UGA Football

Georgia-Arkansas 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 Saturday’s SEC clash with Arkansas in Little Rock. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt

Opening statement…
“Getting ready for Arkansas. Coach Bielema is putting together a very fine football team. All you have to do is turn on the film to see that these guys are getting coached, that these guys are playing hard, and that these guys have a lot of ability. Just looking at their body types, you can tell they had a great offseason, physically.”

“I’ve never been to Little Rock that I can remember, as far as playing a football game, so I’m sort of interested to see how that goes. Coach [Tracy] Rocker let us all know that it’s not as big of a place as at their home stadium [in Fayetteville], but it’s very, very spirited. So we have to be ready for a hostile environment there, and we have to be ready for the challenge.”

On the Arkansas offense…
“They’re number one in the league in time of possession. Sometimes time of possession is not a real important stat with a lot of people going speed and up-tempo and all that kind of thing. But with the way they run the football and really impose their will on defenses that they’re playing against, it’s kind of a big part of what they do.”

“They’re number one in the league in rushing yards per game. They’re number four in the league in scoring points per game. They’re a very outstanding team. They’ve got three runners that have significant numbers as far as rushing yards. Williams has got 569 yards, Collins has got 630 yards, and Marshall, who is also a kickoff return man averaging over 30 yards per return, has 116 yards rushing. They’ve got a really good tandem of backs, actually more than a tandem, but they’re outstanding in that regard. They’re an outstanding offensive football team.”

On the Arkansas defense…
“A lot of returning starters. A lot of guys that are again very physical. I think when you practice against an offensive team that plays the way they play, you tend to have a very physical defense. And that’s exactly what they have. You watch them play the game, they play with tremendous energy and spirit and physicality. I’m very, very impressed with what I’m seeing on tape.”

Closing remarks of the opening statement…
“Another big challenge for us. Another away game in our little streak of about four away from home. We’re looking forward to the challenge. I think we had a good practice yesterday. I was very pleased with the energy of the day and we’ll see what we can do today.”

On whether the team will be able to keep riding high on emotions…
“I think our guys really understand that football’s a team game. And the best chance we have is for everybody to take care of their responsibilities, and for everybody to improve on a daily basis and everybody to play and practice with the kind of energy it takes to get the job done. I know I sound like a broken record, but football is a game of repetition. Even our scout teams are getting better. Yesterday was probably the best day ever, this season, with our special teams scout team, flying around and making life miserable for the starters; guys wanting to prove that they should play. And that helps us get better. We find flaws in practice instead of after the first or second kick and we’re trying to make adjustments that we can make during the week if we see that we have some issues. Whether it’s personnel issues, or just scheme, or trying to ask guys to do something that just can’t be done, sometimes we find a better way if the scout team does a good job. So if we keep doing that and keep pushing each other then I think we’ll be okay.”

On the challenges of coaching through difficult situations…
“I think coaching is a challenge, period. I think playing Arkansas is enough of a challenge, or whoever we play on our schedule is enough of a challenge to keep pushing hard towards excellence. If you want to play great, you’ve got to practice great. You have to do the little things that it takes to really become good at what you do. That’s the main challenge; focus on what’s important. What’s important is taking advantage of every rep that we have in practice and taking advantage of every meeting that we have and taking advantage of the time to rest and get proper nutrition and rest. There are just so many things that go into this that it’s a challenge every week.”

On how battle-tested Arkansas is from playing in the SEC East…
“I don’t know how important comparing the East and the West is. I don’t think it’s important. There’s only one game that matters the most: when the Eastern Division champion plays the Western Division champion. Whoever wins that one game has won the SEC so I don’t really know if it’s that important to compare. I think we’re all playing pretty good teams. But again, you watch Arkansas’ film, they’re playing Texas A&M up by 14 in the fourth—and it got away from them—but they also played a great game this past week. You can play great and be a really good team and not always win. I’d put them in the category of an excellent football team. They’re very well coached, very tough, very physical. They’re good in their specials and they’re as good as anybody.”

On when he anticipates hearing any news on TB Todd Gurley…
“I just don’t have any answer for that. I don’t know. If there’s something worthy of reporting we’ll report it, but other than that, we’re just focusing on things that we can control right now.”

On Todd’s reps in practice…
“Todd got some reps yesterday. We don’t have a lot of healthy backs, quite frankly, so he got some reps. As we got closer to the game I’m not sure how that’ll go but it’s kind of more day to day. We’re just figuring it out as we go.”

On whether the game plan will remain the same regardless of who is playing…
“Our game plan won’t change. Last year Todd had a high ankle sprain and Keith Marshall tore his ACL, unfortunately, but we didn’t change our offensive scheme. We’re not going to do that. You may call certain plays more or less depending on your personnel and all that but we’re not going to change philosophically or systematically. We’re not going to make a bunch of wholesale changes that we don’t need. We don’t plan on it.”

On FB Quayvon Hicks’ ability as a utility player…
“Quayvon has done a really good job for us. Quayvon had a good camp. It all started in the spring when we moved him to tight end to learn the position because we thought his body type could do it and we didn’t have a lot of tight ends in the spring. We needed some help. A lot of people will use tight ends as fullbacks and fullbacks as tight ends. They can be a little bit of hybrid-type guys and he has done a very good job. He did a lot better job at the tight end position than I thought he would; not that I had a lot of doubts about him but I didn’t know how it was going to go. I was just pleasantly surprised at how he did and how he embraced it. He was excited about it and enjoyed the new learning, but he’s still a heck of a fullback, too.”

On Nick Chubb’s fitness after carrying the ball a lot against Missouri…
“I asked [running backs coach] Bryan McClendon about that and he said that Sunday he [Chubb] came in and lifted, and ran, and did a little bit of yoga. When he was done he felt good. Yesterday at practice he looked good. On Sundays our guys can choose to get a lift in on Sunday or Monday, whenever they want to get it done. Some guys would rather get it done the day after the game to get the lactic acid out and he didn’t look sore yesterday.”

On what has impressed him about the defense…
“I do think that the communication in the back end is getting better and better. They’re understanding more of what Pruitt wants back there and they’re doing a better job of getting everybody on the same page. Every once in a while, it may not be exactly what you practice, but if everybody communicates and is coordinated you might play two deep instead of quarters, and if everybody knows and is on the same page then you’re sound in what you do. The problem is when one guy thinks you’re playing one thing and another guy thinks you’re playing something else things get crazy. You might say, ‘Why don’t you just call the defense and play it?’ but we don’t believe you can do that anymore. We believe a motion, or a split, or something changing forces you to make adjustments on the fly and if you don’t you’ll get exposed. There are a lot of things that are changing at the very last moment and everybody’s got to be locked in and communicated, doing the same thing scheme-wise, or you’re going to have people running free. So we’re doing a lot better job with that.”

On the consistent lineup changes on the defensive side of the ball…
“There’s a certain style of play—you might want a bigger, thicker linebacker, or d-lineman, or whatever it may be, to handle more of a pounding team compared to a team that likes to play a lot of three or four wide receiver sets—and a lot of times you go by the starting lineup. Obviously, it’s the first play of the game and if a team lines up in base then a certain group starts, but if they’d have started with four receivers on the first play we’d have had a different lineup in there so to speak. So it depends on how the offense lines up on that particular play.”

On the size difference between Arkansas’ offense and Georgia’s defense…
“I think if you’re quick and strong and sound in what you do you can create problems for guys that are big. If you just go toe-to-toe and get covered up—we use the term cover up to refer to offensive linemen that are trying to get right down the middle of someone and move the guy—you might run into some problems from time-to-time over the course of the game. There’s something to be said for quickness, strength, and what we call pop—the guy who can come off the ball quickly and get his hands on a guy and control him. Sometimes you don’t have to weigh 300 and something pounds to get that done.”

On how he rates Arkansas’ passing game…
“They do a good job. They actually threw the ball quite a bit against Alabama. I think they probably threw the ball more in that game than any game. They protect well. Allen is an agile guy with a strong arm. Their concepts are good, they just emphasize their runs more than their pass most of the time. I think that’s what coach likes. He was doing the same thing at Wisconsin and brought his same brand of football down here. You can see his stamp beginning to take hold of what they’re doing around there.”

On Brendan Langley switching back to defense and starting last game…
“It’s amazing. He had a whole spring at DB so that helped, and then at the end of the spring we decided to move him to wide receiver. Really, Brendan was basically on the defensive field the whole time because he was running routes as a receiver, so I don’t know if he was sitting there still paying attention to what was going on at DB, but he probably picked up a couple things here and there. When we had the attrition he had worked so hard as a scout teamer everyday with a great attitude, flying around making plays, athletically doing things, that our defensive coaches and Coach Pruitt noticed that and said, ‘Let’s give him another chance over here and see what happens’. I think one thing Jeremy likes is guys that have ball skills back there; guys that have some range. He’s seen a lot of wide receiver route running, ball catching, jumping up and making plays, and he’s like, ‘Well, maybe he can make some plays on the other side.’ As it turned out we got four picks and are doing a better job catching the ball when it comes to us. We’ve dropped a lot of balls over time and now we’re catching it better.”

On Brendan Douglas’s performance in the running game and his acrobatic dive…
“As he was running towards the end zone I was kind of hoping he’d get airborne, but when you go airborne a lot of times that ball comes out away from your body. It might not be fumbled, but if you notice he kept that thing tucked the whole time which I was most proud of—his ball security through it all—but Brendan’s a good athlete. If you just get him in shorts and a t-shirt and just say, ‘Let’s run a 40, or do agility drills, or other athletic things,’ or just get him in the weight room where he’s very strong, you’ll see he’s a very good athlete who knows what he’s doing. He’s tough and he’s probably a better athlete than people want to give him credit for.”

On where the team will practice today due to the rain…
“We think we can practice outside today. We think that as the day goes on the rain is going to slow down. We’ll be on the field turf. That’s kind of why we have the field turf for days like today and tomorrow, probably. I think the grass will probably be a little too saturated to get on it again tomorrow. My guess is we’ll be there today and tomorrow.”

On where the best location for the future indoor facility would be…
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that having an indoor facility near here would be the best use of a building like that. If you’re asking for my preference it would definitely be for it to be as close to this building right here [Butts-Mehre] as possible.”

On whether or not he has an opinion on NCAA athletes receiving benefits…
“I do but I’m not going to get into all of that right now. It would obviously be tied into what we’re living through right now. If you had have asked me two weeks ago I’d have probably answered that one, but I’m just trying to focus on trying to beat Arkansas. That’s really the only thing I can control right now.”

On whether or not he expects Todd Gurley to play again for Georgia…
“I’ll answer that like I’ve been answering any Gurley questions and that’s to say I really don’t know. I don’t know the answer to that.”

On whether or not he wants to force Arkansas to throw the ball…
“I think everybody we play, we want to get them into the position where they have to throw the football. That’s our goal, to win first down, whether it’s run or pass, but our goal is to not let a running game run wild. If you can’t stop the run you’re in huge trouble. The play action pass is so much more effective against you. If you know every time the ball is snapped that it could be run or pass then the percentage is like 50-50 and it’s hard to defend that. But if you get them into third and long they may run a draw or a screen or something but you can probably rally and tackle a guy before a first down, so you can take a little more chance on how you come after a guy. But yeah, it’s huge for us to try and stop or at least slow down the running game of everybody we play.”

On how he will prepare his defense for a power-running team…
“We at least went through camp running the football. We’re pretty similar in a lot of ways as far as how we go about our business so I don’t think our style is going to shock them or their style is going to shock us. It’s just going to be a matter of two very physical teams wanting to see who’s tougher. That’s probably going to be a big part of it.”

On Isaiah McKenzie’s fumble against Missouri and whether that affects him as the punt returner…
“He’s had enough reps and has shown enough good habits that I feel comfortable with him being back there. If the ball was just always out and about while he was running, or if he was reckless while fielding the ball in practice or games, I wouldn’t put him right back in there. He got it ripped out. The guy did a good job. He had the ball in there pretty good, but not good enough, so you learn from those kinds of things. And that’s the thing I told him coming off the field. I said, ‘Here’s a chance to learn without turning it over’. It could have easily been a turnover, obviously, but we got on the ball and it didn’t cost us much but a couple of yards. So now, just put that in your memory bank and understand that it takes a little bit more to squeeze that thing tight enough for them not to rip it out.”

On Keith Marshall’s injury status…
“I’m not really optimistic that he’d be ready to play full speed in this game. He’s getting some work but my best guess is that he probably won’t be ready by the time we play. Things could change but right this minute I’d say probably not.”

On how often his staff and him address NCAA violations with the team…
“We have exhausted every opportunity in my opinion to put all of that and other things in front of our young men. We do that a lot. We have a list of topics that tend to get guys across America—college, pro, people in business. There are things that happen. We have a systematic way of hitting every single one of them on more than one occasion throughout the year. We get it on the calendar way out in advance most of the time, but sometimes something will pop and we have to get someone in here to talk about a certain subject and all that. A lot of things happen at the beginning of camp but it happens all throughout the year.”

On the team’s ability to return punts instead of just calling fair catches…
“We’ve had a couple of punt safes. We actually didn’t have the most punt return yards, but if the numbers are right we’re one of the teams with the most punt returns—just getting the punt returner started. Because a lot of times you’ll have fair catch, fair catch, ball here, there, wherever, but we’ve caught the ball and got him started more than anybody in the country if the information given to me was correct. Which I think means our guys are doing a good job of badgering the defending cover guys enough to where we get the guy going. Now we’ve had a lot of twin safety stuff going where the guy who doesn’t get it ends up blocking the closest guy to the return man so he feels a little safety to have a little space to get it going. One has been for a touchdown some have gotten more than others but we’ve been really close on so many. We’re a lot better. Statistically, I don’t know if it shows we’re a lot better, but I can promise you we’re a lot better.”

Junior Defensive End Sterling Bailey

On the matchup with Arkansas…
“It’s going to be a good game. Traditional football, smashmouth. We know they’re going to run the ball. They’re number one in our conference in rushing offense. It’s going to be a good test for us, a good challenge, to see how far we have come and how much we can improve.”

On the defense’s ability to stop the run…
“Playing the run, we feel like we can do it, like we can stop the run. You have to stop the run to win games. In this conference, people run the ball, and if you can stop it, before you know it, you’re going to be at the top of the conference. That’s what we want to do and that’s what we try to do.”

Junior Tight End Jay Rome

On playing without Todd Gurley…
“I think it was really big. Any time you can go on the road and get a win in the SEC it’s a big win. We couldn’t think about [Todd’s suspension], we just needed to bond together as a team and I’m really proud of how everybody bonded together. We are not a one-man team, so we had a chip on our shoulder. We’re going to play for Georgia and we’re going to play for Todd.”

On the SEC race…
“Right now, all we can do is focus on the [East Division]. December is a long way away and we have a lot of games in between, so the only thing we can focus on right now is each week and winning each week. We need to focus on the teams that we need to play, one week at a time.”

Sophomore Offensive Guard Greg Pyke

On Brendan Douglas…
“I wouldn’t consider him really that little. He runs with so much power. We didn’t really skip a beat when we were running out there. The offensive line did a pretty good job holding them to only two sacks. We ran the ball pretty well, but our backs are so good back there. They just fight for all those extra yards and that definitely makes us play a lot harder trying to get our hands inside of a block so they can just spit it out and run for a touchdown.”

On the offensive line’s game-by-game improvement…
“By no means are we the best, but that’s why you watch film and you practice. You’ve got to keep getting better every day. It was nice to get some passing touchdowns against Missouri, too. I thought we did a pretty good job because their defensive ends (are talented). I think they had about 15 sacks on the year. We did a pretty good job.”

Sophomore Running Back Brendan Douglas

On his airborne touchdown against Missouri…
“That was a great block play. The offensive line did a great job on that play and really opened it up. It was just kind of instinct. I thought [the tackler] was going to go a lot lower than he did and I thought I was going to clear him, and then he ended up hitting me and I flipped a little bit. I didn’t think it was that crazy until I saw the video.”

On his increased playing time…
“The coaches do a great job of making sure that you practice every day like you’re the starter and to keep working hard. Running back is a position that you can lose depth really fast, and that’s kind of what happened and my opportunity came. Like I said, the coaches did a great job of having me prepared.”

Courtesy of UGA Sports Communications

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