UGA Football

Georgia-Vanderbilt Press Conference Transcript

Mark Richt

Georgia head football coach Mark Richt and a delegation of players met with the media on Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s SEC East clash with Vanderbilt in Athens. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt

Opening statement…
“Alright, we’ve got Vanderbilt. And Coach (Derek) Mason is obviously in his first year (there) coming from Stanford. (He was) the defensive coordinator there. You can see a lot of the Stanford print on what’s going on there at Vanderbilt.”

On the Vanderbilt offense…
“I’ll talk a little bit about their offense. They do like some three tight end sets. I think their goal is going to be to really pound the ball, run the stretch and power and the boots off of it and try to reduce yardage on first down. Make their third downs more manageable-type philosophy is what it looks like to me.”

“At quarterback, I’m just really not quite sure who is going to be playing. I know they’ve had some issues with injuries. They’ve been rolling them around just a little bit. No. 4 (Patton) Robinette is a very athletic guy. (Wade) Freebeck is a guy that seems to be more of a pocket guy, more of a traditional passer.”

“Their leading receiver is not a receiver, their tight end, No. 81 (Steven Scheu) is their leading receiver right now, at least he was going into last game. They use him quite a bit. They like to use their tight ends as I said before.”

“They’ll put their tight ends in there but also put some sets in there that will look more like spread sets but with they’ll have big people in there. We’ll have some issues and probably have some linebackers out in space maybe a little bit more than normal but we’ll have to matchup the way they have their personnel in the game.”

“Offensive line, I think they’re the third most experienced group in the league in terms of starts. Their center, (Joe) Townsend, is the leader of that bunch and I think he does a great job from what I can see.”

On the Vanderbilt defense…
“On defense they have now become more of a 3-4 base. They do have some long guys at that outside position. (Stephen) Weatherly looks a lot like our young defensive ends. They have a kid named (Jonathan) Wynn who is just exactly what you’re looking for, the kind of Leonard Floyd looking guys and Lorenzo Carter types. They’re kind of changing their defensive personnel a little bit.”

“They have some very big defensive linemen. (Adam) Butler and (Vince) Taylor are some very big, physical men. The type you need in that kind of a scheme.”

“Middle linebacker Nigel Bowden is their leading tackler with 36 tackles. You can tell he’s the hub of that defense. In the perimeter (Andrew) Williamson leads their backend with 27 tackles. They have no returning starters in the backend so a little bit like us.”

“Darrius Sims they don’t list as a starter but he has an interception return for a touchdown and two kick returns for a touchdown. He’s the one that, against South Carolina, took two to the house. (He’s) very, very talented. Their special teams are outstanding. They’re very consistent.”

“They’re very tough on their coverage team. No hone has really broken anything big on them so that will be a big challenge for us there.”

“(Trey) Ellis is a guy, like ours, that’s pretty small but very dynamic. He’s a quick and fast guy with a lot of bravery back there so he’s going to be interesting to deal with. Their punt return team has scored a couple of touchdowns in this season.”

“Sims, their kick returner, is a special player and someone that we have to find an answer for.”

Closing remark…
“Looking forward to playing the game. Looking forward to being home between the hedges again, seeing that sea of red to help motivate our players.”

On the team’s defensive mindset against Tennessee last Saturday…
“I trust Jeremy Pruitt to do the right thing. Here’s what I would say to that, though. I think Tennessee is a pretty good football team. Freshmen or not, they’re a very good bunch and time is going to prove they’re a good football team. Other teams give scholarships and other teams have got good coaches so you can’t always just dominate everybody you play every down. It’s just not realistic right now, at least for us. We’ve got some warts, too, but I’m just pleased with how everybody battled and getting the victory was big.”

On whether or not they’re motivated to play Vanderbilt given last year’s loss and the new coaching regime…
“Yeah, we’re motivated. I can promise you I’m motivated. Hopefully the guys will see that (the new regime at Vanderbilt) and respond to that but I think they’re motivated, too. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”

On the value of a Heisman campaign for TB Todd Gurley…
“Just living through that at Florida State, we never really had a campaign for (Charlie) Ward or (Chris) Weinke or even Casey Welton, who was the runner up to Desmond Howard. I don’t think you need one. If a guy plays well enough everybody is going to know it. If you’re playing on a team that’s winning I think you have a really good chance. The Heisman campaign is just watching him do his thing. He’s playing very well. He’s got a certain style about him that is attractive to me. Just watching the power and the speed and agility. It’s just that competitive fire. He’s a great competitor. That’s what separates him from most backs. There are a lot of really great backs out there, as we all know. There are a lot of great backs in high school as you’re recruiting, but every once in a while there’s one that’s different. He’s just one of those guys. So I think that’s enough of his campaign. Just let him do his thing.”

On what QB Hutson Mason needs to do for Georgia to be better in the passing game…
“We’ve got to do some things to help him. We’ve got to separate at the wide receiver position a little bit better. I think our protection overall has been pretty good. We’ve just got to connect on some. There’s been a lot of times where we’ve called some deep ball shots and they’ve been in coverages where you shouldn’t just launch it out there. There was one play in particular where Gurley ran out in the flat and had about an eight yard gain, the next play was a fullback in the flat for a first down, and we had a double post on that thing and it didn’t come open. They rolled their coverage on that particular look and if it was a different coverage we’d have taken a shot. There was a couple other times that we had called some plays that could have been deep ball shots that either a coverage kept us from launching it out there or the look for running the football was too good and we checked to the run game. I don’t think there’s any doubt in my mind that we’ll throw the ball better downfield and I do think that having Justin (Scott-Wesley) and Malcolm (Mitchell) is going to help. I think it’s going to help our current receivers with more depth in practice, they won’t have to run as many routes, and in the game they’ll be more apt to be fresher, too, so we’ll see.”

On Mason’s throwing…
“I think Hutson is probably trying to be perfect. There’s a couple times when you’ve just got to cut the ball loose. I think there’s been a couple times when he’s held the ball because it wasn’t maybe just quite as clean as he wanted it to be, but it’s not always clean. We want separation and we want the quarterback to see that it’s coming open and put it on him, but there are some times when you’ve got to throw it in tight windows or lay it out there deep. But give our guy the best shot at the ball, that’s all we’re asking, and a couple of times he has done that and a couple he hasn’t so that’s the big thing. When we do go deep we need to put it in a position where we can get it.”

On Georgia’s kicking philosophy on kickoffs…
“This game we’re about to play a guy who’s taken two to the house. Those are huge momentum plays. So do we want to kick it deep to a team that has proven that they can put a hat on everybody, create a seam, and let a guy in about eight seconds change the dynamic of the game? You have to make some of those decisions obviously going into the game but there are some times when the wind is at our back and we might try and knock it out, or the wind’s in our face and we might say, ‘Let’s not do this.’ Like before the half, we pooched it. So if you kick it deep with only 20 seconds left on the clock and they take it back for a touchdown it’s pretty foolish. But when you kick it short you’re usually kicking to a guy who’s not a very dynamic return guy. He’s usually a guy who’s more of a blocker, so the goal is to pooch it to a guy who, even if he fields it, isn’t going to go to the house. They may get it on the 35 or something but that’s a lot better than kicking it deep, letting them set it up, everybody knocks somebody down, and then all of the sudden in one play we’ve given away a lot of momentum.”

On whether a guy like Gurley alters his coaching philosophy on offensive balance…
“If we weren’t giving him and (Nick) Chubb and Sony (Michel) and (Keith) Marshall the ball a good bit, I think most people would be saying ‘why aren’t you giving those guys the ball?’ So we’re not going to have quite the same balance as we’ve had in the past because of the dynamics of that backfield right now. Should we have more deep ball opportunities because of the running game? Yes, we’ve got to get better at that.”

On whether or not Gurley understands who he is in the public eye…
“He definitely gets who he is in the public eye and I think he’s being responsible.”

On if he keeps his eye on other games in the SEC East…
“You have to because there’s a race to the Eastern division title and everyone is trying to figure out how they can get there. We lost our first one to South Carolina so basically we’re two games behind them. If you lose to them head to head they have to have two losses for us to have any control over our destiny so yea, it (South Carolina’s loss to Missouri) was important. It’s early and a lot of things can happen but I’m watching what everybody is doing and trying to gauge what it’s going to take to get back to Atlanta. ”

On whether or not he designates someone to monitor player injuries…
“That’s Ron Courson and his entire staff. If anybody shows any signs of anything Ron is right there and will make a determination of whether or not he thinks it’s safe for a guy to play. There’s probably a few times here and there where a guy doesn’t show any signs or there’s a big hit and he just pops up and runs back to the sideline and doesn’t show it, but it’s rare. If there’s something going on it’s hard to hide it or tough it out without someone seeing it. I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but we’ve got a bunch of guys looking at that.”

On whether or not he will have guys returning from injury on a play count…
“I’m not sure on their stamina. Yesterday wasn’t a good gauge and I’ll know more after today’s practice, but the fact that it’s probably in the 70s, I’ve got a feeling that their stamina will be good handling the heat and the weather. The other thing is an injured body part when it’s coming back is going to tend to fatigue faster than the rest of your body so that’s what we’ve got to keep track of. But by Thursday I think we’ll have a really good idea of whether or not it’s just play ball or whether we’ve got to be strategic.”

On whether or not there is any scenario where Malcolm Mitchell will not suit up…
“He would have to have a setback to not play. The same with Justin (Scott-Wesley). (Jonathon) Rumph, I would say Rumph is not as far along as those guys. He’s probably doubtful right now.”

On if the fact that it is a religious holiday for Brandon Kublanow will affect his participation in Saturday’s game…
“I hadn’t sat down and said ‘hey this is what we’re going to do on Saturday,’ but he has the right to do what he wants to do. I think he wants to play, which will be great, but if he came to me and said, ‘Coach I don’t feel right playing today,” then we would honor that. Whatever he chooses.”

On if the team is preparing to play Brice Ramsey against Vanderbilt…
“A plan to? I don’t know. We are just practicing everybody as usual and we will figure that out Thursday night as we talk.”

On Kosta Vavlas’ value to the Georgia special teams unit…
“We love Kosta. Kosta is a great special teamer, a great Bulldog, and he’s a been a great leader for us. The guys really respect him and over the years he’s been a tremendous scout teamer for us. He’s played some snaps as well. Our staff has faith that he knows what to do and could go in and play if he needed to but he’s made his mark as a special teamer. I wouldn’t be shocked if he ended up being a permanent captain in that role, but that’s for the players to vote for and decide, but he’d be one of the top candidates for that.”

On if the special teams has improved from years past…
“Yeah, I think we’re better. I’ll be honest, I’m learning a lot more about it, I’m understanding it better, I think I’m able to help our coaches prepare our guys better. We really try to get more guys on those teams that are starters, but you’ve just got to flat out study every snap and really, truly see who’s the very best for that job. Because, you know, sometimes Kosta may not be a starter on your defense, but it doesn’t mean he might not be the very best special teamer you’ve got. There’s just a little bit of a mindset and a knack that some of these guys have. Some of these guys can kind of break into the playing time that way. I think we’re doing a good job of evaluating hard on a daily basis our personnel. We haven’t been afraid to make some changes if we feel like a guy is struggling, and I think, overall, our coaching staff has bought in to how important it (special teams) is.”

On RB Sony Michel’s timetable for recovery…
“It’s hard to say when (he will return) but Ron (Courson) will keep a good eye on that.”

On TB Brendan Douglas’ ability to step into more playing time…
“He’s ready. He’s ready every week. He works hard and gets reps in practice. It’s not like all of the sudden we’ve got to get him reps at tailback. He’s been getting a bunch of reps and he’ll be ready. Obviously he’s played in a bunch of games in the past and he’ll be ready. We’ve got a lot of faith in him.”

On playing two quarterbacks at once…
“I’ve done it over the years. I was used to doing it at Florida State and then when I got here we did it with Shock (D.J. Shockley) because that’s kind of what I was used to doing. (David) Greene was playing and the second team guy was getting a little work, so I was kind of used to it but over time I don’t think Mike (Bobo) felt quite as strong about it so we kind of got away from it but it’s not a bad thing to do.”

On whether he has another player who can fill Sony’s role…
“I think everybody’s got their own style. We’re not going to try and change somebody’s style, but is anybody just like Sony? No, they’re not. And Sony, if you remember, has been one of our better special teams players. He’s been one of our better kick coverage guys and he’s been one of our better punt coverage guys. So we’ve got to try and find some more guys that can run down there and force fair catches and get guys on the ground on kickoffs. It’s a big void on the special teams as well.”

Senior Inside Linebacker Amarlo Herrera

On avenging last year’s loss to Vanderbilt…
“Last year’s loss isn’t motivating me personally. I don’t know about everybody else, but we’re just trying to win this game. It’s this season. We can’t get stuck on last year. We are a new team.”

On the linebackers’ focus in practice this week…
“We’re focused on getting people lined up and making sure we know the personnel that can affect us. We’ve definitely been improving, but we have to keep getting better and working harder each game, each practice.”

Senior Quarterback Hutson Mason

On improving his connection with the receivers…
“It just comes down to trusting your guys. Sometimes it may not be as open as you want it to be, but you still have to give them a chance. It may turn out for your favor or it may turn out to be a pick. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to give them a shot at making a play. I can do a better job of that.”

On preparing for Malcolm Mitchell’s return to the field…
“I am adjusting. It’s been a while since we’ve worked together, so we’re going to have to get quite a few extra routes in. I think the coaches are implementing some more periods in practice where we just throw more routes. That’s really the best way to get that connection back— just throw more routes. So we’ll do it.”

Senior Defensive Lineman Toby Johnson

On his improvement this season…
“Basically, it’s just getting back used to playing. That’s what it is. I haven’t been playing. You can’t go in the game for a couple plays and expect to be making something happen, other than Josh (Dawson) last weekend. You just have to get in your groove. Practice can get you ready for the game, but it’s not quite like the games.”

On Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt…
“I know they’re pretty old up front. They’ve got a lot of guys that have a lot of SEC game experience. They play hard, they play together, and they communicate well. I think they’re going to be ready to play us. They feel like they can beat us. They beat us last year so we have to come out and start early against these guys. We just need to do our job. We had a lot of mental errors (against Tennessee). We need to do a better job communicating this weekend.”

Senior Linebacker Kosta Vavlas

On the improvement of the special teams unit…
“The coaches are putting way more emphasis on the techniques and really stressing the fundamentals in each phase of the game. They’re really giving a lot of time to that. Before and after practice we are spending a lot of time on the techniques and the strategies that each phase of the game requires, and we’re getting more in depth.”

On the upcoming game against Vanderbilt…
“Vanderbilt has a history of fighting hard. They’re a good team, they’re a great football team. We’re going to attack it and work every day. We’re not going to look too much at the things that happened in the past, but just take it by the week. We’re going to work hard on the things we need to work on and improve in the areas we need to improve.”

Courtesy of UGA Sports Communications

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