UGA Football

Richt, Bulldogs Preview Florida Game

Mark Richt
(Photo: John Kelley/UGA)

Georgia head football coach Mark Richt, along with several players, addressed media on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s game against SEC East rival Florida in Jacksonville, Fla. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt

Opening statement… 

They (Florida) are averaging 31.6 points a game, 376 yards a game, 127 rushing, 249 passing per game. They really have done a nice job. With only four returning starters on offense, they’ve really done a great job of moving the ball and putting points on the board.

Treon Harris, their quarterback, has 540 yards passing, four TDs, no picks, 122 yards rushing. Doing a great job in that category. He’s just a great, athletic quarterback who is an outstanding passer. Just in their last ballgame he accounted for 90 percent of their offense against LSU. Just a great dual-threat, and obviously he’s 1-0 against the Dogs as well, being last year’s starting quarterback.

(Kelvin) Taylor, their running back, No. 21, has 463 yards rushing, eight touchdowns rushing — doing a great job, very tough, physical back. One of the best in our league.

At receiver, (Demarcus) Robinson, No. 11, is their number one receiver with 36 catches, 371 yards. Their tight end position is catching a bunch of balls, No. 83, (Jake) McGee’s got 23 catches for 200 yards and three touchdowns, and (Brandon) Powell has 20 catches for 294 yards as their third leading receiver. Again, offensively they have great balance, run-pass, and they’re just asking their guys to do the things they can do well.

Defensively, they are 17th in the nation when it comes to sacks. They’re 16th in the nation when it comes to tackles for loss. Their scoring defense is 17.3 points per game, which is fourth in the league, and then one of the tops in the nation. Total defense given up is only 314 yards a game, 116 rushing and 197 passing per game. Their leading tackler is (Antonio) Morrison, a senior who is playing tremendous, No. 3.

Their number two tackler is (Keivonnis) Davis; their mike linebacker, No. 40, doing a wonderful job there. Their third leading tackler is (Keanu) Neal, their safety, he’s No. 42, has 47 tackles. And on the back end, they’ve got — (Vernon) Hargreaves’ nine career interceptions, three this year, a guy that a lot of people try to avoid if possible. And anybody trying to pick on the other side, (Jalen) Tabor, all he’s done is had two interceptions for touchdowns. He leads the team in pass break-ups and he’s got 18 tackles himself. So he’s doing a great job opposite of Hargreaves.

Up front, Jonathan Bullard, No. 90, is doing a super job. He’s No. 1 in tackles among the D-linemen with 34 tackles. He’s has 10 tackles for loss, four and a half sacks, he leads the team in those two categories, doing a great job. They are a fast, physical bunch. (Alex) McAllister, No. 14, on the edge has four sacks, six quarterback hurries himself, and is a guy who has been very difficult for people to block, especially when they get you in a passing-type situation.

As far as their kicking game is concerned, (Johnny) Townsend is their punter. He’s averaging 44 yards a punt. Their 41 yards net punting is number one in the conference, one of the top-10 in America in that regard. Their punt return man is (Antonio) Callaway, No. 81. He has a 15-yard average with a touchdown. (Austin) Hardin, as far as I know, Hardin is the kicker. I know they’ve had some kicking injuries, so I’m not 100 percent sure what’s going to happen there. But Hardin has hit 50 percent of his field goals and his longest is 37, and he’s had 19 touchbacks on kickoff. And their kickoff return man, (Brandon) Powell, No. 4, is averaging 20 yards per return along with 39.

So they’re an outstanding football team. You can just watch film and very quickly you see what you’re up against.  I didn’t mention it, but seven of the starters are back on defense from a year ago. They are very physical. They are strong, they change direction well. Even on their kicking teams there is a tremendous amount of speed on there. That’s probably the number one characteristic of the team is the speed that you see, and then their strength and physical nature is pretty impressive as well.”

On his advice for players who have not played in this rivalry… 

“I guess the main thing is don’t let the fact that only half of the stands are full of Gators fool you. I mean, it’s going to be loud. It’s going to be as loud as any SEC game that you’ll be at. Of course, when Florida has the ball, it’s going to be just as loud when our fans are doing their thing. So I guess if you hear, oh, only half the stands are your opponent, maybe you might think it will be half the noise, but it’s not true. It’s going to be loud enough where we’ve got to do all of our non-verbal cadence, and that’s one thing they’ve got to focus on. It’s a unique atmosphere. It’s a game that everything seems to be — if you let it — it can become bigger than it is, whether it’s something good or something bad. You’ve got to be able to keep your poise, keep your balance and just stay focused on your job.”

On this being the fifth Florida coach he has faced… 

“I don’t know. I don’t know. Most of them have whooped me, so I don’t know if it means a whole lot. I know Jim’s (McElwain) a great coach. What he did at Colorado State was pretty impressive. I think they were averaging about three wins a season for a while. I think he went 4-8, and then he went 8-4, and then he went 12-2 or something like that. I don’t know what it was. But really did a tremendous job of turning around that program.Then walking into a situation where there’s a really fine talent base and he got everybody going in the right direction in a hurry. Certainly Coach (Will) Muschamp deserves some credit as far as the talent base that’s still in the house there, but Coach McElwain and his staff have done a great job of getting everybody on the same page and getting them rolling.”

On the Georgia quarterbacks… 

“Well, I’ll just say this: We are this deep into the season and we’re playing Florida and we’re in a very meaningful game. We know if we win the next three games, we’re in. Obviously, Florida wins the next three games, they’re in, or however many they’ve got left. We’re the two teams in the East that kind of control our destiny. So that’s where you hope to be. To me, there’s still a lot to be written this season. It’s just a little past halfway. So I’m not ready to say what kind of year it was for quarterbacks yet or not.”

On playing and coaching against Florida and seeing this rivalry on many levels… 

“Last night, I was talking a little bit about it with Schotty (Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer). But University of Miami as a player — we always played Florida, then Florida State, obviously, now Georgia. Just that was the common denominator as far as the rival team of all the places I’ve been. The one year I was at East Carolina is the only year as a collegiate coach that we didn’t play against them. I think we’ve played every other year. So that’s been a common deal. There’s never been any confusion at my house in regards to that game.”

On the Georgia receivers putting pressure on the Florida defensive backs… 

“We like our receivers. We know we have good route runners and some good speed. But these guys have handled some of the best receivers in the league over time. And they’re very impressive with what they do. But there’s been times when balls have been caught on them. I mean, no one’s perfect. Our guys aren’t perfect, their guys aren’t perfect. So it will just get down to competition. I imagine there will be some plays we’ll make and there will be some plays they make. That’s kind of how games go and competition goes. But they are impressive. It does allow them to — if they choose to put a bunch in the box —  to stop the run, they’ve got good reason to believe they can hold up on the edges. We’ll just see how they decide to play it.”

On how this year’s Florida team compares with last season’s team … 

“It’s hard to say. Well, seven returning starters on defense, and only four on offense, so there are a lot of the same guys that are back. But every year is different. Every season is different and every game that we play against Florida is different. It’s hard to say. I think they’re similar in that they’re very talented and they’re well-coached and they’re going to get after it. So I don’t think that will change.”

On the possibility of this being an elimination game in the SEC East … 

“We want to win the East. That’s it every year. I mean, that’s our focus, that’s our goal. When you think about it, going into the eighth game of the year and we’re still right in the heart of it, that’s a good thing. So I’m pleased with that. But now we’ve got to do it.”

On if Georgia offensive line coach Rob Sale coaching on Jim McElwain’s staff gives his team an advantage … 

“I think this deep into the season, I think the tape tells the tale. You’ve got a bunch of games to look at — six, seven games to look at — that’s plenty to know what they like and what they believe in. Because you have to adapt your system to your personnel, and they’re doing that. So I think I was reading at Colorado State they had a receiver who was a finalist for the Biletnikoff. He had unbelievable amount of yards and all that, and they were chunking the ball a bunch more than they are now. For whatever reasons, personnel, who they’re playing defensively, I’m not sure exactly why it’s a little bit different, but I think every coach has to adapt. Every offensive coordinator has to adapt to the players he has. I think just watching six, seven games of film is better than looking at what he’s done historically.”

On if the possibility of a return factors in when his team kicks field goals… 

“Absolutely, absolutely. Especially after what’s happened the last couple years. We had a good discussion about that. We’ll actually be practicing those type of scenarios tomorrow. We would have done it today, but we are going to go to the Falcons complex today.”

On coaching against a player like Florida DB Vernon Hargreaves… 

“I think when you’re throwing a ball in man coverage, our goal is to just place the ball where we have a better chance of catching it than they do. So if you’re running a deep route and the defender plays on top of you, meaning he’s a little deeper than you, he’s got good leverage on you as far as the deep ball, then you throw it short and throw it a little bit behind. If you’re throwing a post and you go over the top of the defender, then we’d like to throw the ball over the top to us to give us the best chance to catch it. If we run a post and we beat him across his face, then we want to throw it across the field away from him.

“So regardless of who it is, you’ve got to be able to discern where this defender is and where is the best place I can put the ball to give us a better chance to catch it than them. Let’s say you throw that post across the field, there are some guys that are just so fast and athletic that they might even be brave enough to undercut the ball and go get it. There are guys that can make plays that when you let the ball go, it looked like a good decision, but by the time it lands, this guy has athletically put himself in better position to catch it than your players. So he is one of those kind of guys. But you’ve got to go by what you see when it’s time to cut the ball loose and try to make the best throw possible.”

On updates on Jordan Jenkins and Isaiah McKenzie… 

“Yeah, Jordan practiced. Again, I don’t know if he’s full speed. I’m hoping by the end of the week he’s full speed. I think he wants to play. I think we’ll keep watching him closely to see where he’s at. Isaiah, I think, is further along than Jordan right now. I think Isaiah, if he progresses from where he was yesterday, I would think he’ll definitely be able to play. Jordan, I wouldn’t say it’s a slam dunk right now, but he is going to be practicing and progressing.”

On the transition of changing offensive coordinators… 

“I think Coach (Brian) Schottenheimer is a great coach. I think he knows what he’s doing. I think he knows how to coach QBs extremely well. Got a lot of faith in that. And, like we said, we’ve had some ups and downs, but the season’s not over yet. I’m in that room most of the time, and I listen to what’s being taught, what’s being coached and how it’s being coached, and I’ve got full faith and confidence that he’s doing an outstanding job. We’ve just got to continue to get better as we go, and I think we will.”

On if TB Sony Michel’s injury is due to him getting a heavier workload… 

“He had a hip, a hip pointer, hip bruise, basically. But the hip pointer is a pretty painful injury, but it’s not anything wrong structurally. It’s more of a pain issue. He kind of fought through the game with it. Happened pretty early in the game against Missouri. With the time off, though, he looks good. He looked very good yesterday. I don’t anticipate him having any issues with injuries unless something would happen today or tomorrow in practice.”

Senior WR Malcolm Mitchell

On Florida defensive back Vernon Hargreaves…

“From what I’ve seen on film they don’t really highlight a receiver. They just play their respective sides so I guess depending on the formation will depend on how much I get a chance to see him. I think he’s a great player. Obviously, he’s made a lot of great plays there and is considered one of the best in college football. It will be a good challenge and opportunity to compete with somebody like that.”

On the Georgia vs. Florida 2012 game…

“I think the way we competed as a team would be why that was one of my favorite games. From the first play you will see us compete at a high level, not backing down. I think as long as we do that this Saturday we’ll put ourselves in a position to have a good outcome.”

On what can be learned from last year’s game…

“That was one of the games where I had just came back. So it’s hard to reflect on that because two weeks before that I was in the training room not even out there practicing with the team. So it’s hard for me to comment on what took place last year.”

Junior WR Reggie Davis

On Florida’s secondary…

“We just have to execute our game plan and just play football. We don’t need to put too much pressure on ourselves.”

On Florida defensive back Vernon Hargreaves…

“He’s patient and he plays well with his feet and hands. When you have a corner that is that patient and also that talented and can run with you it makes you definitely have to bring your A-game.”

Senior ILB Jake Ganus

On what his teammates have told him about the Georgia-Florida rivalry…

“I know it’s a big rivalry. I remember that from when I was a kid. I know it’s a big deal. I know it’s a 50-50 crowd, which is cool. I think it’s cool that Georgia and Florida are able to do that. They don’t talk about the game much, about last year. It wasn’t a good game for Georgia. It’s not something that we bring up a lot or talk about. I know that the guys are hungry and we’re working hard and we’re having a good week of practice so we can go down there.”

On discussions about the SEC East implications from this game…

“We don’t talk about that much. I think we’re really just focused on ourselves and taking care of Florida. We just have to take it one game at a time. If you start thinking too big and too far ahead, that’s when you lose some focus. We really just need to put 100 percent focus on getting ourselves ready and prepared for the game on Saturday.”

On if there’s a difference in the team’s atmosphere for the rivalry game…

“I don’t think so, not for me at least. I feel like it’s just another game. We’ve got to treat it like it’s just another game, don’t put too much pressure on ourselves. Obviously, we know what’s at stake. Everyone does. That’s in the back of our head. But when we go to work today and tomorrow and Thursday, we have to have the mindset that we’ll get as good as we can today and focus on ourselves so we can go out there Saturday and perform.”

Senior DT Chris Mayes

On controlling the team’s destiny in the East race…

“At first it was out of our control, but now with the losses and everything that happened, the situation is back in our power. We control our destiny from here.”

On added pressure in an important SEC East matchup…

“I think (it feels bigger) because so much is at risk here, mostly the rest of the season. We know if we take this game and the next two games after that we’re definitely kings of the East.”

On the difficulty scouting Florida QB Treon Harris this year…

“We’ve been focusing on what they’ve been doing this year, mostly, because they’ve been changing stuff (in offensive scheme). So we’re just focusing on that. That’s what we’re doing all week, just game planning for that. We are looking at what he did against us last year because he’s a runner but he can also throw. We’ve been looking at last year and this year because he had more playing time last year.  We’re taking from (last year’s film), but we still know what to expect from him this time.”

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