After an 8-4 debut as Georgia's head coach, Mark Richt is expected to have a big 2002 season. Georgia is ranked No. 8 in the nation by The Associated Press as it prepares for Saturday night's season opener against Clemson. At his weekly press conference Tuesday, Richt talked about key issues on his team, including the quarterbacks, as it enters the season.
Question: Can you compare how you feel about your team now and at this time last year?
Richt: "There's a big difference this year and last year in the opponent that we're playing. I felt like when you look at a tape of Arkansas State last year and you looked at us, you felt like we had a pretty good shot of winning this thing if we don't blow it. This year we're playing a Clemson team that has played an awful lot of big games and has recruited the same players you recruit and has an outstanding staff and really can run well.''
Q: After spending so many years in the Atlantic Coast Conference at Florida State, how would you compare coaching in the ACC with the Southeastern Conference?
A: "The biggest difference is the feeling you get on game day. You get a bigger game feeling in the Southeastern Conference.
"There is more excitement because there are more people in the stands. There is more excitement because there are a bunch of fans who have been fans for an awfully long time, that are second- and third- and fourth-generation fans. There are rival games that have been going on for years and years and years, where in the ACC, at Florida State, they just joined the league. There weren't a lot of established rivalries. That's the biggest difference to me. "Top to bottom, you're going to have a bigger war, day in a day out. It's just a tougher row to hoe. ''
Q: As preseason practice opened, you said your biggest concerns were the defensive line and the secondary. How have those areas developed?
A: "I've still got concerns on the defensive front. I've got concerns about our safeties, also. The safety position is talented. I've been talking about their talent and ability, and I don't see a problem there. "The inexperience is what concerns us the most. I don't know if they're as disciplined as they ought to be in terms of being where they are supposed to be when they're supposed to be there. I've just seen some mistakes that concern me some. The corners have been pretty solid, the starters, and some of the backups have come on in camp.''
Q: Do you plan to have a set time that you will bring in D.J. Shockley at quarterback behind David Greene, or will you rely on game situations to make your decision?
A: "We're going to go in with a set time. There may not be a set time on the clock but we'll have a plan. We already pretty much have nailed it down. (Shockley) will play certainly sometime in the first half. I can at least give you that much.''
Q: How do you see the two-quarterback system developing through the season?
A: "We have to just see how things play out. The fans need to realize and the players need to realize in any given day, one guy is probably going to play better than the other guy. ... There are going to be times where one guy plays better than the other, but that is not going to make me jump to a conclusion that we need to make a change immediately. "What we are trying to do is go with the proven starter and allow an unproven player to get some experience. That's our goal right now.''
Q: Do you worry about how the quarterbacks will handle the reaction from fans as you rotate the two?
A: "We haven't talked about that much. They don't even know what the rotation is going to be. They don't know what the plan is. They just know they're getting ready to play. I'm going to wait a little later until I clue them in about what's going on and that will be the time we talk about that whole subject. ...It will be Friday. They'll know by the time they go to bed.''
Charles Odum is the beat writer for Dawg Post in Athens. He has over 20 years of experience covering Georgia football. He can be reached here: CEOdum@aol.com
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