UGA Football

Richt, Bulldogs Preview Tennessee 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 East showdown at Tennessee in Knoxville. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt

Opening statement…

Hitting the road going to Knoxville. Tremendous atmosphere we all know and a really, really fun football team that Coach (Butch) Jones has put together, him and his staff. We’ve definitely got our work cut out for us. I thought we had a good start yesterday. Once we buried the last one and started moving forward, I think that’s good medicine for everybody. And when you start putting the work in and there’s certain deadlines you’ve got to meet, you just start focusing on the next game, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. So we’re ready to move forward. So with that I’ll open it up and see what everybody’s got.”

On Tennessee QB Josh Dobbs…

He is very good. And even this year he’s been more dynamic in my opinion. He’s bigger, stronger, faster. Guys get stronger as they go. They get in better condition as they go. And he’s got a very good grasp of what they’re trying to do offensively. If you judge him just as a passer he’s really outstanding. If you judge him just as an athletic quarterback, he’s a threat. But when you put it all together, you’ve got one of the greatest dual-threat quarterbacks in our league; and he’s got confidence. He’s got a bunch of big games under his belt. So I’m sure playing at home will be good for him as well.”

On UT running back Alvin Kamara…

“We wanted him. He’s a very talented guy, got good speed, good agility, great ball skills. We thought he could be a return man, just what he’s doing. We thought he could play running back or receiver but figured he’d be a running back who would get out there and do some receiver things, very similar to what we do with Sony (Michel). He’d come to the summer camps, the 7 on 7 camps that we have and just kind of watch him do his thing within the system that he was running in high school. You could see him do everything that you’d ever ask a running back or a receiver to do, for that matter. He was that dynamically taught.”

On moving past losses in Coach Richt’s tenure…

Well, I think that the good news is it only counted as one loss. I mean that was enough of a game where it could have counted as two. But it was one loss. And so that’s good. And when you get beat that way, it certainly gets everybody’s attention. I think any loss does. Sometimes if you lose a game at the last second, that may be more gut-wrenching than just getting whipped. Sometimes you get whipped and we got whipped. Let’s go make the corrections that need to be made and let’s forget about it and move on. And but I mean I don’t even know what the deal — I mean how many SEC teams have won the league undefeated in the last 10 years. I mean that would be a good stat to check out. Not many. Not many. It’s just hard to go undefeated in our league, for sure. Our big thing is to grow from it. It’s not a total loss if you learn from it. And that’s true in all losses. So we do feel like we put it behind us. We feel like we’ve made the corrections we need to make and we’re moving forward and hopefully be better because of the changes or the feeling that you just don’t want to feel again. Hopefully that’ll help us, too.”

On the play of UGA’s kickoff return unit…

“Prior to this game, if you notice, there’s a bunch of bloop kicks. I mean a lot of them. And you’re not going to get very many yards on the return. You get a bloop. Sometimes you fair catch it at the 32-yard line. Sometimes you catch it and get six tough yards with the guy as more of a blocker or whatever it is. If you went statistically on our average start what yard line we started on, we’re really in a lot better shape than the amount of yards per return, if that makes sense. Now, this last game, they kicked it deep to us, and I know we got between the 20 and 25 probably every time but one we ended up being short of the 20, which is not good. So we didn’t have a banner day as far as yards per kick in this particular game. But it’s a little bit of misleading statistic when a lot of the kicks that were kicked to us have been bloop kicks, and the field position has been better than 25 yard line more times than not when they were blooping it to us. But it doesn’t show up in your average. But to answer your question, we’ve got to get better there. Definitely have to get better there as well.”

On Georgia’s punting game…

“Here’s the deal in punt. You’ve got to protect first. Like we did not protect. Obviously. That’s priority one. Once you protect, you have the punter — well, you’ve got to get the snap, obviously your operation has gotta be good, the snap, the catch and the punt. Well, that punter, everybody across America is hoping that this guy can get the ball — if you kick it 40 yards, you want a minimum of a four-point hang time. So you want at least a second per 10 yards to let your coverage team get down there. So if you kick it 55 yards and it’s only a 4.2 hang time, you have out-kicked your coverage. Your people say you out-kicked your coverage. You kicked it too far, guys are trying to cover and now all you’ve done is create space for some of the best athletes in America to return the punt. So I don’t get all that jacked up about a 55-yard punt if it’s a low line drive. It just doesn’t fire me up. We want the height to match up with the yardage. And then we want the direction to be correct, because even in punt protection, sometimes you’re protecting a certain way and you want the ball to be kicked this way. You’re protecting another way, you want the ball to be kicked in another direction. So if you kick the ball in the direction you’re supposed to kick it and your cover guys know that’s the area of the field I’m covering, you got a much better chance. But if you’re supposed to kick it to the right and everybody’s thinking coverage wise that’s the third of the field we’re trying to cover and it sprays off there mid field to the left, you got a heck of a deal trying to get everybody to get in position to make the play. I don’t think anybody can kick it down the middle and have their entire punt team cover the entire field. You just can’t do it well.

So to answer your question, Collin (Barber) needs to have height that matches the distance and he’s gotta get the direction correct, along with catching it and just the operation of catching it and getting it off. And then as far as (Isaiah) McKenzie, if he’s not there, we’ve been working 81, (Reggie) Davis. We’ve been working (Terry) Godwin. I mean they’re the top two. Dominick Sanders is a guy we really trust fielding the ball. They’d be the top guys. (Juwuan) Briscoe is a guy we’ve been working and all. But I doubt we get to the fourth guy. But I think he’d probably be that.”

On trying to stop momentum when it’s going against Georgia…

“I think what you do is you keep coaching. Each and every man has got a responsibility, whether it’s offensive coordinator got his group and defensive coordinator has got his group and the position coaches got their guys, and the offensive line coach has got his boys rallied up. So everybody is looking in the eyes of their players and saying, hey, it hasn’t gone well, but if you do your job and we make a play, the momentum can swing back. And like I was saying after the game, we didn’t really have any counterpunch. You’ve got to have a counterpunch to get things back in line and get back into a true competition. And it just didn’t happen. Even the touchdown we scored there was a little energy, a little life that that happened. And then we kick it to them and it was really wet and nasty, and we weren’t trying to place it where it would land on the grass, but as it turned out, it landed on the grass. If we’d have got on that one now we’re maybe inside the 20 and then all of a sudden momentum swings in our way. But it just didn’t happen. A lot of it is attributed to how they played. And then of course, you always have halftime to start to regroup. So we go to halftime. We got our plan and everything, and we start out with that pick-six again. And it was like why did that happen. But it was a young kid just doing what freshmen do sometimes.”

On difficulty passing against Alabama…

“Good coverage. Mostly — yeah, mostly very good coverage. But, here’s my feeling on good coverage in that they matched up — they’re mostly a man cover team. But the bottom line is if I’m running a route, if he’s covering me, he’s either on my back side or he’s on my front side. He can’t be on the front and the back and the side. He can only be in one spot. So that’s when we talk about throwing the ball into a tight window; there’s a guy covering him, but there still is a place that the ball can be put where we have a better chance of catching the ball than he does. And a lot of times as you’re going through your progressions if you see a guy getting doubled or you see a guy covered up pretty good, you go to the next guy and then the next guy. The longer you hold the ball — and that’s part of their deal is they get you to go to your second and third progression while these D linemen are really squeezing the pocket on your quarterback and making him uncomfortable, because, the more space you have in the pocket to step and throw and to see, usually you can make those tighter throws, but as you’re progressing down the field and these linemen are squeezing that pocket on you, it’s just a tougher throw. And then you saw them bat a couple of balls down. But you watch film, every game they’re batting balls down because they’re very disciplined in their rushes. Again, they’re pushing the pocket, but they’re also not, like a lot of teams will be, wild. They’ll go up field and make a move underneath, and then the quarterback breaks contain and all of a sudden guys are running for yards or he’s throwing the ball down the field where they’re like we’re going to keep this guy in the pocket, we’re going to squeeze this pocket and force him to go to the second or third guy and hopefully get a batted ball or a pick somewhere along the way. So again, yeah, very good coverage, but we’ve got to learn to throw into tighter windows than what we were facing earlier in the year.”

On running against Alabama…

“Yeah. I think strategically, we’d have been better off trying to go downhill more than try to go outside, and with the wet turf and just some matchups we had out there on the edge, we had — I think our best shot would have been to go downhill against them.”

Senior WR Malcolm Mitchell

On the history of close games against Tennessee…

“You never know what will happen on their end or ours. You just have to play your best and be ready for any adversity that comes.”

On overcoming losses in his time at Georgia…

“You learn from it. I know it’s kind of cliché for people to say you learn from your mistakes or when you get knocked down you get up. But that’s what you have to do. You have to let the bad make you better any way possible. That’s what we have to do moving forward in the season because the last thing you want to do is let something that happened the previous week affect you in the upcoming weeks. That’s when a season goes downhill.”

On the importance of getting another SEC East win…

“I think we all understand that. The team from the East and the team from the West meet, whoever has the best conference record. I think that’s something that’s already understood walking into the stadium on Saturday.”

Sophomore TB Sony Michel

On the team’s struggles running the ball in the first-half…

“We just need to be consistent. It’s kind of hard. We are working on it right now. We just need to know what we do well and focus in on what we do well. We need to make sure we don’t get away from it.”

On how the field conditions played in against Alabama…

“Yes, it has been a factor, but it’s really no excuse. We both played on the same field. We have practiced on wet fields. It played a factor, but not really a big factor.”

Thoughts on Arkansas having success running the ball against Tennessee…

“I won’t say it encourages us, because they are going to do some game planning. They know we are a running team, so I’m sure they are going to make adjustments to try and stop the run. I can’t really say whether or not that encourages us, we are going to go into this game and try and do what we do.”

Senior OLB Jordan Jenkins

On what the biggest thing to focus on for Tennessee is…

“One of the biggest things is just how loud it’s going to get in that stadium; really just keeping your composure with all of that crowd noise. As a defense, we just have to prepare for the skill players. They’ve got some great athletes.”

On Josh Dobbs…

“He’s one of them. He’s a big guy, but he game move around. He’s quick. He can break through tackles. He can shake you. You just really have to keep your eyes on his waist and try your best to bring him down.”

On keeping the younger guys focused in an environment like Neyland Stadium…

“We really just have to keep them under composure, keep the mental focus. Just think back to the last game and show them what happens when you don’t keep your composure; really just going into practice with the right mentality.”

On keeping Dobbs in the pocket…

“We have to have the discipline to maintain the pass rush lanes and really commit to the game plan. You just have to stay fight leverage and keep your pads below theirs.”

Senior ILB Jake Ganus

 On moving on from the loss…

“We’ve turned 100 percent of our focus to Tennessee now. Yesterday we installed and started game planning and had a good practice. I’m looking forward to practice today.”

On the running threat of Tennessee QB Josh Dobbs…

“Any time you have a running quarterback it makes everything a little tougher because you have to respect him in that aspect. Even in passes you have to be aware of where he’s at, whether he’s inside the pocket or not. So we just have to do a great job of trying to keep him contained and focus on locking in on him.”

On playing with Dobbs as a child…

“I grew up in Alpharetta (Ga.) with him, opposite sides of Alpharetta. We played park ball together, AYFA. We played together for a few years and my dad was our coach. So I ran into him. As we grew up and stopped playing park ball, you get into middle school and whatnot. We were in different schools. I still kept up with him. Then I moved to Birmingham and we kind of lost touch but I saw when he signed with Tennessee. I’ve been keeping up with him.”

On the SEC East implications this game holds…

“I definitely think that’s in the back of your mind. But for us, we’re just focusing on ourselves. We’re not talking about Alabama, but when you make so many mistakes like that it comes down to what you do, not so much what the other team does. So we’re just focusing on ourselves and just trying to be the best team we can be.”

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