Mark Richt, Dawgs Talk USC

ATHENS - Georgia coach Mark Richt, along with several players, addressed the media on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s SEC showdown with South Carolina in Athens.

Head Coach Mark Richt

Opening statement… 

“Okay. Good to see everybody today. It's good to be home. It's good to play between the hedges. We are excited about playing in front of our fans. We actually tweeted out a little something yesterday about asking our fans to wear red and to be ready for the Dawg Walk at 4:25 and for our students to be in place by the time pregame warmups start, which is about an hour before the kick. Just create the atmosphere that motivates our players and our staff and myself, but also can become a factor in the ballgame if we do it right, which we do here at Georgia. I've said it many times, no one does it better than Georgia in my opinion.

“Another couple of items that are interesting. We are honoring (former SEC) Commissioner Mike Slive, as he did battle some prostate cancer, and it's Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. We will have a sticker on our helmet and he will be at our ballgame. We are excited about that.

“I guess in regard to the prostate cancer awareness, Coach (Mark) Fox and I, Coach (Scott) Stricklin, all three of us got together on a little promo. We show it on the video board during the game. It's pretty corny but hopefully everybody gets the word to get checked because we know early awareness of these types of things can make all the difference in the world and we just want everybody to be healthy and want everybody to be safe.

“Okay, get ready for South Carolina. A team that's always well-coached by Coach (Steve) Spurrier, we know that. They have got 27 players from the state of Georgia, which is pretty typical in our league. Just about everybody's got a bunch from our state. We have such a great state for football. Our coaches, high school coaches are really tremendous. Coach Spurrier is obviously one of the winningest coaches in the history of the league and a great coach and will provide a great challenge for us as a staff to get our guys ready as he gets his ready.”

On South Carolina’s offense… 

“Starting on offense, they have six returning starters. I guess you would start with the quarterback. No. 10, (Perry) Orth is a guy who apparently got a scholarship going into this season, was a walk-on. But you heard (Connor) Mitch got hurt and you didn't really know what happened from there really. You just got word of it.Then you watch the film and both those quarterbacks actually played pretty well. But Orth came in, hit 13 out of 20 for about 180 yards and hit 65 percent of his passes and he looked good doing it. Athletic guy, tough guy. A guy that we'll have to contend with as far as a runner. He's got some good wheels on him and will provide a great challenge for our defense at the quarterback position.”

On the targeting call vs. Vanderbilt… 

“I just think the targeting rule is one of the toughest things to officiate and one of the toughest things to coach. I thought Lorenzo (Carter) was in a pretty good posture. He was wrapping up. He had his eyes up. He was doing a lot of things that we tell him to do as far as form tackling. The problem was he was tackling the quarterback and he wasn't in throwing mode. Although he started out as a passer, began to scramble a little bit and then -- or at least started to move to the left, I think it was, his left. And he ran for 66 yards last week. But when he struck them, there was helmet to helmet contact, there's no doubt about that, and as the rule was written, if you go by the letter of the rule, then he did. But he didn't lunge. He didn't launch at the guy. He didn't go at the top of his helmet or anything like that.It was really a good face-up tackle, but when you're tackling a quarterback who is in a throwing posture, that's when things get changed. They consider him a defenseless player, so that's what happened with him. The good news is he'll be able to play.The other one, I think anybody that watched the game or watched the tape knew that I think there was just a mix up on who the penalty was on on the one you're talking about, hands to the face.”

On coaching longterm… 

“I don't know. I don't feel good today, but most days I feel pretty good (laughter). I think the older you get, the more you realize you've still got some juice. Coach (Steve) Spurrier still doing a great job. I don't want to even try to predict what's going to happen down the road. I do enjoy what I do and I want to continue to be influential in the lives of these young men and also win, win ballgames for Georgia. So how long, I don't know. I've always been real open to what I feel like the Lord's got to say to me on subjects like this, and if I feel like in my heart there's some things He wants me to do, I'll do it. I'll try to be obedient. But right now, I think I'm exactly where He wants me and I'm enjoying it.”

On junior quarterback Greyson Lambert…

“He's going to be fine. We're going to be able to throw and catch well. We actually threw the ball and caught it extremely well game one. Greyson was 8 out of 12 game one and every single ball he threw had a purpose. Two balls he threw away, two got batted, which you can't control and the other eight were on the money. We know that Brice (Ramsey) was 2-for-2 in game one. Game two, we had some issues. Obviously, we had a dropped ball early on. We had a situation where he (Greyson Lambert) actually -- where he was getting ready to step up and slow, he actually slipped on the turf. I think that's why the ball went down. He was off balance, so I've seen him make that throw many a times. I think it's just a matter of getting into the know of a game and into the flow of a season. But if we go based on how we threw it and caught it yesterday, I feel really good. We were really sharp and if we continue to practice that way, my guess is we'll play a little bit better in that area.”

On what he pinpoints in improving the passing game… 

“First of all, be free to call whatever we think is good. Don't feel like we have to run for X amount of yards or get the ball to (Nick) Chubb so many times. When I've always called plays over the years, you certainly want to use your skill players the best you can and use the talent that you have, but just feel free to attack the defense in the game the way we attacked it all week in the film room. Call what we believe and let's go.”

On sophomore tailback Sony Michel… 

“Yeah, (he’s) a special player, a guy like (South Carolina junior wide receiver) Pharoh Cooper, got a lot of skills, figure out how to use this guy and make him more effective. Sony is a great return man, he's a great runner, pass protector, route runner, ball catcher, as a back or a receiver. He's an outstanding special teamer. Punt return and block, he's outstanding as a blocker on that. He was the best guy we had covering kicks a year ago when the season began, or at least one of the best. It is a challenge to get him in as many situations as possible to use his abilities.”

On playing junior quarterback Faton Bauta… 

“Right now, again I've said this before, we don't make any promises early in the week about who is going to play and all that kind of thing, because you have just been doing it so long that circumstances come up where you may change your mind. So we try to tell everybody, just get ready for your moment and if you get called upon, take care of it. But it's one of the toughest things in football to be a backup QB and wonder, am I ever going to get a shot; and if you do, will you really be ready. So Faton is a really intelligent guy and he really understands what we do well. I have all the faith that if he was called upon, he would play well.”

On the rivalry with South Carolina… 

“We're not thinking much about the rivalry. We're not thinking much about what happened last year or in the past years as much as really are trying to focus on getting better. There's just so many areas we've got to get better. We knew when that game was over against Vanderbilt, there were some things we did really well. We had a team meeting in here. I showed three plays, offensively, things that we did extremely well throughout the season so far and three things that weren't so good. Same thing on defense and same thing on special teams, just kind of challenged the guys that when we do it right, we're pretty good. When we don't, we put ourselves at risk as a team. So our focus is trying to improve, trying to know what to do, know how to do it and add a lot of energy to that. That's really all we can ask of our guys. But as far as what we might learn, any time you're in games that are highly contested and are usually close games, you learn a lot about guys in crunch time.”

On if players have more energy for opponents like South Carolina… 

“I don't know if they do or not. They know it's South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, I mean, whoever you want to say, Missouri already. They get jacked up for all those games.You go to Kentucky, you're in a barnburner every time just about. We know the margin for victory is slim and that's why we've got to have attention to detail in what we do and just believe in each other, trust each other to take care of business. That's the thing we focus on the most. Because if you focus on anything other -- just like if you're going to take a math test and you're thinking about, well, my last math test, I got an F. If that's all you're thinking about, what's the chance of succeeding? You've got to be thinking about, how do I do this formula, how do I do that formula. You've got to focus on your job. That's what we try to do, focus on the job.”

On Georgia’s pass defense… 

“Well, it's early in the year, so stats do get skewed pretty good. Like you said, when teams are behind, they start chunking it. You could have said how great we were in run category and part of it is because people -- we got ahead of people and they were slinging it. They weren't running it. They didn't stay true to maybe what their game plan was. I just think the stats are a little skewed early on. You might use them here or there to motivate them. Last week, there's only one game, but Vanderbilt is the No. 1 rush defense in the SEC. So you might be able to trick your guys for a game and say, you know -- I say trick them, it's only one game. Now, they are pretty salty. We broke some big runs, but how many times did we get one yard, two yards, minus two? A bunch. They stoned our run a bunch of times but we broke free and got those long runs and all of a sudden your yards per carry looks pretty good but they are pretty good at stopping the run.”

On Georgia’s kickoff coverage… 

“We looked around a little bit and saw what people do, and quite frankly, most everybody will line up -- if they think there's an obvious on-side or at least the good possibility of an on-side kick, most everybody lines up just the way we did. Some people line up with even their deep return man even deeper.

“But everybody, even on that, everybody has got a job they have got to do and if everybody would have blocked who they were supposed to block with any kind of proficiency, they didn't have to just stone them. We would have had no trouble getting on it. And then there's things like, when you see the approach of the kicker, towards the end -- right at the moment of truth, you get a pretty good feel where that ball is going to go. So we've got to learn to anticipate better. We've got to learn to teach our return men to read that guy a little bit better and get a jump on it, so to speak. Alignment was a little bit of an issue that we didn't align just quite the way we should have. But yeah, we looked around a good bit and we feel like it was more of an execution issue.”

On SEC teams scheduling tougher opponents… 

“No, I think everybody has a choice. The way we do it now, you have a choice. If you want three like that, go ahead and do it. If you want one, two, whatever you choose to do, I think each team in the league can make that decision for them and what's best for their program. I think only time will tell if it becomes problematic for somebody to get into the playoffs. But we're all, you know, we're pretty confident that if you win the league, you've got a pretty good chance, not a guaranteed chance, but you've got a pretty good chance of getting in there. If you get a one-loss team and a no-loss team at the end of the year, you've got a chance for two.

“I don't know how people rate schedules as far as power ratings, but the bottom line is, let's say you schedule a team that's not an FCS team or however you want to say it. Well, you can go four FBS teams, and then play those teams that you're still probably favored to win every one of them, and you could say you did this or that and then you play your regular season schedule. I mean, how does that compare to the games we play? You lose one or two, you could be done. We play at least -- you know, we play a bunch of teams that can beat us and we can beat anybody we play, too, on any given day. I think our schedule is plenty tough enough, I do.”

On how South Carolina’s quarterback situation affects their game plan… 

“I’m sorry the young man got hurt. But he did get hurt early enough in the game where the other guy got to play. (Perry) Orth got in there and you got to see him throw it, whatever it was, 20 times. Got to see him execute under pressure. So you got to learn something about him. What I learned about him is he's tough, very accurate passer. Looked like a great competitor. He didn't look shellshocked in any way, shape or form. He looked like he was ready to play. I'm glad we got to watch a little film on him.”

On if Greyon Lambert is the starter because he handles all the ‘other’ quarterback responsibilities well… 

“Not really. I thought they all did a pretty good job. I think if any one of our QBs goes in there, he'll be able to function and get us in the right play. But certainly that could have been to his demise, quite frankly, coming as late as he did. If he couldn't do that, it would have been tough on him. All of them have to be able do that and they are able. Like I said, it was a very close race. But now that we've decided who our quarterback is, who our starter is. I know that playing that position, you don't just become super proficient overnight. I know he's played a lot of college ball but he has not played a lot of college ball for Georgia in this league and quite frankly, in this system. So there's a learning curve and things take time, and you get better as you go. Sometimes you've just got to show a little patience and guys will catch on and really play well.”

Senior OLB Jordan Jenkins

On approaching the rivalry with South Carolina differently...

“I’m just really amped up and realize that my time is running out and I need to step my level of play up.”

On using previous losses to South Carolina as motivation...

“It’s definitely motivation in the back of your mind. You always like to look back at past years and look at some of the plays that you could’ve made but you didn’t and look at the reasons for why you lost and use that to get yourself really ready for the game.”

On South Carolina’s place among UGA rivals...

“In my mind, I feel like we have the most rivals of any SEC school. I feel like every team we play in the SEC is a rival because there’s either some guy you know on that team or some coach you got recruited by. In some way or another, every SEC team is a rival.”

On defending South Carolina’s ‘wildcat’ package...

“Having Pharoh Cooper back there definitely changes the way everyone has to rush. It changes the whole game plan pretty much. The guy is a great athlete. I heard he played quarterback in high school. He does it all. You really have to focus on your keys and see what you’re supposed to see and not worry about someone else’s job. You really have to focus in before the snap.”

Senior ILB Jake Ganus

On how he feels going into the game against the Gamecocks...

“I feel good. I think we need to have a good week of practice. Obviously, they’re a really good football team and it’s big rivalry. Whenever it’s a rivalry game you have to put a little more emphasis into everything, so I’m excited.”

On being a newcomer to the series against South Carolina…

“I think it goes back to being a rivalry game. In rivalries at any level some teams get on runs, win a couple more than the other team. At the end of the day, in a rivalry game it’s whatever team plays the best. You see so many times in rivalry games where it’s a highly-ranked team upset by their rivals because that’s just how it is. We’ve got to really be focused and get prepared because it’s going to be a tough game.”

On scouting South Carolina...

“They’ve got some really good running backs. Good offensive line. They’ve got multiple quarterbacks that can play really well and some really good wide receivers outside. They’re a well-rounded offense. Defensively, we’ve got to be really sound, really sharp, and be really focused this week.”

On challenges when facing South Carolina’s offense...

“They do a lot of little things. I think Pharoh Cooper is a heck of a receiver and athlete. I think he can play anything. He’s a guy you’ve got to always be aware of because he can make plays. Like I said, they’ve also got really good running backs so there are a lot of things that we’ve got to just focus in on and it goes back to having a good week of practice.”

Junior FS Quincy Mauger

On dropped interceptions against Vanderbilt...

“It was just one of those things where we’ve got to look the ball from our eyes to the tuck, and I think we just lost focus of the ball.”

On improvement in year two under defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt...

“Ball disruption, turnover ratios, those are very important. Especially in the game, or in a big game, a game changer can kind of dictate the outcome of the game.”

On facing the Gamecocks’ ‘wildcat’ formation...

“Every player has different keys. You just have to know how to play your role, read run-pass, not attack the blockers. Just attack the ball.”

On the overall defensive play through two games...

“We’re getting better. It’s an improvement every day. I can’t say we’re perfect, nobody’s perfect. I think we strive so much for perfection from our technique to ball skills. We were lacking a couple of things so we’re going to lock in and focus this week on perfecting those things day by day.”

Sophomore TB Nick Chubb

On Georgia’s offense...

“We can throw the ball, it was just game two and we’re trying to get used to things. We just have to get settled in. There were a lot of protection things that we messed up on. We didn’t give him (Greyson Lambert) enough time and he was under pressure sometimes. It’s an overall team effort. We looked good yesterday so we have to keep working to get better.”

On South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier...

“I know that he has a great offensive mind. He just draws up plays on the sideline.  He’s crazy good, but our defense is crazy good too, so it will be a great matchup for them.”

Sophomore TB Sony Michel

On South Carolina...

“South Carolina is one of those rivalries that we seem to face every year. It’s one of those exciting games of the year. It’s probably one of the most competitive games of the year offensively. They have a great defense. Doing different scouting reports, their defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs all play a great game.”

On what allowed him to get off to a good start this year...

“Hard work. We have been preparing for this time since January. There has been a lot of tough times and a lot of morning of not wanting to work out.


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