UGA Football

Georgia-South Carolina Press Conference Transcript

Mark Richt

Georgia head football coach Mark Richt and a delegation of players met with the media on Tuesday ahead of the Bulldogs’ SEC opener against South Carolina this Saturday in Columbia. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt

Opening Statement…
“Columbia. We’ve really struggled there over the last couple of years. Of course, two years ago we got beat down pretty bad. Their crowd was in it, their players made plays, they took a 21-nothing lead in the first quarter and never really looked back. We slowed down the bleeding a little bit but never really could get back in that game, so we definitely need to do better than we did that time. Of course, the time before that we lost as well. So it’s been tough for Georgia in that stadium as of late. And we really haven’t scored a lot of points. I guess there was nine games in a row, and we have not scored more than 20 points in that stadium. So it’s been rough going there offensively.”

“Obviously Coach Spurrier is a great coach. Coach Ward—the defensive coordinator—outstanding coach. All of their coaches are outstanding. It will be a great challenge for us. I’m sure they’ll be excited about the game. As far as their players are concerned, 25 percent of their team is from Georgia. There’s a lot of great players from our state playing for them. I’m sure that will be a big one for them as well.”

On South Carolina’s offensive line…
“Up front, between [Corey] Robinson and [Brandon] Shell as their tackles—they may be the best tackle combination in the Southeastern Conference, and definitely one of the best lines we’ll play all year long. A.J. Cann I think has more starts than anybody that they have up front. Just the way they finished their game against East Carolina. East Carolina gets within seven early in the fourth quarter and they just squeezed the life out of the clock and the game. They go over a 10-minute drive and then finish with a game-clinching field goal from chip-shot range. So their offensive line is doing a tremendous job.”

On South Carolina’s quarterback Dylan Thomas…
“He’s a guy that has played a lot of ball for them and had a lot of opportunities to make a lot of plays. He understands what Coach Spurrier is trying to get accomplished. He’s a little bit similar to our Hutson Mason in that he’s kind of had to wait for a while to have it be his deal. He’s a guy that certainly has our respect and our attention.”

On South Carolina’s running game…
“South Carolina quite frankly has run the ball extremely well against us in the last four times out. Every single time, they’ve had at least one guy get over 100 yards rushing. So we need to try to at least slow down that trend if we can.”

On South Carolina’s defense…
“Coach Ward heads up that group. [He is a] very outstanding coach. He’s had some lights out defensive teams over the years. I’ve got a lot of respect for what they’re doing and what he’s doing heading up that group.”

Additional comments and the captains for the game…
“We’ve got our work cut out for us. We’ve got to perform better than we have in that venue, offensively especially. We’re looking forward to the challenge of it.”

“Our captains for this game on defense are Amarlo Herrera and Mike Thornton. And on offense, David Andrews. On special teams, Todd Gurley. Those are the captains voted by the staff. And again, at the end of the year, we’ll let our players determine who the permanent captains are with a vote by the team.”

On what’s made this game against South Carolina so difficult in the past…
I don’t know. To think that the last nine times, the most amount of points was 20—that shocked me when I read that stat. I knew what it had been for us when I’ve been at Georgia, but I didn’t realize it went back that far. Just a great atmosphere, great defense and Georgia not getting it done. I guess I’ve been there six times, this is my seventh time, and we haven’t scored many points but we’ve actually won four out of six games there. They’ve been some stout defensive battles, most of them. Last time we were there it obviously wasn’t much of a defensive battle. But it’s been tough going getting points over there for whatever reason, and hopefully we’ll do better. [David] Pollack, I think, scored more points than a lot of our offensive players there over those years.

On the high-scoring games versus South Carolina at Sanford Stadium….
They really have been. A lot of points at Sanford Stadium and not many, for us, anyway, over there in Columbia. I’m not really sure why. I think they’ve scored 41, 41 and 42 [points] in the last three times they’ve played us, so they’ve scored some points against us lately.

On the effect these stats have on the team…
I don’t think it’s weighing on the team unless I tell them about it. And then maybe it would. I don’t think these guys read the press releases. I think we’re just really focused hard on the plan at hand. That’s really the only thing that can help you, just trying to execute what you’re doing.

On how the game has changed in magnitude…
“Everybody feels like this could be what decides the division. The reality is, we’ve lost twice to them and won the league. Missouri lost to them and won the league. It’s not a guarantee that you’re out, but it’s not fun starting 0-1 in league play, and it’s not fun trying to play catch-up to another team and being at the mercy of whether they win or not in any given week. Everyone wants to control their own destiny in this race to get to Atlanta, but I think there’s been a lot more national attention on this game. We’ve always thought it was extremely important, and I think South Carolina has as well, but I think nationally people have paid a little more attention to this game lately.”

On Leonard Floyd…
“Leonard is a very talented guy. He’s super quick and a guy that people have a hard time blocking. He’s more than just a pass rusher, he makes plays out in space and could probably play inside linebacker if we needed him to. He has the ability to affect the game like those guys [Jarvis Jones and Justin Houston], I do believe that. Jarvis, of course, had some phenomenal games over the years and Justin Houston might have been the sack leader when he left the SEC, but he [Floyd] has got the chance to be that kind of guy.”

On Kenneth Towns…
“Kenneth is going to play for sure. Kenneth is getting a lot of reps and he’s a guy that we know he knows what to do. We think he’s tough, we think he’s conscientious, and a lot of it is knowing what to do and being serious about blocking and being serious about being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there. And make the catch. I don’t think we’re going to ask Kenneth to catch a bunch of bombs or anything like that, but there’s a lot more to the passing game than going deep, and he’s going to play.”

On South Carolina’s passing game…
“Game one I think they had to throw, probably more than they wanted to. Game two they probably ran it a little more than they thought they would going in. I know coach [Spurrier] really likes to have a balance in those numbers, but if you need to finish the game like they did by running the ball, and you’re able to, it’s a pretty exciting thing for coaches. I don’t know how the fans like it, but I know coaches love to be able to end a game like that. Living through a little bit of that, seeing that line block, and seeing those backs continue to pound the ball like that, I’d imagine they think that’s a pretty good idea.”

On the second week bye-week…
“I think it was good for us to get a bunch of practices in and let that other game [Clemson] kind of fade off in the distance and really get to focus on what’s most important. And that, quite frankly, is execution. I think the team that executes the best plays the hardest. I’ve got a feeling this game could get a little bloody. I think both teams are tough, physically, and I think both teams have got outstanding backs that can pound. I know both teams know how to throw and catch, I think history has proven that, but before it’s over it may get down to a little bit of a fist fight.”

On how recruits now look at the running back position…
“I do think young men look at it differently. I don’t know if any running backs nowadays go into the recruiting process thinking ‘I want to go where I’m the guy and I’m going to get it 30-40 times a game.’ I just don’t think guys are looking for that. I think they’re looking for a system where they can learn to run a pro system very much like what we have, and know that there’s going to be some help in the backfield, and know they aren’t going to be the only guy that gets worn down to a nub.”

On rotating players on defense…
“It’s a big priority for us to play hard every snap and if a guy is tired he doesn’t play as hard. A second team guy who is fresh usually plays harder than a tired starter. And also there’s just some questions that have been unanswered as to who is really that much better than the other. I think our ones and twos are very similar across the board, and the other thing is the heat. The hotter it is, the more you’d better substitute. As it cools down as the season rolls along, if we do sub it will be more because of guys really earning it rather than having to worry about the heat issue.”

On his relationship with Coach Spurrier…
“Well I got to know Coach Spurrier through the Heisman Trophy events. I got to go to some of those events over the years and a lot of the former Heisman Trophy winners come to those events, so socially I got to know him a little bit. And years ago my wife was diagnosed with cancer and him and Urban Meyer were the two guys that reached out and gave me a call and spent a little time on the phone about that, and that meant a lot to me.”

On if it’s tough recruiting running backs when the team has so much depth at the position…
“Well so far they’re playing right away. History has shown we play our backs right away. If they’ve got the ability to help us win, we’ll play them. We’re playing four right now and I think that will continue throughout the year.”

On Devin Bowman and Blake Tibbs…
“When you get a new coaching staff it’s new life for everybody. Everybody’s got a chance. It’s just like Blake Tibbs. Blake, in my opinion, wasn’t mature enough to play a lot for us in his first couple of years but he turned it around. He’s grown up, he’s working hard, he’s doing things right on and off the field and he’s earning the right to play. Bowman has been doing a lot of that as well. His situation is a little different in that he had a new coaching staff and a new opinion on him, whereas Tibbs had to overcome the same coach that had seen him be a little immature and had to win him over. That’s harder to do in my opinion than getting a new coach and having a fresh start. Really what Tibbs did was probably more impressive than what Bowman did.

On simulating the South Carolina environment…
“We’ve had time to work on a lot of things. We know we’re not going to be able to hear most of the game, so instead of just waiting until Thursday before the game to turn the crowd noise on, we just started off right away with a lot of non-verbal cadence. Even as we’re signaling things out, we’re not allowing the quarterback to call out what it is so that everyone can hear it, because they probably aren’t going to be able to hear it in the game. They’ve got to be able to make sure they can get the signals without the help of the quarterback, and even our snap count has been non-verbal the entire time. We’ll add some crowd noise the last two days, but we’ve basically been going over the mechanics of not being able to hear since early last week.”

On Georgia’s passing game going forward…
“I just want us to execute what we call. We’ve got a long track record of throwing the ball extremely well around here, but I know our number one goal is to win and do whatever it takes to win. In the second half of that last ball game we didn’t need to throw a lot to win the game which was a tribute to our runners and blockers, and even our quarterback getting in the right plays and that type of thing. When your defense is playing like that, it’s not really wise to sit there and sling it around the yard. The last few years, though, we’ve been in a lot of games that are just barn burners to the very end, where you’ve got to keep slinging it to move the ball and keep your balance, but in this particular game we didn’t have to. That particular trend [of not throwing a lot] wouldn’t bother me if we didn’t have to. And I’ll say this, Hutson’s main goal is to win. He doesn’t need to put any pressure on himself other than doing the things that will help Georgia win.”

On being able to run the ball…
“It’s exciting to be able to run the ball like that and see great backs get enough space to get a little downhill momentum, break the tackles that they did, and then have the speed to finish it and take it to the house. We had three consecutive plays in a row that were touchdowns, and that doesn’t happen very often, but one of our goals in trying to keep everybody fresh to the end and letting these guys play, was to have these fresh, strong backs running hard against some tired tacklers. The more tired you get the less of a sting you have when you try to tackle. It’s human nature that when you get a little fatigued you don’t strike quite as hard, and that’s part of the plan that worked out for us.”

On if South Carolina will be under pressure after losing their home opener…
“I think they’re dangerous because they’re a very good team. I think they’re dangerous because they’re very well-coached. I think they’re dangerous because they’re in their house. They should have confidence at home because they had an 18-game winning streak at home. They’ve lost one time in 20 games at home so it’s been an advantage for them and I think they’re very comfortable playing there. They’re dangerous for all of those reasons.”

On the statuses of the injured receivers…
“He [Justin Scott-Wesley] is coming along but I don’t see him going [on Saturday]. [Jonathon] Rumph had a hamstring and is out. He won’t play.”

On Georgia’s history of good running backs…
“Yeah that’s what happens. You get something going at a certain position at your school and kids see the track record and they want to be a part of it. We’ve been very blessed to be considered tailback U, or one of the tailback U’s across the country. There’s some other ones that have some good backs obviously, but we could put our backs up against anybody in the last 40 years or so, and maybe farther back even, going back to [Charley] Trippi. He’s one of the best backs in college football history, so yeah, when you have some success at a certain position it helps you to recruit. When I got here there were some big tight end guys here. So I show up and Randy McMichael and Benjamin Watson are here, guys who have since been in the NFL for years and had great careers, so we used them and they were very talented. We got the ball to them, so players saw those guys getting the ball and tight ends wanted to come. We’ve been very blessed by the history of the great backs here at Georgia.”

On if it’s possible to find a true fullback in the recruiting process…
“I don’t think so. I think you’re going to find fullbacks that are either very athletic high school guards, or someone like Quayvon Hicks who was a little bit of an undersized defensive lineman that’s turned into a tremendous fullback prospect in my opinion. And then you get some guys that were inside linebackers in high school that were tough, hard-nosed guys that were maybe not quite as athletic as you’d want your linebackers to be at this level, but have that physical toughness about them. I think you can still find those guys, but you’ve just got to train them. You aren’t going to sign many fullbacks out of high school, probably.”

On the traits of a good fullback…
“You’ve got to enjoy contact, for sure, and you’ve got to have the ability to read blocks like a tailback. If a guy doesn’t have a little wiggle to him he will have a hard time. You want some athleticism about them, and we don’t throw to the fullbacks a lot, but we throw to them enough that we want them to be able to catch the ball and make a little something happen afterwards.”

On who else might play receiver…
“I don’t know if Erdman has been in a game yet, but Erdman has been working, and like I said, Kenneth Towns, but we just don’t have a lot of depth right now.”

On playing RB Sony Michel at wide receiver…
“Sony’s got some wide receiver skills but just learning running back is good enough for him. You might have a little bitty package here and there but he doesn’t have the ability to play down after down after down [at both receiver and running back].”

On if the lack of receiver depth is limiting what the team can do offensively…
“I don’t think it will change our plan, so no, I don’t think it will.”

Senior FLK Chris Conley

On this week’s game…
“We’re feeling good about this weekend and about what we can do in this offense going against this South Carolina D. They’ve had some hardship, but they’re going to be ready to play in this game. That’s just the fact of UGA-South Carolina. They’re going to play better than they’ve played thus far. They’re going to put up a fight.”

On Georgia’s previous struggles at Williams-Brice Stadium…
“That’s literally the nature of the game. Regardless of what these teams look like going into it, they’re going to fight and they’re going to have a hard-fought game. Our challenge this week as an offense—even as a defense, but more so as an offense because scoring points in that stadium is difficult—it’s a challenge to us as an offense to be able to execute. It comes down to technique. Whenever you watch the game film from that stadium, there’s so many mental errors that take place in that stadium. We have to eliminate those things before there’s all that crowd noise.”

Senior C David Andrews

On how the team is preparing for the environment at South Carolina…
“It’s hard to simulate it completely. The coaches are putting a lot of pressure on us to simulate the pressure you’ll feel during the game. Hutson’s speaking quieter at times so you’re not able to hear as clearly. We’re really trying to keep our focus. That’s the big thing—just focus on what you’re doing and tune some of that stuff out and play football.”

On the team’s motivation to keep the momentum going…
“There’s definitely motivation. But there’s also the motivation to just go out and play again. It was kind of weird not having a game last week, but we’re ready to get back out there and get in the groove of games. You kind of get in the groove of a game, and then it stops, and now you’re back in it. It seems like you’re starting the season over a little bit. But we’re just ready to get back out there and get a chance to compete. That’s what we want to do. That’s what we’re here to do.”

Senior ILB Amarlo Herrera

On South Carolina being a physical team…
“I like fun games. Winning is fun. Bloody games are not for me. It’s going to be a physical game. They like to run the ball and we like to run the ball. We know what each team is going to do. We just have to slow it down and hit somebody.”

On Georgia’s last trip to South Carolina…
“It’s not really revenge. I still remember that game and I just don’t really want that feeling again. When it gets loud, and it stays loud, it’s crazy and it’s hard to focus. We just have to play like we did last week and do the things that helped us get out of the Clemson game. They had one first down in the second half. We are just trying to win games and make sure that [Sandstorm] is not played very often in that stadium. I hate that song.”

Senior SS Corey Moore

On the secondary play against Clemson…
“I think we did okay. We were just good enough to beat Clemson that day. We had a lot of mistakes in the back end and we have had a good amount of time to correct those mistakes. I think we didn’t execute the game plan like Coach Pruitt had dialed it up.”

On South Carolina’s offense…
“South Carolina has a pretty good offense, man. They have a physical offensive line, playmakers on the outside, and you all know a great running back in Mike Davis, and a great decision maker with the ball in his hands in quarterback [Dylan] Thompson. Once you have those guys that have the ball in their hands, they can be explosive at any time. As a senior, you want to go in and win every game, but this game in particular.”

Courtesy of UGA Sports Communications

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