S. Carolina Week: Press Conference Quotes

ATEHNS - Georgia head coach Mark Richt and a delegation of football players discussed the Bulldogs' upcoming SEC opener at the weekly press luncheon Tuesday. They offered the following comments:

Opening statement… "We are starting Southeastern Conference play. It's really like another new beginning for us. Our first conference game of the year is very meaningful to us. It's a source of excitement for our players and our staff. I can feel it already and it's Tuesday. We are very excited about starting this Southeastern Conference campaign.

"We are playing the team we always play first—the one that's always kind of a bloodbath for some reason. It's just a game that almost always is very close. There's not a lot of points scored very often—at least not since I've been at Georgia. We you go back historically it really hasn't been a high-scoring series. Both teams are usually pretty healthy. Both teams are excited about the promise of the season, and I think from a talent base we are very, very similar. We recruit the same guys. As a matter of fact they have quite a few Georgia boys on their team. I think that's also incentive for a lot of their key players. A lot of their best players are from the state of Georgia. I think they probably even get a little more excited for the opportunity to play us. We have our share of South Carolina boys on our team who are excited about it.

"There is a lot of emotion going on—a lot of side bars. Now this game we have to look at it on its on. When you do that you look at what you are matching up against. Offensively for them they are returning a lineman (Jamon) Meredith. It's his first game this year, and we feel like he is their most outstanding lineman. Jarriel King is another outstanding lineman to go with a couple of other guys who have played an awful lot of football up front.

"(Kenny) McKinley has been their go-to guy. There is no doubt about that. I know he has some type of a hamstring injury. We are reading that he is doubtful. I would think if he has any chance of playing at all he will play. He is a great player. They have other great receivers in (Dion) LeCorn and (Moe) Brown. They are very fast guys who, if McKinley is out of the lineup, it's going to be more of an opportunity for them. (Jared) Cook, who is a Georgia kid, is really a receiver. He splits out a lot. He has been a go-to guy for them. He is a 6-5, 240-pounder who runs well and has played tremendously well for them.

"I am thoroughly impressed with Mike Davis. That guy is a football player period. I think he could play anywhere on the field. I think he could be a receiver, he could be a running back like he is. He could absolutely play defense. He is a fierce hitter. I saw him on an interception just knock a guy completely out of bounds with no fear whatsoever. He's just a real physical runner and a good all-around player. He jumps off the film at you.

"We are expecting a two-quarterback system with (Chris) Smelley and (Tommy) Beecher. Of course we don't know which guy will play. I don't think they change the game plan much with one guy or the other. I don't think their style of play is that distinctly different where we would have to prepare any differently for them, but just prepare for Steve Spurrier's offense. From what I've seen watching on film, I don't see a lot of things different from what I've seen in that past.

"Defensively is where it gets really exciting for them I'm sure. They have 10 returning starters not counting (Jasper) Brinkley and (Nathan) Pepper, guys who have been starting their whole careers but ended up getting hurt relatively early in the season last year. They did play against us last year. Quite frankly they physically whipped our tail up front for sure. I have just about every player circled as guys who are playmakers for them. Up front Peppers is a big, strong force inside. Cliff Matthews is a guy who we got in a real big recruiting battle with and ended up losing him. He is an outstanding football player. I think he was a Freshman All-American and now he's bigger, stronger and faster as a sophomore.

"Brinkley and (Eric) Norwood inside are two Georgia boys again. They are two inside linebackers who will just lay the wood on you. They are very fierce hitters. They will use Norwood in some pass rush situations. Three of their cornerbacks—(Captain) Munneryn, (Stoney) Woodson and (Carlos) Thomas—all three of those guys, from what we are hearing from pro scouts, are NFL prospects and will probably be draft picks.

"Emanuel Cook might be the biggest hitter pound-for-pound on their team. They have some other big linebackers. Brinkley--when you have a 270-pound linebacker, that is a physical ball player, no doubt, and Norwood at 267. Pound-for-pound this kid will hit you—Emanuel Cook, number 21. They all have a physical nature about them.

"As far as their specialists, (Ryan) Succup has been a great kicker and punter. I think they are allowing him just to concentrate on the kicking part right now. I bet you he will have more touchbacks than any kicker in the country. They let him drive the ball and try to knock it out of the end zone, and he is able to do it more times than not. This new punter they have--(Spencer) Lanning--is averaging 45 yards per punt on seven punts. He is pretty legit. I think they made a good decision there.

"(Chris) Culliver, their kick return man, is averaging over 28.5 yards per return, and he is also starting as a free safety. He is a very, very fast player and a dangerous return man. Munnerlyn is a punt return man who is fearless. He will rarely, if ever, take a fair catch. He wants to return it. He is a strong player, and that is why he is a good tackle-breaker. Guys out in space who are strong runners are very difficult to bring down.

"Overall they are an outstanding football team, a team that I'm sure is going to be playing a little bit wounded, knowing that they already lost one conference game. They know two losses in the league doesn't guarantee that you are out of it by any means, but it makes it a long shot. I know they will be playing with that in mind. We are very excited about our first Southeastern Conference game and we know it will take all we have."

On Georgia's difficulty scoring offensive touchdowns against South Carolina…
"I think their defense is a big part of it. I know towards the end of the year last year they struggled defensively. When you lose Brinkley and Pepper, that's tough. Those guys are your big, strong, physical up-the-gut guys who make sure you don't get run on. Last year they were there for us. I'll never forget last year looking at them line up and thinking my gosh, these guys are huge. They are big men and they are very tough, hard hitters. I think it's their defense. It seems like we are always breaking in a new group of offensive linemen. I think that is a little bit of it too. As the season has gone on our line play has gotten better. I know last year is a great example of that. I think both teams are early in the season, pretty healthy, fresh and excited. The fans are fired up and it's just a tough game."

On the offense's limitations in 2008 compared to 2007…
"I think we might be a little further ahead—not a lot. It's hard to say because this is the test. This is a different brand of athletes from what we played in the first two games. I'm not trying to disrespect who we played, but if you look at the film there is a huge difference in the size, strength and speed of this defense compared to the first two games. I think that itself is going to give us an idea of what we are really capable of. I think we have executed well but I don't think we have been tested like we are about to be tested."

On South Carolina's quarterbacks…
"Right now it looks like Beecher is a little more apt to run. That's what I saw. I think Smelley has more playing experience. It seems he has a little better understanding of what Coach wants. They are similar enough in their style that I don't think they will change their game plan with one guy or another."

On Darius Dewberry and Fred Munzenmaier playing vs. South Carolina…
"Dewberry has been our sam linebacker. As fate would have it we didn't see a lot of tight end sets the first two games. I don't know how much a sam linebacker would have played in the first two games. Coach Spurrier will certainly run some tight end sets and base offensive sets. That is Dewberry's strength to play over a tight end. He will be ready to go. There is some special teams work that he will maybe not plug back in as a starter, but certainly get a lot of reps this week to see where he is. Munzenmaier is more apt to play special teams than regular snaps right now. With only one regular fullback who has been a fullback his whole career in (Shaun) Chapas, I think Munzenmaier would be competing with (Justin) Fields for the second fullback reps this week. I'm not even going to say he will pass him as the season goes on because Justin has done a nice job for us at fullback."

On Michael Moore
"I'm happy for Michael. He is a great kid and has been working his tail off. If you look at his body type up close you can tell that he works out in the weight room. He runs smooth routes and has good hands. Day after day in practice you see he has a good set of hands. For whatever reason it has taken him a while to really get on track. Right now our coaches, our quarterbacks, everyone has confidence in him and I'm sure he has gained confidence in himself. He's not the only receiver who is going through that metamorphosis."

Senior FLK, #1 Mohamed Massaquoi
On last year's South Carolina game…

"I don't think we played as well as we could have. I think South Carolina played really well. They have a very good defense. They are a team that's fast and physical. They match up well with everybody."

On if Georgia's offensive play calling is more open this year because of more experience on the offensive line… "We really can do anything with our offensive line. I think they have matured and they've got a lot better. They are the key to our success. However they play upfront is how everybody else is able to play. I think they are doing a great job this year and that they are going to continue to do a great job for us."

Junior QB, #7 Matthew Stafford
On what he remembers from last year's South Carolina game…

"Just being frustrated the whole game and me personally not playing well. It's going to be as physical a game as it was last year. They are a big defense. They definitely can run and hit. I felt like we couldn't get anything going last year and struggled to find any rhythm on offense."

Redshirt sophomore TB, #24 Knowshon Moreno
On fullback Shaun Chapas

"I think he's doing a really good job for us. He came in last year and played a lot towards the end of the season. Coming into this season, you could see him working on his game in the off-season by working on getting his hands in the right place and working on the plays. He's definitely doing a great job for us, and at the same time, he's getting better also."

On last year's South Carolina game…
"It was just a real tough game. It was a physical game, and we didn't come out with the win. They played a better game than us, and they played down to the last minute of the game. We didn't come out of with the win. That's pretty much it. This is a new year, so we'll see if we can come out with the win this year."

On facing South Carolina this year…
"A lot of guys are really looking at this game as being a really good contest for us. They are a great team offensively and defensively. They have some great coaches coaching them. I think they're really going to be a good contest for us. A couple years ago and last year were really close games down to the wire. I'm pretty sure this one is going to be the same thing."

Redshirt Sophomore C, #63 Chris Davis

On if the team is ready for it's upcoming schedule of games…
"We're no where near where we need to be, and I'll continue to say that. That's just how I was raised. You're never where you need to be, but we did make strides these first two games. Take nothing away from Georgia Southern or Central Michigan, but SEC defensives are in a league of their own. What we did there was a hurdle for us, but the stretch is basically beginning now with the SEC. We just have to be prepared."

Sophomore WLB, #35 Rennie Curran

On the conference opener against South Carolina…
"We have to stay focused and get better at what we started and just continue to improve. It's that next step in getting to where we want to go. We need to take care of business and keep rolling. We watched the film from last year to see the things we didn't do right. We know we cant go in this year making those same mistakes that got us beat. We have to focus and know what we need to do to stop this offense."

On the chemistry of the defense through the first two games…
"Our defense, through the whole offseason and spring, we really got closer. We got most everybody coming back from last year so a lot of guys have experience. That makes a huge difference. We've been through the battles and some adversity together and we are comfortable with each other."

Senior DT, #90 Corvey Irvin

On the rivalry with South Carolina…
"They knocked us out of the SEC championship and maybe the national championship last year. So we feel like we've got a chip on our shoulder. We got to look at that and we did big things last year but we could have been even better."

On the expected return of defensive tackle Kade Weston
"Kade will have a very big impact. He's been out for about a month now. He's rested, he's been working and lost a little weight so he will play a big roll in the game this weekend."

On South Carolina's Jasper Brinkley, who went to Georgia Military Junior College…
"When I got to (Georgia Military Junior College), the coaches always talked highly of Jasper. They said to follow his footsteps because he was a leader. He led by example and he was always on time for everything. He was a great guy."

Junior SC, #2 Asher Allen

On the conference opener against South Carolina…
"We know it will be a big time game. All we can do is play our best; we know we are going to get their best. It'll be good to get into SEC play, get our feet wet and hopefully come out with a win. We understand going into this game, going into South Carolina, this is definitely going to be a big game. We are preparing as if (Kenny McKinley) is going to play, he's a game-changer and a big time player."

On the significance of getting off to a good start in conference play…
"We most definitely know that winning in the SEC is really important, and we have a great appreciation for what happened last year. Hopefully we can capitalize on our games."

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