Richt at the Podium

ATHENS - Mark Richt spoke to the media Tuesday about this weekend's matchup at Tennessee.

Courtesy of UGA Sports Communications.

Opening statement...

"We are going to Knoxville. It's a very tough place to win - at least it has been for us the last two times we were there. We pretty much got drubbed there. We didn't put up much of a fight the last two times we were in their house, so we need to try to hopefully change that. It will be a challenge for us; we know that and we are looking forward to it.

"They are number two in the league in total offense, number two in passing and number one is passing efficiency. Another thing that is pretty impressive is I think they are tied for first in America in third down conversions. That's why they are also leading the league in time of possession, because when you get your third downs, you continue drives and you burn more clock and you get more yards and score more points. That's going to be a challenge for us.

"A year ago, defensively against third downs we weren't very good. This year we are so much better, and I'm sure that will be a pretty good matchup to see how the third down conversions go for them. Tyler Bray is playing fantastic. You can look at a man's statistics and see that he's doing great, but when you look at the film it's even more impressive to me. He's a very smooth, effortless passer, very accurate. He makes it look easy, really just from a fundamental standpoint. He's very tall, a guy who can see the field well and put in on the money.

"They have outstanding receivers. Da'Rick Rogers is the one who has caught the most balls for them. I think he's leading the league and doing great. I know (Justin) Hunter was a guy who was playing very well for them also, their great freshman from a year ago. Unfortunately he got hurt, so they are using (Zach Rogers) a little more. He's starting to get a lot more play now. They have a freshman receiver, DeAnthony Arnett, who is very quick and more of a slot guy.

"As far as their runners are concerned, (Tauren) Poole is their number one guy. He's kind of a downhill runner, a physical runner, a guy who has great balance and is an outstanding player. They are getting (Marlin) Lane in there. He is seeing a little more time. He has also been getting some punt returns.

"Offensive line-wise they are still relatively young but they do have four starters back. They played a bunch of young guys last year. They are big, they're athletic and they're getting better every week. They are going to be really outstanding; they are already outstanding pass protectors. They are getting better at the run on a weekly basis. The other thing about Tennessee is they have 17 Georgia boys on their team, so there are a lot of guys on that team who I'm sure will be excited about playing us. A lot of them are playing a lot of ball for them too.

"They have a right-footed punter and a left-footed punter. The right-footed punter (Matt) Darr and the left-footed punter (Michael) Palardy have both been playing. I'm not sure which one's going to punt quite frankly. We'll just have to wait and see on that. I mentioned Lane before as the punt return man the first three games, but (Devrin) Young got in there and ended up breaking one for 43 yards, so he may end up being their punt return man now. It looks like they are trying to get Young in the kick return battle too.

"The kickoff returners, it's been Da'Rick, it's been Lane, it's been Poole, now Young is getting some work so I'm not really sure who they are going to put back there. Palardy is the extra point/field goal man. He has a career long of 38 or 39. He's four-of-six with field goals and has made every extra point.

"On defense, they have a couple of corners who are really outstanding. They play man coverage almost every down. They are very confident in their ability to do that. I've not seen anybody beat them deep or anything big on those guys. They've given up very few big plays, period. Their entire defense has not given up big plays. The defensive backs are the most experienced group. I think they play a lot of man coverage to allow them to outnumber you in the running game.

"Their linebackers are very young. They have two true freshmen starting. If you didn't know they are freshmen, you'd say they are absolutely capable linebackers. Austin Johnson is their senior in the middle, and he's leading their team in tackles with 23. Up front, Jacques Smith and Marlon Walls are the defensive ends. They do a nice job of pressuring. Smith has 14 tackles and four and a half tackles for loss with a couple of pass break-ups, half a sack and QB hurries. They're definitely doing a good job up front.

"They don't have a lot of sacks, they don't have a lot of interceptions, but they also aren't giving up very many big plays. I think they are really an outstanding defense. Playing there at their place, having to deal with all the crowd noise, having to deal with the things you have to deal with on the road, it's going to make for a heck of a ballgame. I know that two years ago we got beat pretty bad. Last year we beat them pretty good here, so you can't go by what happened last year. You have to play this year's game and that's what we are getting ready to do."

On being one win away from 100 wins…

"I never thought I'd get to 100. I didn't know if I'd get to 100 games period, but to get to 100 victories would be sweet, no doubt. The sweetest part of it would be if it happened this week. I would think there is a pretty good chance that this season we'll get to 100, but I sure would like it this week because it is Tennessee and it is so important for where we are right now and the race we're in."

On Tennessee's Da'Rick Rogers…

"I think wherever Da'Rick decided to go play football he'd be playing, no doubt about that. By the time he did decommit we were pretty sure that he was going to do that. It didn't come as a shock at that point. We think he's a good player. We wanted him, we recruited him, we thought we had him for a while, then it changed. It happens in recruiting. It doesn't happen a lot with us historically. But there were some things that made him feel like Tennessee was the best place for him, so that's where he is and now we have to defend him."

On who might replace Cornelius Washington

"It will probably be a little bit by committee to decide how we are going to handle the loss of Cornelius this week and next week. It is definitely going to provide more opportunities for Ray Drew, and there are other things we might move around to help us in that area, but we'll know better after we practice a little bit."

On using the South Carolina and Florida losses last week to motivate Georgia's players…

"The fact that South Carolina and Florida lost is definitely a motivating factor for everybody. That's why we have the plaques on the wall. We're shooting for the Eastern Division title. That's our goal. It helps us and gives us a better chance of doing that if we continue to win. I haven't talked about it a lot other than mentioning and reminding everybody what happened. They know it. As it was happening, guys are texting each other, coaches are texting each other. Everybody certainly got excited about how the standings are sitting right now compared to how it was a week ago. We all know it's so crucial to take care of our business, because if we don't it's not going to be that much fun anymore. We just need to keep winning. Tennessee in next and every SEC opponent is almost equal. Us losing head-to-head to South Carolina hurts us compared to them losing to a Western Division foe, so they are still in better shape than we are. It does go by the overall record and the tiebreakers are what can get you if you end up in a tie. Right now we still don't control our own destiny, but we feel like if we keep playing hard there is a lot of football to be played. We're definitely in the race."

On Georgia's defensive line…

"The D-line is doing extremely well. All defensive coaches want to stop the run. They know if you can get a team to be one-dimensional or as one-dimensional as possible it could play in your favor. We've done a good job of holding the point and penetrating and forcing doubles teams and allowing linebackers to get free hits. All those things have been very important, and especially when we had the injuries at linebacker. It was good for a guy like Amarlo (Herrera) and Michael Gilliard to have guys playing up front real stout. We're beginning to get more pressure from our pass rush without some type of a blitz. We're starting to get more sacks, starting to get more pressure, and getting more balls thrown where they can be intercepted. We've intercepted a good but of them and dropped a few. There were probably two pick sixes in the last two games that really could have changed the game, but the D-line is doing great right now."

On Aaron Murray's interceptions and the pass protection…

"When you throw the ball you do need protection, you need good routes, you need an accurate passer and you got to make good decisions. All those things have to happen. When you throw interceptions some of them do have to do with protection, some have to do with a bad decision, some have to do with a wild throw and some have to do with a poor route. There's probably a little bit of all that in there, but I would say that we need to protect the passer a little better. I think Aaron has made a lot of tremendous plays with people breathing down his neck – as soon as he releases the ball getting hit in the mouth. Sometimes there are situations where you must throw hot and you know a certain guy is going to come clean. It's part of the game. You catch, get it out quick and usually if you get it out quick enough you're not going to get hit or it will be a late hit. But when the protection is set where you know there is a hat on every guy that is coming and you should have the confidence to where you have a pocket where you step up to throw, we've had too many leaks in those types of situations. A lot of times Aaron has made tremendous throws with a guy leaking through. I think if we clean that up it will help Aaron overall, in his decision making and in his accuracy. The better protection you have the more confidence you have to stand in there and make your reads and make your throws.

On where the leaks have come from in pass protection…

"Some of it has been offensive line play and some of it is running backs. We haven't done a lot of protection with our tight ends and haven't really had a tight end issue that I can think of."

On Marlon Brown

"I'd say he's not 100-percent yet. He wasn't last week. He felt good enough to play – kind of strap it up and go. I'd love to get to see him get back to being 100-percent and just seeing what he can do because he did have a really good camp. (Rantavious) Wooten had a great camp. Here we are just wondering when Wooten is going to come back. Those are two guys that were in the starting lineup in preseason and in the way they were practicing. Now, some other guys have got opportunities. I don't know if these guys will be rolling back into their starting jobs or not quite frankly, but I hope they get back to that form and push them. Right now, we'd love to play six receivers a lot. You can't play with three receivers. We need six that are healthy and know what to do and can make plays. With the pace we are going at we just can't do it with three guys. We need those guys back."

On considering playing Justin Scott-Wesley…

"We had thought about him. Justin Scott-Wesley is a very talented guy. We did not necessarily want to put Chris Conley in there. I don't know, but if Wooten never got hurt and Marlon never got hurt, Chris May be getting redshirted right now. In order to do what we wanted to do we had to put the next guy in that we felt was most ready. Justin is going to be a really good receiver. We are very excited about him. I might have made this comparison, but he's a lot like where Michael Bennett was last year. A guy who is very talented and could play but you wonder if he would get enough opportunities if we took him off his redshirt. But I wouldn't be surprised if a year from now to see him do the kind of things Michael Bennett is doing today."

On how much the team has talked about putting games away offensively in the second half…

"We talk about it a lot. We want to put teams away. We just have not been able to do that. You also get in a situation where if you got a lead you want to be careful not to do what we did where we threw that pick six. We're up 21 points and the defense is in complete control. So yeah you want keep doing things offensively but the more you throw it the more risk you take of that – a pick six – happening and all of a sudden it's a two-score game and it gets a little bit tighter than you want it to get. I certainly don't want to play a conservative brand of football in the third quarter, but if it's in the fourth quarter and you are up by three scores I think it's wise to burn as much clock as you can. You do that by running the ball and making sure you don't snap ball too early in the 40-second clock. Sometimes it's boring but if you win the goal is to win."

On the defensive being improved and not allowing a lot of big plays…

"We've played very good defense and part of that is not giving up the big plays. I guess we've given up one touchdown the last three games – that's pretty impressive. I like what's going on in that regard. A lot of it has to do with maturity of our defensive backfield. A lot of it has to do with how the defensive line has been playing and not letting anybody really get anything started. Not very many runs have spit right threw the line where a guy has a chance to make a safety miss in space and make a big run. They've had to earn everything they get. Very few times has someone come through there clean, and when they have the 'DBs' have been there to corral it and get them on the ground. We've been tackling pretty well out in space."

On updates to Damian Swann and Chris Burnette

"Damian Swann is getting better. We think he might get some scout team work today. Chris Burnette is also getting better. We think he'll probably get some scout team work today. Then, after a day like today when it's the first time back, you get a lot better feel of where they are at. We'll see if they can make it through the practice number one, and number two, how sore they are going to be tomorrow."

On updating Brandon Boykin's practice status…

"Boykin will go contact this week but he will play because of the teeth."

On a definitive decision on Cornelius Washington's suspension…

"It's going to be a solid two games."

On the offensive line…

"We've still got a ways to go. I still think we got the right line up in there right now. Chris Burnette is going to get an opportunity, possibly this week, to become one of the starters depending on how he does throughout the week. We need to continue to get better and more consistent with what we do. The better we get up front the better we are going to be on offense. Usually it has to happen up front first and then you find out how good your skill is. If the line really starts playing at a consistent level, we'll see how good our runners are and how good are throwing and catching is. Don't get me wrong, we are doing a lot of good things. I know we could do better and I just want to see us reach our potential, and we're not there yet."

On if where the offensive line is now is what he expected…

"When I watch film I see that we have the ability to do better and do it on a more consistent basis. I don't want to sound like I'm totally picking on the line. At all positions we can get better. But I'll say it again when the 'OL' and 'DL' play great you are going to have a good season and a good team."

On if fatigue is an issue with the offensive line…

"They are playing a lot of snaps and fatigue could be part of it. We are playing more plays than we've ever played before, and there's not a whole lot of rotation going on. There's none really. So fatigue could be part of it."

On whom Chris Burnette will be competing with for a starting spot…

"Both guards really. I think (Dallas) Lee has played left and right. I think Kenarious (Gates) is at left right now and Dallas is at right. But when Burnette was in there I think Burnette was right and Lee was left if I'm not mistaken, so they are all kind of fighting for those guard spots."

On if he has noticed a spark in the team after South Carolina and Florida both lost last week…

"It's definitely a boost, but I don't think we were desperate for a boost if that makes any sense. I think we have been a team that's been very close knit, very good chemistry, very hard working. I think we've been believing that we are a very good football team. I think we've truly believing that we very capable of winning the East. I don't think anybody has ever lost any kind of faith in that. But when the standings changed like they did it certainly gives you a boost. It was a surge of energy when that was happening, and in yesterday's practice you could tell the guys had a little more bounce in their step. It's been good."

On if it has been a battle for him to remind the players they have a shot at the SEC Eastern Division title after the 0-2 start…

"Not really. I think we way we played in the South Carolina game it really helped everybody believe that we are a pretty good team and that we got a chance to compete and win the Eastern Division. We know we didn't win the game and that hurts. It's hard to start 0-1. It's hard to lose control of your destiny after the first game of the year in league play, but I think everybody left that game like you know what we got a chance to be a really good football team and let's keep getting better and keep fighting. It's a long season and if you look at history in the East, especially lately, there hasn't been many teams go through it undefeated or one loss. So let's just keep fighting and get back in the race and we are there now."

On looking back at the last two trips to Tennessee and why those trips went the wrong way for Georgia…

"I haven't looked at those games lately, but we started poorly. The thing that I didn't like was that in both of those games before it was over it looked like they beat us to the point where we gave in. It's hard to fight when you are so far down. I don't know if we fought the full 60 minutes. That's what happens when you get behind and you get behind in a place like that. We haven't had many of those since I've been at Georgia. Those were two situations right there where it did."

On having got off to a quick start to the last two games this year and how to prepare for the Tennessee game…

"We also have to be careful if we don't get off to a fast start and how we are going to react to that. We have to prepare them for that."

On having a relationship with Derek Dooley before he was at Tennessee…

"I got to know him. I know when he was a first-year head coach – and I guess Louisiana Tech was his first head coaching opportunity – we had a couple conversations. I think he was just calling some head coaches around the country that he knew and had some relationship with and was just talking a little bit about what he was about to go into and anything that I might be able to help him with. I don't remember the exact conversation other than there was a couple things that came up and he wanted to know how I did this or that. There was a little bit of that going on, so I've known him for a while now."


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