Georgia head football coach Mark Richt addressed the media on Tuesday ahead of this Saturday’s pivotal SEC East showdown with Missouri in Columbia. A transcription of Coach Richt’s comments can be found in the attached document. Select player quotes are listed below.
Head Coach Mark Richt
Going to Missouri this time instead of South Carolina. Coach Pinkel has done a great job there. I was telling the team that a year ago no one really gave them a chance to win the East and they did it. They’re the reigning Eastern Division Champs, and I don’t think many people picked them this year, and here they are at the top of the Eastern Division race. So it’s a huge game for us. It’s a huge game for them. Looking forward to the challenge of it.
It is challenging. I’ll start with their offense. I’ll start with their quarterback, Maty Mauk. He’s got 124 yards rushing. Anytime a quarterback has positive yardage rushing like that, you know he’s a threat to cross that line of scrimmage. He’s a hard guy to wrap up. He creates a lot even on passing plays that break down. He extends plays by running around behind the line and throws it down field. He also can run QB run, QB draws. Actually he also has 14 touchdown passes added to four interceptions.
By the way, they’ve not lost a fumble all year. They’re doing a great job of protecting the ball, and their turnover ratio is one of the best in the league. At running back, Hansbrough has 420 yards rushing. He’s averaging 6.3 yards a carry, which is very impressive. His back up, Murphy, has 313 yards rushing, but he’s also the number one kick returner in our league. He’s averaging 12 yards per punt return. Very dynamic athlete, No. 6, Murphy.
At receiver, Sasser is their number one receiver. He’s already got close to 500 yards receiving and four TDs. Their number two receiver is white. He’s got over 230 yards with three TDs, and then Hunt has got five touchdown catches and close to 200 yards receiving. So they did a really good job of spreading the ball out.
So, anyway, they’ve got a great receiving corps, and actually their next leading receiver is Murphy again. Murphy is a very dynamic player. Three of their returning starters on the offensive line average over 300 pounds. They did a really good job against us last year, and most of those guys are returning. So we do have a great challenge against their offense.
Defensively a year ago they were tremendous when it came to pass rush, tackles for loss and all that. Here they go again. They run that 4 3 look, and those defensive ends are very similar to the kind of ends that we played with back when I was at Florida State. You just kind of turn them loose, let them penetrate up the field. They’re almost in a pass rushing mode every snap, and they’ll retrace and take care of the run game second, basically. But because of that, you’ve got Ray, No. 56, No. 1 in the league in sacks, No. 1 in the league in tackles for loss. Golden on the other side, No. 3 in the league in sacks, No. 5 in the league tackles for loss. Very dynamic players.
Again, when you have one on each side, you can’t really slide your protection one way or another and consider yourself safe. So the other two returning starters, No. 90 and 96, Brantley and Lucas respectively are the interior D line men that are starters for them, one of them over 300, the other one close to 300 pounds.
The number two tackler in the league, Scherer, No. 30, middle linebacker has 50 tackles already. The No. 8 tackler in the league, Brothers, No. 10 has 39 tackles already. Two and a half tackles for loss, three pass break ups. I think they lead the league in tackles for loss.
The number one tackler in the perimeter, Braylon Webb, has already got 27 tackles, a pick, three pass break ups, very outstanding defense. They tend to run a solid defense that keeps everything in front of them, and they break on the ball and they rally to the ball very quickly. They force you to throw a lot of check downs in your passing game. They really don’t want the ball over their head. They don’t want the ball in the intermediate area. They’re going to drop back deep enough to really encourage you to hit backs and receivers that are short crossing routes, and they’ll fly to the ball and try to knock it out.
Their punter, Brinser is averaging almost 42 yards a punt. Their kicker is four out of seven on his field goals with a long of 44. Baggett, that was Baggett and in the big four, punt, punt return and block, kickoff, kickoff return, they’re ranked ahead of us in league play in all four categories. So they’re excellent in the special teams area, and we’re going to really try to challenge our guys to do a great job versus their special teams. So with that, I’ll open it up to questions. See what you all want to know.
Q. You touched on their defensive ends. Have you been happy with the way Theus and Houston have played as far as that goes?
COACH RICHT: They’re better than they were a year ago. Are they ready to just man on man, pass these guys down after down without them creating some problems? I doubt it. I don’t know if anybody can just shut them down. They’re just very dynamic rushers, and you’re going to have to find a way to give them some help. Maybe not every snap, but they’ve got their work cut out for them. But I will say, Theus has improved and Kolton.
You know, Kolton a year ago was coming off that NCAA deal, and really the whole summer I don’t think he even knew what was going to happen. He was trying to keep his weight where he could gain a little bit if he got to play, and he could lose a little bit if he didn’t get to play anymore. So Kolton, he’s just a better player now than he was a year ago, and he struggled that day.
Theus had his moments too, struggling against those guys. But we’re better than we were, but are we good enough to keep them from harassing the QB? I don’t know if we’re that good. That will be a big challenge, a big match up.
Q. A quarterback rotation is a fascinating phrase in College Football. You find yourself here at the mid season introducing one a little bit. How do you plan on managing that going into this week and really going forward?
COACH RICHT: I wouldn’t call it a rotation. I would say that even last week we were committed to let Bryce play a series in the first half. That was kind of it. If we move forward with that type of thinking, it would probably be very similar. Truthfully, I just haven’t sat down with Mike and said, hey, are we thinking about doing this again or not? But to me, a QB rotation is more of a two series. You go two and you go two. Or 2 1, 2 1 whatever where you’re truly rotating throughout the game. It was just more of an opportunity to get Brice’s feet wet.
Q. Are you pleased with the progress of Blazevich?
COACH RICHT: Blazevich has done very well. True freshman, conscientious guy. He learned very fast. He’s in great condition when he showed up. He certainly has a ways to go in his development, but for a guy to come in and play that position going against some pretty talented guys so far, I think he’s done very well. He’s a good route runner. I think he’s got good hands. He needs to improve in all areas, but he’s given us a good boost at that position.
Q. So was the Jones situation a result of one incident or was there accumulation?
COACH RICHT: I would say there is accumulation of things. I wouldn’t say if another young man did something similar that it would mean he’d lose his opportunity to be at Georgia, but all of these things are based on a lot of factors. So what I say was just that one factor? No, it was not.
Q. I wanted to ask about the depth in the secondary. You guys lost three players in the last week or so. How is it?
COACH RICHT: Well, we’ve still got enough guys to be two deep. But we’re in desperate need of a great recruiting class in that area. I’ll say that.
Q. Is there any update with Keith’s injury?
COACH RICHT: Keith’s getting better. Probably not this week, but he looked good yesterday just watching him run a little bit. When I say good, I didn’t see him change direction. I just saw him run straight ahead. But he’s progressing, and I hope by next week, I hope. That’s just me being optimistic and all that. I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but I’m hoping he can be back next week.
Q. What was his injury?
COACH RICHT: Sprained ankle, sprained knee. But I think I’d said it before publicly that the ankle was more of an issue than the knee.
Q. How much of a break was it getting this game at noon considering you have Arkansas the next weekend? Is that something you guys actively lobbied for?
COACH RICHT: We didn’t lobby for noon, but we were not interested in 9:00 o’clock, and even 6:00 would have been tough on us. The 9:00 p.m. game would have gotten us in about 6:00, 7:00 a.m., a 6 p.m. kickoff would have gotten us in about 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, and knowing you’ve got another game the next week, it would have been tough. So we were hoping for an earlier time than one of those two, especially the 9:00 o’clock.
I actually heard where it hurt some of our fans that were trying to go to the game to have that early game. Some of them planned on flying in Saturday morning and getting there in time for kickoff of a 3:00 or 6:00 or 9:00, so we were definitely not trying to hurt our fan base in any way, shape or form. But we were just thinking in terms of the rest that’s needed to be prepared for the next one. I think it was Arizona State, at the time we went to Arizona State, I believe we were landing around 6:00, 7:00 a.m., and guys were sleeping on the floors of the plane. It was just not a good way to start the next week.
Q. Going back to the quarterback situation, how much is Mason’s play going to result in how much you continue to let Ramsey play, even if it’s just a drive or two? Is it going to be truly dependent on how Mason plays?
COACH RICHT: I don’t think so. I don’t think so right now. Anything can happen. The big thing is people are talking about balance in our offensive system, and we want balance. I’ve always said balance as if they overload the run, you’ve got to throw well. If they overload the passing game, double receivers, you’ve got to be able to run well. That is balance to me.
But the scales going to tip toward the running game this year. It’s just one of those years where we’re really blocking extremely well. We’ve got some pretty special backs, and I think it’s the wisest thing for us to do. Now we’re getting some more talent base back at the wide receiver position. Malcolm really looked good yesterday. Justin is continuing to progress. Everybody else, I think the receiving corps is optimistic that we’ll do a little more damage at that position. So I think you’ll see more of a vertical passing game, and you’ll see us throwing and catching the ball better as we go. But I still don’t know if we’ll be trying to throw for 300 yards a game. I just don’t know if that will be the case this year with the way we’re running it.
Q. How many reps do you think before Malcolm will be ready to play?
COACH RICHT: It will depend on how the week of practice goes. We didn’t go long yesterday, but he had a lot of energy yesterday. No one asked him to, and we were like maybe on the 20 yard line, we were on the filed turf field yesterday, which is 120 yard field for us. Every time he caught the ball, he went all the way to the end zone. I mean, he ran about 67 yards after the catch, and then hustled on back for the next one. So I think he’s really working hard towards being in condition to play as much as we need him.
Q. The offense, when you look at the numbers on pace to score more points, average more points in program history, ranks high nationally. I know you always want to get better, but do you feel like right now the offense is doing everything that you all need to win?
COACH RICHT: Well, I think, and I’ve said this before in other years, there is always a moment of truth in a game, like the end of the South Carolina game we had the ball in our hands. We had a chance to score a touchdown, we didn’t. Had a chance to kick a field goal, we didn’t. Same thing with defense. There will come a time when we need to stop right now to win the game, and sometimes that’s doing what you need to do to win, you know what I mean?
So I think the offense is doing very well. I’m pleased with what they’re doing. But I’m sure there is going to be another moment of truth whether the score is 10 7 or 40 42. Somewhere along the way we’ll probably need to drive the ball and get points on the last drive of the game to win. Again, I think there will be those times on defense as well where we’ve got to get a stop right now. We must get a stop or the game’s over. Those are the moments that you’ve got to rise up if you’re going to be a champion in my opinion.
Q. How important do you think this game is to deciding the SEC’s title?
COACH RICHT: Well, it’s big, for sure. I mean, mathematically it doesn’t assure anybody it doesn’t assure the winner of winning the league, and it doesn’t assure the loser of not winning the east. But the more games we play, the more valuable they are. We definitely for example, if we lose, we’re, in essence, three games behind Missouri. That’s pretty tough to overcome. They’d have to lose three times to give us a chance. We don’t want to think about that. We want to try to get this thing and not have to worry about somebody getting beat.
Q. When you talked about that moment of truth, certainly you have guys who have been in big games before, not only here but in high school. How do you emphasize that? How do you get guys conditioned to the thought that this all comes down to right now?
COACH RICHT: Well, we talk about it. We talk about it, and we practice. We’re hoping that we practice in such a way that we can finish games. We think we conditioned a little different in the summer. For a fast, high tempo offenses and to also be able to last to the end of a game and throughout the season. So as we prepare and as we talk to them, it’s all focused on finishing strong because that’s what so many of these games come down to the last quarter, the last drive, the last play sometimes. So that’s what we’re trying to do.
Q. Was that more sprinting?
COACH RICHT: Yeah, a lot more sprinting this year. We did more short distance, fast bursts, shorter rest time in between and a volume of that. We didn’t spend as much time in the front end of the summer running longer distance and then going shorter and shorter. We just started out running sprints.
Q. Now this far in, how do you assess that?
COACH RICHT: I think we played hard to the end. I think we played hard to the end of every game. I don’t think we’ve run into a game where we ran out of gas. I don’t think we’ve done that. I’ll say this too, I’ve said this for years too, part of it is how you condition, but part of it is how you substitute. If you refuse to sub, especially early in the year when it’s hot and humid and all that kind of thing, guys will fatigue and guys will wear out. Even as we’re trying to run the ball at the end of a game, we know defense is a little bit fatigued you’ve got a better chance to break the tackle, you’ve got a better chance to run the rock. So all those things come into play.
But I think how we started the season because of our off‑season conditioning, because of how we sub, I think we finish most games ‑‑ I think we finished all our games with a enough energy to win.
Q. At least through your tenure, Georgia tends to have a lot of long road games in October, road trips. Do you hope that changes in future scheduling or do you like having the blocks of home games late in the season the way it pans out?
COACH RICHT: I don’t think much about it. I’m kind of like tell me what the schedule is and let’s go play. Everybody has some kind of challenge with their scheduling, I think, no matter what. The only thing that I really think is important for us is to try to get open dates prior to an SEC Eastern Division opponent. Those are the things. That is the thing that’s probably most crucial. If I’m sitting there with scheduling and all. It would be nice to play a game or two out of conference before you get into conference play. I think I would be for that every year.
Q. What is the challenge on the kickoff guy this time versus that you just played a good one?
COACH RICHT: It does come down to the same thing. If you kick a ball in play that’s returnable, it better be high. You want that coverage team to get as far down the field as possible, and you want it placed where we want it placed. If you are expecting the ball to be in the right corner of the field and the guy makes a mistake and kicks it down the middle and everybody’s trying to converge on a corner kick, so to speak, then the ball is over here and before you know it, he can break contain in a hurry. They’re taught to adjust to where the returner is, but some guys do it better than others, you know what I mean?
So if you can knock it out of the end zone every time, that would be nice. But almost every game has a wind factor where if it’s behind your back, you can knock it out. If it’s in your face, you’ve got to cover it. The other thing has been some of the pop‑up kicks or however you want to call them, pooch kicks, sometimes that’s a good strategy to make sure the ball is not in the hands of their best guy. When you kick it short, it’s just harder to set up a return. When you kick it deep, that’s what everybody practices how to set up that return for a deep kick, so every once in a while, you squib it. Every once in a while you pop it up. Every once in a while if they have twin safeties you try to kick it to the other guys, so those are the things you’re trying to do.
Q. (Indiscernible) got in for I guess one play in this last game. Where is he in all of this? I know we talked about Brice, but is Faton still under consideration?
COACH RICHT: Yeah, he’s in a position that’s where he has to keep fighting in practice and in meetings, and right this minute he’s not the next guy in, so that’s something you have to battle mentally probably as much as anything else. But Faton’s a good football player, and he knows our system pretty well, so he’s not out of it.
Q. I know this has been an interesting year as far as defensive backs this calendar year. Devin Bowman is a guy that’s had a some potholes since he’s been here. I know he made a big play for you the other day. Have you seen a maturity level increase in him?
COACH RICHT: I’m smiling because I’m happy for Devin considering all the roads he’s traveled so far that he’s actually gotten in the game and started to play. And he made a big play in the last ballgame, it’s just one game, and we’ll see if he continues on, but I’m happy for the position he’s gotten himself into, and hopefully he’ll take advantage of it or continue to take advantage of it.
Q. I wanted your opinion on, or have you spoken to players about how they should react to negative criticism on social media sites such as Twitter?
COACH RICHT: I didn’t know there was any negative stuff out there.
Q. Not this week, but after the South Carolina game and things like that.
COACH RICHT: I don’t spend much time on that other than we always talk about I mean, this is our team meeting room, obviously, and we always talk about what is really truly important is what the coaches think, what your teammates think. We have to focus on what we do. We have to focus on our process. We have to trust each other. They have to trust that we know what we’re doing. We have to trust that they’re going to get the job done and that’s kind of one of the neat things about football.
I think that’s part of the reason why teams get so close. I think that’s why 30 years down the road when you see an old teammate it feels like you saw your brother and you haven’t missed a beat because we do go through a lot together. There is a really strong camaraderie on the right kind of teams.
I’ve been blessed at Georgia. I don’t think we’ve ever had a team that it fell apart. As far as the unity of the team, we may have lost more games than people wanted us to lose, but I don’t think we ever had a time where we had in fighting or we had there’s always a moment of a guy getting mad at another guy or coaches might get mad at another coach like a family might with brothers and all that kind of thing. But we’ve never I don’t think we’ve ever had a time where the team just fell apart.
We work hard on unity, on trust, on believing in each other and counting on each other, and knowing that if we do lose a game, it’s never, well, it’s that guy’s fault or that unity’s fault or that side of the ball’s fault or that coach’s fault. We always look within to say what could I have done better as head coach? What could have the coordinators have done better? What could the position coaches have done better? What could each player have done better? The first guy that coaches or plays a perfect game, you could start critiquing everybody else. But focus on your issues that you can control that help us win, and that’s how we go about it.
Q. Not talking about Todd Gurley anymore. Obviously, his carries have gradually gone up. How do you feel he’s holding up because you’re obviously depending on that guy a lot?
COACH RICHT: Yeah, Todd has so far done really well. I never can tell you, for sure, how many carries he’s going to get, but right now with him and Chubb and Brendan, it’s not like we’ve got Sony still and Keith, so those guys will I mean the majority of the carries will be Chubb and Gurley. I don’t know how many snaps we’ll get, but I would say a good percentage of our plays will go to our tailbacks, over half of whatever that number is. So if we play 70 plays, I would say at least 35 of them are going to go to those three guys. But I think he’s holding up well.
You might have noticed last week we put green jerseys on our tailbacks, and we’re going to put green jerseys on all our tailbacks. They don’t need anymore. Even in a thud situation, they don’t need to take any shots of any kind. Saturday is enough.
COACH RICHT: No, I don’t think Rumph will go this week. He had a little bit of a setback last week on the hamstring. So I don’t think he’ll play this week.
Q. Do you still play him?
COACH RICHT: We planned on playing Rumph. We planned on playing Rumph.
Q. McKenzie at the beginning of the season not starting off (Indiscernible), do you feel comfortable with him going to Missouri to be the guy?
COACH RICHT: He’s gotten much better in his fundamentals catching the ball. Early on in the year I think I mentioned this to you, but I told them on the front end, unless you prove to me you’re serious about doing the fundamentals right, I’m not going to let you do it. So he took it seriously, and his fundamentals have really gotten good. I’m not going to say he’ll never drop one or he’ll never fumble, but I think fundamentally he’s doing the right things over and over. That’s basically getting under it, looking it all the way in and catching it right here instead of trying to snatch it up there or catching it on the run. And the things he’s doing, he’s talented and it’s kind of fun to watch. If you catch a ball here, by the time you get it to here, you get blasted if you don’t fair catch it. So that ball’s going to be out.
He’s done a good job and we have enough faith in him to let him be the guy. But we have a lot of faith in Reggie too. Reggie does a good job.
Q. Brendan Douglas as far as playing time is concerned, he seems like a killer in a lot of places?
COACH RICHT: All three of those guys are power guys. Gurley got power, Chubb got power, and Brendan is a very powerful guy. I’ve seen them all run through tacklers, run over tacklers. So he’s going to fit right in and he’ll get to play. Unless there is a setback between now and then. He’s going to be part of that rotation.
Q. What happens to the unity on the team when there are dismissals like there have been the past two weeks?
COACH RICHT: I think — I don’t know for sure every guy feels about everything that happens in that regard. I do think overall the guys understand that I’m serious about doing things right. I think they’re shocked. I think a guy might be a roommate with somebody or that might be his closer friend or whatever. But I think they understand that I’m serious about guys behaving and that it’s a privilege to be at the University of Georgia, and there are things that can happen that will cause you to forfeit that opportunity if you don’t do things the way you ought to do them. I’m never happy to do that, but I think everybody knows it’s full disclosure on the front end.
Junior DE Josh Dawson
On the Georgia defense scoring in each of the last two games…
“I feel like it’s great. It’s a great accomplishment as a defense putting up points. It’s just a new goal to try to keep setting. I feel like it’s a great accomplishment for us. [Coach Pruitt] really just enforces turnovers and getting off the field on third down. Those things just lead to points on the board so I guess we’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”
On Missouri’s offense not losing a fumble so far this season…
“I’ll definitely try to, and the defense will try to do something about that this weekend. We’ve just got to come out there and play our defense, and play Georgia defense. We’ll try to make some plays and try to come out with a victory.”
Senior SS Corey Moore
On Missouri’s offense…
“Just watching film of [Missouri quarterback] Maty Mauk and the previous teams he’s played, once he gets out of the pocket, he has his eyes down the field, looking to make a play. We know they have some explosive players at the wide receiver position and they have some great running backs. It’s going to be a pretty good game and we’ll have many opportunities to make plays.”
On the atmosphere at Missouri…
“I’m not taking any thing away from those guys, [even with] an 11 A.M. kickoff. Any time we play Missouri, I think they’ll have some great fans. It was very electrified the first time I went there and it was a crazy atmosphere. They have some pretty good fans. We know that Missouri has a great team overall so it’s going to be a pretty good game.”
Freshman TE Jeb Blazevich
On his improving performances each week…
“We’re coming in just wanting to work and get better at everything. Coach Lily and other guys in my room are just trying to make the best out of what I have to offer.”
On what he brings to the team…
“A good balance of being able to go run routes and also being able to block a little bit. I’m just trying to fit the role of whatever they need me to do for the week.”
On the rest of the SEC…
“I feel like we take everything day-by-day, week-by-week. Right now, all we’re focused on is Mizzou. Of course, we are interested to see how it’s all going to play out. But in order to win it all, you have to win the game this week. And you have to have that attitude every week.”
Senior C David Andrews
On the success of the Georgia offensive line…
“I think we’re just playing really well right now. I think we’re able to run the ball and when you do that, that eases off the pass rush a little bit. Getting in these manageable third down situations also eases off the pass rush a little bit, so I think that’s helping us out.”
On this offensive line being the best he’s worked with…
“I think it has a lot to do with having some healthy running backs and having as many running backs as we do right now. But I definitely think we have a great group of guys. We really gel together. [Brandon] Kublanow and [Greg] Pyke have done a great job all offseason working hard and being ready to go when their time was called.”
Courtesy of UGA Sports Communications