s going to be a heck of a football player. But if we threw him out there right now it would be tough on him, no matter how talented he is. That’s kind of what Kentucky’s been through a little bit. They’ve thrown some guys in there faster than they probably would like to do.”
On the play of Malcolm Mitchell this season…
“Malcolm is playing more offense obviously, and getting more opportunities. He’s still getting more reps defensively. Today the majority of his practice will be defense, although he will get some offensive snaps today. Certain things are being installed, and we want to keep him up to speed offensively in case we have some issues with injuries because we don’t want to throw a brand new freshman in there. He’s very good on the kickoff return, although we think (Todd) Gurley is pretty good, too. Gurley can do it, as well, but Malcolm will start the game there.”
On punt returns…
“Rhett (McGowan) and Malcolm (Mitchell) have been getting the work at punt returns, but Rhett will start there.”
QUARTERBACK AARON MURRAY
On Kentucky’s young team secondary . . .
“Their young players are talented and capable of making plays, but experience is big in SEC games. The more experience you have, the more comfortable you feel out there. We just need to be ready for whoever they put out there. We know they’ll be ready defensively, so we need to make sure we’re hitting on all cylinders.”
On the bye week . . .
“Obviously it’s great to have the bye week to get your body feeling better, but I kind of wish we had a game this past week just to get the bad taste out of our mouth [from the South Carolina loss]. We tried not to be sitting around thinking about it for two weeks – we put that game behind us and we know this is an extremely important stretch for us if we want to reach our goals. We need to win our next six games.”
WIDE RECEIVER MARLON BROWN
On Kentucky’s young defense …
“I feel like from playing in this league for a few years our team knows what to expect in these games and has the experience. It’s tough for a freshman at any position to step in there, but Kentucky’s players are doing it so we’ll see on Saturday.”
On absence of split end Michael Bennett . . .
“We didn’t get a good chance to see how much we miss him vs. South Carolina because it wasn’t a big passing day for us overall. I think we’ll be fine as receivers – we’ve got guys with a lot of experience. Me, Malcolm [Mitchell], Tavarres [King], [Rantavious] Wooten, we’ve all got experience.”
On playing on the road again …
“Playing on the road in the SEC is always tough. We’ll need to keep focused and we’ll be alright.”
LINEBACKER AMARLO HERRERA
On moving forward after the bye-week . . .
“We’re ready to move forward. The off week provided us with an opportunity to improve on a lot of things and a lot of people have been working to get better. We’re just ready to work hard.”
On having the full defense back . . .
“We should never have had excuses for anything, no matter who was in or who was out. We’re ready to get back to the top defensive form we were in last year.”
LINEBACKER CHRISTIAN ROBINSON
On moving forward after the bye-week …
“I think we should perform a lot better moving forward than we have up to this point. I think we could have been doing that a long time ago, but when we sat down as a defense Coach Grantham pointed out on film that if we just need to do our job. That’s where we’ve been messing up, guys have been trying to do too much or they haven’t been doing the right thing at the right time and that’s where we’ve lost games.”
On executing assignments on defense …
“I think we all know what we have to do and how to do it, I think the problem comes in actually going out there and doing it. That’s what we haven’t done and if we can fix that then we will win and we will win big.”