Richt Says Tigers Impressive

Georgia coach Mark Richt talks about this weekend's game with Auburn in Athens.

Athens, Ga.-–Things have a way of repeating themselves in the Auburn-Georgia rivalry. Just like three seasons ago, the Bulldogs enter the game coming off the first loss of the season to Florida while Auburn is fighting to stay in the SEC Western Division race. A late David Greene touchdown pass won for Georgia that day and Richt says things are pretty similar to that season heading into this year's match-up.

"It's the same in that regard," Richt says. "We had a horrible loss in that Florida-Georgia series. It was the first loss of the year and it didn't knock us out of it. We had to play a great Auburn team to win it. We played so miserably in the first half of that game it didn't look like we had any prayer at all of winning that game. Miraculously we came back and made some plays. It's very much like that as far as how the season has gone."

Unlike that season, this time around Georgia comes in after a week off. The winner of the game the last two seasons has enjoyed having an off week before the game, something Richt says has helped his team get healthy and closer to full speed.

"It should help your team if you don't have any setbacks during preparation," Richt says. "We certainly gave our guys off Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from the physical running and pounding. We'll be fresher than we would have been without an open date, I can promise you that. I think an open date at this time of year, anybody would welcome it."

Shockley scrambles for yardage last season against Auburn in a 26-7 Tiger victory.

One of the advantages the off week has given Georgia is the rest it has allowed senior quarterback D.J. Shockley to get. Knocked out of the Arkansas game with a sprained knee, Shockley missed the Florida game. Back practicing with a knee brace on, Richt says Shockley appears ready to go for the game this weekend.

"He seems to be in pretty good shape," Richt says of Shockley. "We haven't asked him to do a whole lot in practice. Tuesday and Wednesday he did all of our passing drills without any limitations.

"At first we thought maybe he would just get in the shotgun a little bit and drop back nice and easy and throw, but he was able to get under center and drop back. He was able to go through our play-action passing drops, which take more twisting and turning. He handled it well. I didn't see any setback at all."

While much of the attention on Saturday will go to Shockley and Auburn's running game, the key to the contest may well be Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox. Third in the SEC at 223.8 yards per game with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions on the season, the sophomore has been outstanding in his first year as a starter. Richt says that while this is his first real chance to see him in game action, he remembers Cox from a past spring game and isn't surprised by his performance.

"I think he's done great," Richt says. "The first time I really got a feel for him was not this year's spring game, but the spring game prior to that. I saw him play in that spring game and I was really impressed by him. He had a great handle on the offense and that was the first spring with the new coordinator.

"He looked sharp and was a very accurate passer. He seemed to be a great ball handler and was good at the faking of the play-action pass. Of course he's played extremely well for them considering it's his first season as a starter. I think he's doing a great job."

Another factor in Auburn's success will be the play of running back Kenny Irons. Like Cox, Irons has come on strong since early in the season when he got little to no playing time. Irons has six 100-yard rushing games this season with four in a row, something that Richt says immediately catches your attention.

"I'm impressed with him," Richt says. "How can you not be impressed with him. I was most impressed with him when they played LSU. They're playing one of the finer defenses in the league and Auburn decided to pound the ball at them with Kenny. He did a fantastic job.

"He proved that he could not only run well when he got the opportunity, but he could take a lot of carries and a lot of pounding. I was very impressed by what he did. Anybody that is going to play back for Auburn is going to catch the ball well and he does that also."

Calling the plays for the Bulldogs in addition to his duties as head coach, Richt doesn't get an opportunity to watch much of Auburn's offense. Instead he usually is watching the defense preparing for the next opponent. He says that when watching Auburn's defense the first thing that stands out to him is team speed.

"Real fast guys at all positions really," Richt says. "The places you have to have speed are on the edges, you want your rush guys to have the ability to come off the corner. They've got great defensive ends. All of them are really capable of whipping your tackles off the get-go and get to your quarterback. Their secondary, you want to have speed at the cornerback positions which they do. They're very talented there.

"Where they are probably different than most is their linebacker speed across the board at Sam, Mike and Will, all three are very fast and can match up very well with any back coming out of the backfield speed-wise. That separates them really from any team we play."

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