UGA Football

Richt, Bulldogs Preview Alabama Game

Mark Richt
(Photo: John Kelley/UGA)

Georgia head football coach Mark Richt, along with several players, addressed the media on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s SEC matchup between the No. 8 Bulldogs and No. 13 Alabama. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt

Opening statement… 

“Good to see everybody. I’d like to start out talking just a moment about Devon Gales, the Southern University football player who had the spinal cord injury. I know that a lot of things have been tweeted out and all that kind of thing. I know on my Twitter account I tweeted out the way in which, you know, our Bulldog Nation can help or anybody around the country for that matter. There’s a handout for that. And I would think if they just went to the Southern University website they could find it, if anybody watching would want to get involved helping out. But anyway, we’ll do everything in our power as the Bulldog Nation to bless Devon and his family going through this time. And looking forward to seeing his progress.

“Alright. We’re going to play Alabama this week, obviously. A lot of people have been excited about this for a while, at least that’s what I hear. I know we’re excited because we’re playing them this week. But I’ll start with their offensive team. Of course, you know, Coach (Nick) Saban has done a great job there at Alabama, won a bunch of games and championships, and they do a wonderful job there on both sides of the ball. But we’ll start with offense. They’re averaging 460 yards a game, over 200 yards rushing and about 260 passing. They’re averaging 35.8 points per game. So they score a lot of points. And also they’re averaging about 25 first downs a game. That’s No. 1 in the league right now. They’ve got 10 rushing touchdowns, nine passing touchdowns, so very balanced in their approach. And they’ve got the personnel to get it done.

“On defense they have eight returning starters. They’re giving up 17.5 yards a game, which is fourth in the league. They’re giving up 267 total yards a game, which is second in the league, and they’re giving up around 56 yards a game rushing, which is No. 1 in the league. So they’re the No. 1 rush defense in the league and maybe in the country. I didn’t look at the national stats, but I’m sure they’re very high in that category as well. Like I mentioned, eight returning starters on defense. Very talented guys. One of the things I think that stands out the most to me is just the way they’re all put together. You got their defensive linemen, all 6-4, 300-pounders. Their linebackers are anywhere between 240, 250 pounds, most of them. Their DBs are all around the six-foot range and are in the 190, 195-pound range. Just a really good-looking football team overall. And Reggie Ragland is No. 19. Their mike linebacker, he leads the team with tackles with 34. Seems to be one of the leaders, if not the leader of that defensive group, signal-caller type guy, just making a lot of plays. Very impressive with what he’s been doing.

“So it’s going to be a tremendous challenge for us, a team that is used to winning, and a team that’s, you know, very well coached. I think we all know that. And we’re just looking forward to the challenge of it, and with that I’ll answer any questions that you have.”

On the Alabama running backs…

“Well, Derrick (Henry), big kid. 6-4, 240 or whatever he is. I could take a peek here at what we got listed. Yeah, 6-3, 241, but he’s very tall for a tailback. You don’t see guys that tall very often, but just a very fast guy, very powerful guy. He’s a punishing runner. I mean I don’t know if I could compare him so much with (Nick) Chubb other than they both carry the load for their team and they’re both physical backs, tackle breakers. But they have other skills as well. And then (Kenyan) Drake, not quite as big, but definitely got a lot of speed and agility, and you know, is doing a very good job as well. They’ve got young backs in the fold that I’m sure will be stars one day as well.”

On comparing Georgia’s defense to last season’s defense…

“Well, I’ve got a lot of faith that our defense is going to play hard and that they’re going to be well coached. I know Coach (Jeremy) Pruitt and the defensive staff will put a good plan together and, you know, one thing we’ve never had an issue with is our guys playing hard. If they play hard, if they know what to do, that’s really all we can ask from them. They’re going to get challenged this game because there is a great balance in how Alabama approaches their offensive game. They do run the ball well with power. They can spread you and run the ball. They’ve got all the play action passes and they can, you know, spread it and drop back with the best of them. So it’ll be a challenge for our guys to be disciplined and to tackle well and make sure everybody’s playing their gap responsibilities in the run game and making sure when we rush the passer we don’t lose containment on things, all those fundamental things that have to be done. But I’ve got faith that they’ll play well.”

On differences in defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt from last year… 

“We’ve changed some personnel. I think we did become younger overall. If you take our top 22, we’re extremely young. And I don’t like to say that much because it sounds like you’re making up an excuse, but there are an awful lot of young players who are within our two deep. And we lost some veteran guys a year ago that ended up making some NFL clubs and things of that nature. So, I think we’ve got the right kind of guys, but we certainly have got some youngsters that will be counted on and have been counted on so far. And sometimes that’s not the best situation, but I think — I think our defense, again, is going to be extremely well coached and is going to play really hard.”

On running an up-tempo offense against Alabama…

“Well, we do — we go without a huddle most of the game. We do huddle here and there. We’ve huddled at the end of some ball games to just use as much clock as possible. It’s a little easier to manage the clock when you huddle, if you’re trying to kill time rather than stand at the line of scrimmage and everybody kind of looking at each other. We found it’s probably a little bit easier to get in the huddle and try to finish the game. But we like no huddling. We do have different paces. Sometimes we go faster than other times. But we like it because it — if you get the play call and you get to the line of scrimmage and see what’s going on, it gives you time to make a change if you need to. Like one time last game we just lined up wrong and if we’d have broken the huddle and then the guy lined up wrong, we’d have been having a delay of game or calling a timeout, but because we no huddled and got to the line quickly, we looked up, there was still like 20 seconds on the clock for a guy to just go all the way across the field and get set and make sure everything is okay before he snapped the ball. So there’s a benefit in that way. But we can go with good tempo. We can go with good pace and that’s been a part of what we’re doing and we’ll continue to try to do that.”

On Alabama’s ability to throw the play-action pass…

“It’s huge. People that run the ball that well, they’re going to throw play action pass. They’re going to make that pass look like the run. They’re going to try to block it the same with pad level of your linemen and sometimes pull a lineman like you would — usually when you pull a lineman, you’re running the ball. But sometimes people pull linemen and still pass the ball. So you know, teams that run the ball well are going to make it look exactly like the run, or at least as close as they possibly can. And then people get out of position. Linebackers get up on that line of scrimmage and DBs at times make mistakes. But the linebackers can’t help but get sucked up into the action. There’s creases there. There’s throwing lanes. So the better a team can run the football, the better the play action pass will be and the less chance you’ll be in third and long, and that’s what we’re all trying to stay out of. But it’s very important for our guys to have that discipline. And read their keys, but sometimes the keys look almost identical.”

On this season’s Alabama offense compared to the 2012 offense…

“Well, I’m just trying to remember now. I really didn’t look at that side of the ball much on that game because it was different, different coordinator, I believe. But they pounded the ball that day, that’s for sure. And they’re capable. You see their offensive line in person, you’ll know what I’m talking about.”

On the matchup between Georgia’s offense and Alabama’s defense…

“Your quarterback always has to play well in games like this, no doubt. But it’s just like the last game, I think most people could see — I could see anyway, I thought our line played better in the third quarter than they did the first two quarters. I thought they created more space for runners and a better pocket for the quarterback and things started to go. So this game is a line of scrimmage game for both teams. But somewhere along the line, our quarterbacks are going to have to make some plays. I say our — ours and Alabama’s. The quarterbacks will have to make some plays. But sometimes making the play is just doing what you always do, which is get yourself in the right run game, get yourself in the right protection, you know, put the ball on the money, throw the ball away, hit a check down, take what they give you. I mean rarely does a guy have to do something acrobatic or above and beyond the call of duty. Just do your job and do it well. It gives you a chance.”

On keeping his team’s emotions in check during a big game week…

“I thought it was very much business as usual yesterday. I’m expecting it to be the same today. I mean our approach really has been on trying to improve and trying to get our scout teams to simulate everything the best they can and just focus on assignments, focus on technique, focus on effort. And then obviously focus on academics. So that’s what we’re trying to keep everybody’s mind on their job, on their business, on their assignment, on their responsibility and not anything else. And I don’t mind guys getting excited about a game. I like them getting excited about a game, but they have to be able to function well, you know, on top of that.”

On Georgia’s Alabama connections… 

“Well, every guy I hire has experiences from somewhere. So we’ve got nine full-time coaches, a lot of quality control coaches, strength coaches. We’ve got people in a lot of different roles in recruiting. And so you get a lot of ideas from a lot of places because of the experiences that they have. So there’s no question that we’ve had a lot of ideas that have come from guys that were at Alabama, guys that were at Auburn, guys that were at Southern Cal, LSU, just all kind of different places across the board. And I’m a guy that’s very open-minded to listen and hear it out and see if there’s a better way, or even see if there’s a way that everybody just wants to buy into, because sometimes there’s more than one way to skin it. If what we’re doing is very sound and everybody’s excited about it and we all buy in, then I know it’s going to have a better chance of getting sold in the right way, too. So the job I have is to make sure when I listen to these ideas and when we listen to them as a staff, that we talk it out and then we find what we think is the best practice and then everybody leaving that meeting room together. That’s the main thing. But there’s been a lot of good ideas from a lot of places, but certainly from guys that have coached at Alabama.”

On having Sony Michel and Nick Chubb in the backfield…

“It’s been great. When you have guys who are that talented and that productive, when we talk about Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, you know, it’s healthy when they like each other. It’s healthy when they enjoy each other’s company, and like you said, push each other and cheer for each other. And you know, I guarantee you every time Nick does something good, Sony is excited for him, truly excited for him. And I think when Sony does things well, I think Nick’s happy for him. I think that runs through the whole team. I don’t see anybody getting mad when a teammate does well. I think they are excited about it, and it’s important to be a group of guys that care. I mean you could play and compete and not like a guy. You could play alongside a lineman that you don’t like and probably have a decent amount of success, but to me, it’s just — it’s better when guys enjoy each other and believe in each other and love each other, and that’s what we try to build here at Georgia.”

On if there will be any extra emphasis on special teams this week in practice…

“Like I’ve been saying for years, I mean everything we do, we film. We review it. We critique it. And any given day there may be something that needs to get cleaned up. And it’s just — it’s just an ongoing process that never ends. And to say, you know, one specific thing on each side of the ball, I really couldn’t do that for you. And as far as special teams, you know, with the 20-hour week the way we have it setup, you know, if you’re going to take a lot of extra time on a special teams or a lot of extra time on offense or a lot of extra time on defense, you’re just pulling away from something else, because you know, it’s really kind of like a machine. I mean we know exactly what we’re going to do as a staff throughout the week. We know exactly what we’re going to do with the field, with the players, what we’re going to do in meeting times and how long they last and what we’re going to cover. So to sit there and say we’re going to try to spend more time on it, we really can’t if we wanted to. But we emphasize everything. There is an importance, I think we — we probably spend as much time meeting, walk-through and practicing special teams — I doubt there’s many teams that do it more than we do, as far as the time allotted for it.”

On if a wide receiver will emerge behind Malcolm Mitchell…

“I don’t know. I didn’t look at the stats. I don’t even know who’s our No. 2 guy right now. You know, I don’t — I really don’t think much about this guy connecting with that guy as much as the quarterback knowing his progressions and going through his progressions properly. I think if you have a favorite receiver, you may force it to a guy that you shouldn’t force it to at times. Now, if the guy’s that good, maybe that’s a good thing. If he can make the play no matter what. And I think that’s what happens, when you see a receiver go make a play in a jump-ball situation or a back shoulder throw like Malcolm (Mitchell) has done a couple of times, I’m sure that’s increasing Greyson’s faith in him to go ahead and let it rip.”

On Alabama’s ability to maintain success…

“I think Alabama is a great football team, and they’re as good or better than they’ve ever been in my opinion. So I don’t know what the talk might be out there. But they’re as good or better than anybody in our league and as good or better than anybody in the country. So you know, you just gotta play the games and see who wins, but I think they’re still a great team. I do.”

On what he can take from the 2008 and 2012 Alabama games…

“We play so many big games that come down to the little things. Could be one play. It’s just like I mentioned — I don’t know who I mentioned it to, but, you know, we were not real happy with the number of penalties that we had the first few games, and we talked a lot about being more disciplined in that area. And so we come out of last game with only two penalties for 10 yards. That’s two five-yard penalties. If you had that all year long you’d say, you know what, I’ll take that. That’s pretty good. But you know, one penalty cost us an interception and the other penalty cost us a touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell. Even though it seemed little, well, the tackle wasn’t on the line of scrimmage all the way. He had to move up six inches to be legal. That cost a touchdown. It cost more than five yards. And the same thing on we had a defender in the neutral zone when the ball was snapped and we ended up getting a pick. Well, that pick could have been the difference between winning and losing. So those little things really matter.”

On the Sanford Stadium crowd…

“Our crowd has been great. I’ve been really excited and pleased with the Bulldog Nation and how they’ve supported us and how they’ve — and just game day how they’ve supported us. It’s just like the South Carolina game was a 6:00 kick or whatever it was and just to look around and see all the tailgaters there, and we had some recruits getting up early for breakfast or whatever it was, and they were just kind of in shock at everybody in place already ready to go for a night game. And so that atmosphere is huge. And then our Dawg Walk is unbelievable. The student section during pregame warmup is just awesome. Our players just really react to that in a positive way. And you know, the band obviously is a part of the Dawg Walk and part of the pageantry. And then our fans, like wearing red, I’m sure everyone is going to wear red and they’re going to do a great job of getting loud when they’re supposed to and staying loud and make a difference in the ball game. They will make a difference in this game, with the amount of noise that they’re going to make and the amount of energy they’re going to bring to our players when good things happen. So I just have a lot of respect for the Bulldog Nation and thank everybody very much for what they do.”

On getting snaps for quarterback Brice Ramsey…

“That’s been our plan, and that was our plan going into the South Carolina game, to get him in there in the first half, to get Brice in there. And it just was too — we were too hot, and we decided not to do it at that particular time, but our plan is going to stay the same as far as trying to get him in there and get him quality time and help him develop as well.”

Senior WR Malcolm Mitchell

On preparing for Alabama…

“We’re staying focused, making sure we’re prepared for Saturday the same way we did the other couple of weeks. Just come in the building prepared for practice, focus on the schemes that the coaches are setting up and executing.”

On staying consistent in preparation for playing on the national stage…

“I don’t think we should (change anything). I think we should handle it like we handle the majority of the games.”

On building chemistry with junior QB Greyson Lambert…

“I definitely think (we are). I definitely think we’ve established that trust, not only with me and Greyson, but all the quarterbacks and the receivers.”

Senior ILB Jake Ganus

On growing up in Alabama…

“I think it was a unique situation. You usually have to pick. In ninth grade, the first thing they asked me was ‘Are you Alabama or Auburn?’ It’s serious over there, that rivalry. It goes deep. I’m glad that I was a UAB Blazer and now I’m a Georgia Dog.”

On whether he thought he’d play Alabama…

“When I got to UAB, no. I knew that was never going to happen. When I signed with Georgia and looked at the schedule and saw that they had Alabama and Auburn on there, I was like ‘that’s awesome for me. I get to play both of my home state schools.’ So that’s cool.”

On the play of the defense leading up to Alabama…

“I think we’ve done good. We’ve got a lot of things to improve on. Overall, it’s going to come down to us having a great week of practice and a great week of preparation. In the end it’s going to come down to who’s the best on Saturday. I’m excited, I’m looking forward to it, and it’s going to be a good challenge.”

On the Crimson Tide’s running game…

“I’m excited. Any time you have a team like that it’s going to come down to who’s going to be physical and what not. They’ve got some great running backs, great offensive line, just great everybody. Like I said it’s going to come down to having a great week of practice and whoever plays the best on Saturday.”

Sophomore TB Nick Chubb

On facing Alabama’s defense…

“They’re very good up front. The best seven in America. They haven’t allowed anyone to rush for 100 yards on them this year. We’ve had over 200 yards in the past couple games and we’re doing a great job of running the ball and throwing the ball. I think it’ll be a great challenge for us.”

On whether there’s a different feeling on campus in anticipation of the game…

“Not so far for me. I really haven’t seen any difference between this week and the past couple weeks but I’m sure later in the week it’ll start to change.”

On Alabama running backs Kenyan Drake and Derrick Henry…

“I know Derrick is a very powerful back. Kenyan is kind of our Sony Michel – very smooth runner, speedy, can move well. Those guys are very good. I think they complement each other well. I know Derrick is hard to tackle. You have to get to him before he gets going.”

On the tempo of the offense helping the running backs…

“We definitely speed it up. I know in practice they’re moving very fast. We had like four plays down to a couple seconds. Coach (Mark) Richt keeps up with it. We’re moving.”

Senior DT Chris Mayes

On Alabama running back Derrick Henry…

“He’s a big back, bigger than the usual back that you play, but still at the same time, I feel like if you hit him before the play gets started we have a great chance of stopping him. (Backs like that) bring a more physical aspect so you have to hit them more low than up top to sort of bring them down. So you stop his leg drop and you get them there.”

On this year’s defense compared to last year’s…

“I definitely think we’re gelling as a unit, but we have more younger guys that need to get a better grasp of the game. They’re coming along for us and playing well. I definitely think we have more energy and more fight. As a whole unit, I think we’re pretty good overall. This year I think we’re more physical and meaner overall.”

On the defensive mentality…

“It stems from all the coaches. They all want us to be tougher as a unit, mental toughness, so that’s how we approach each and every event.”

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. RollTide

    Sep 30, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Home field is nothing for Georgia. I have been to a few games up there and half the crowd sits on their hands and does nothing. I have been to louder little league games. The Tide Will Roll!

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