Beau Page/Dawg Post

In-depth Q&A with Mark Richt

Read on to see everything head coach Mark Richt was saying following practice Monday morning.

Opening Statement…

“Good afternoon everybody. It’s nice to see you here at Miami Football Media Day. This is a new one for me, but it's nice and cool and comfortable in here, so I like being in here with you.”

“We just finished practice number five. It was our first day in pads. We have a five-day acclimation period – you probably know that, but a lot of the fans may not. Two days of one-a-days in shorts, two [days] where you can put shoulder pads on, and on the fifth one, you can put all the gear on. You can actually tackle to the ground and all that, if you want to. You can scrimmage if you want that day, which is today, but we chose not to - for two reasons: one is my goal right now is to tackle live and to block below the waist, and all those things – play live football – my goal is to do it three times. We'll have three different scrimmages throughout camp, with the last one being kind of a practice game to get the maybe the first- and second-team offense and defense on the same field, and the best of the rest represent Florida A&M. We’ll try to simulate a game the best we can how – pre-game warmups, how we’re going to do things at halftime, the whole thing.

“One reason we didn’t tackle today is because we only want to do it those three times. The other reason is we really have competed very, very well. We have practiced extremely hard. Sometimes you have to scrimmage to get them to go fast, hard and physical, and just be at a mental state of mind to really get after it. But we've been practicing that way, really, from the very beginning. I'm so pleased that I decided not to start tackling until we have those scrimmage days. Something may change between now and then, but the best shot at staying healthy through camp is to use what we call 'thud' tempo. We’ll strike - there’s a lot of contact – but we're not supposed to take a guy and slam him into the ground, or tackle him low or block a guy below the waist. In a lot of blocking schemes, if you run a play to the right and it’s kind of a stretch play or a toss play, you might have a backside guard that can legally block below the waist on a defensive lineman. But if you do that over and over, sooner or later you may get a guy in a bad way. That’s kind of where we're at. I'm pleased. I’m pleased with the effort and attitude. Coaches are coaching hard. I think we're very organized. We're having a good start."


On if linebacker Shaquille Quarterman has the personality of a freshman…

"In some ways, yes, but mostly no. Shaq Quarterman did come here at mid-year, meaning he graduated from high school early, he got here in January and he was able to participate in spring ball. He's a true freshman, but he has heard from Coach Diaz how to play linebacker the same amount of times as any of our other linebackers in the program. Everybody was brand new to Coach Diaz on the defense, in the linebacker room in particular. Everyone was brand new to how I'm trying to get things done as head coach. In some ways, it was a good year to be a mid-year, because you're getting the same head start as at three-year starter. That helped.

“He has great characteristics of a leader. He works hard. He studies. He behaves. He does all the things you would want a leader to do, and I think he's gained the respect of our team. Sometimes a freshman can come in and get into a starting role, there might be some resentment, especially if a guy is real cocky or brash or acts like he owns the place. Sometimes it's hard to swallow for some of these veterans. But when a guy comes in with a humble spirit, works his tail off and just physically gets the job done, like Shaq did, I think they're embracing the guy. I think they’re excited about him being there."


On where he has seen the most change in the team since his arrival at Miami…

“I don't know what was going on in the past, so I don't know what to compare it to. But I see the guys that are still here, which is most of them, they're hungry to have success - not only as an individual but as a team. Right now, they’re doing a very good job of trusting me as the head coach, our coaching staff and our strength staff, everybody in nutrition and recruiting – I mean, everybody. They're trusting us to guide them the right way. They're buying in and trying like mad to do it the way we're asking them to do it.

“I’m very impressed with them, and very thankful just to see how we're going about our business right now as compared to even in the spring. It’s like night and day – in the conditioning of the young men and the tempo of our drills. We were taking a day off, every other day we would practice in the spring. Now we're going every day. Obviously in the old days, we'd go two-a-days by now – we might have 10 practices by now. But they're showing up every day so far…five days out of 29, so let’s not get too crazy. But we are so much farther ahead than we were in the last day of spring as far as conditioning, tempo, practice, work ethic, running from drill to drill…if a ball breaks out, just everybody is running to the ball. The effort and attitude has been great."


On if he plans to employ a similar offense at Miami as he did at Georgia…

"We're going to run the ball. We're going to be very serious about running the ball. Balance to me, in an offensive system, is if a team wants to play Cover 2, you better be able to run the ball. If you can't run the ball, you can still be pretty good throwing and catching, but I've had sometimes where we didn’t have enough of a running game. They start dropping eight into coverage, they start running exotic coverages and exotic blitzes. If you can run the ball, and make them respect that and put at least one of those safeties in the box to try to get an unblocked hat – everybody is looking for an unblocked guy to make a hit - then all of a sudden you create much better coverages for your quarterback to throw against. You get more single, high coverages, where you get more one-on-one coverage. Then all of a sudden, your skill guys look even better.

“When you have play pass, and you get a linebacker out of position, if you just drop straight back and run a route concept, that linebacker may turn to his spot and get in position and be able to break in either direction. If you play-pass, and he thinks it’s a run, it’s not a run, and turns and starts running to his spot, he is kind of narrow now…it’s tougher to break in the direction. You’ve created throwing lanes because of the play-action pass. I think running the ball has a very physical attitude about it, and we're going to run one-back runs, but we’re going to run some two-back runs with some lead blockers. We're going to have some true fullbacks that will get after you.”

On what process he has and what he does to get younger players prepared for larger roles….

"I think three things – one, a lot of guys are coming mid-year now. If those three young linebackers didn't show up at mid-year, they wouldn't be probably where they are today. Maybe they would. Guys that come mid-year get a jump start on the whole thing because they go through spring ball.

“Now guys can come first or second summer session. They can be here all summer, and we’re allowed to meet with them now. We get two hours per week with them. We can be installing things to get them up to speed, where they can run and play freely because they know what to do. That helps too.

“And then camp, [we have] these 29 practice opportunities - we did start a day or two near the tail end of an exam schedule, we had to work around that, obviously with academics as priority. Once that semester ended, we have a time now before class starts again where it's 24/7 football. We will meet about an installation. We’re putting in a play or a defense. We'll meet on it on the board, so to speak, or on the playbook. Then we'll show it on film. Then we'll go out and we’ll walk through the assignments and all that, as we’re teaching them. They’ll be moving around and seeing it in slow-motion pace. Then we'll go practice it, and then after practice, we’ll go watch the film of what happened, and correct it. Then we’ll go to the next installation and do it again. So we have a lot of time to not only install, but to watch the film we just did and still be ready to install for the next day and be ready for that. With all that said, it helps the young guy have a better chance to be ready.

“There's really a fourth thing, and that's the type of condition kids come in compared to maybe in the past. Our start time used to be four days ago. They would just show up, and that's the first time you see your might have a couple of days before the veterans come, but within three days you try to teach them as much as you can.  They're not in shape, and the veterans come and you go at a veteran pace and they're lost. They're in my office wanting to go home because they’re homesick and they think they made a mistake and all that. Now, being here the whole summer and knowing what to do - they know where class is, they how the strength and conditioning works, they know about how we eat and how we try to rest and how we try to take care of business. They are just so much further ahead than they used to be. I think still, offensive line is probably the very toughest. I’d say offensive line over quarterback. I’d said offensive line is the toughest, and quarterbacks are probably the second-toughest one to get ready for. But the rest of them, they can get there pretty good."


On how important it has been to have Brad Kaaya, entering his third year as starting quarterback…

"It has been great. Brad is really fun to coach. Real smart. Coachable. Teachable. That guy is as coachable of a guy as I've been around. He loves football. He loves his teammates. He is a very nice person.

“We have a manager snap the ball – his name is Gabe. I don’t know Gabe’s last name yet. He’s Gabe. Our manager snaps the ball to the quarterbacks. And at the beginning, it's hard to learn to snap like the big linemen do, and just today, he was bragging about how much better Gabe has gotten by practice five. He was legit. Brad wants the ball quickly. He wants the ball in shotgun in a certain spot. If you shoot a dud back there, the timing is different. But now Gabe has it going, and Brad is out here loving him up. That's just the kind of guys he is."

On what it has been like to have his son Jon on the coaching staff with him…

“We love all of our kids, but to have Jon working with me, in particular in the quarterback room, it's good. He understands that I'm running the meetings, I'm running the process of how we think. I want him to really understand how I teach, and that he reinforces how I'm teaching. He has gotten to the point where there are certain things I know that he knows exactly how we're going to do it. As a matter of fact, he is probably more up to speed on every little detail of the run game than I am. I think he would do it as good or better than I would, as far as declaring who is the mike linebacker, our combos and our checks, and all that kind of stuff. He works really well with Coach Searels and Coach Brown on that phase of the game. His experience with the Buffalo Bills, he was basically working with tight ends, so he learned a lot about run game and they were very, very good at running the ball in Buffalo. He got exposed to a lot of good stuff. It's great. It's also i nice to see his wife Anna and our one and only granddaughter around. That’s nice too.”


On how he plans to change the team’s practice schedule when class resumes at Miami…

“I'm not thinking about school yet, because it’s not until August 22nd. What’s today, the 8th? That’s like an eternity to me. That’s 14 days… I'm not even thinking about it yet. Once class starts, we know we have to have one full day off. I guess the biggest challenge during school is there are a lot of things going through their minds, besides just football. The other thing is that window of time we have, our time is morning time. When we meet and practice in the morning, if we get one lightning strike, we're done. The day is over. Come on in, we'll try to figure out what to do. I don’t even know what we’re going to do. I know we've had help at the Wellness Center, or volleyball gym, but you're competing with those other sports who want to use it too. If we have that happen, we just miss an opportunity to get better. Even in camp, if something happened this morning, we could push it to afternoon or evening. It's uncomfortable, it's a pain to change our schedule a little bit. But when school starts, if you miss the window, it's over. Unless everybody lets us skip school that day, but I don’t think we’ll do that."

On a timeline for success at Miami compared to his timeline at Georgia…

"I'll say it again, but we'll never go into a game thinking we're not going to win the game. We’re going into every game believing we’re going to win. We're going to prepare to win, we’re going to expect to win, but just like at Georgia and now, I know it's so important to focus on the process of getting every day and in every area – not just practice itself. It's strength and conditioning, it’s nutrition, it’s rest, it's how we teach, and it’s how we become a team. I focus on that. When you do that well, you tend to get the results that you want, or at least you're right in the heat of the battle."

On if there are individual players or groups that have improved since camp started five days ago…

"One thing I’ve noticed, as a group, is the defensive backs. I think defensive back play has been much improved. I think they play harder. They compete harder. If there’s a deep ball and a guy is getting beat, and the guy is getting ready to catch it, he puts his hands out and rakes it through last second. And even if he gets beat by five yards, he's going to fly down the field until he touches that guy and maybe tackle him inside the 10[-yard line] so we can play defense again. A lot of really great effort there.

“It’s hard to tackle out in space. If something breaks out in the open, there is a lot of space. They say space if the enemy of defense, it’s the enemy of a tackler. The more space, the harder it is to corral a guy. You have to take good angles - and not only one guy needs to take good angles, but you need two guys to take good angles to corral a guy, so to speak. You have to have people pursue hard. We talk a lot about those things, but I’m seeing really good effort and angles, and just physical ‘thud’ striking. They've made some nice interceptions and pass break-ups, too.”


On what habits or mentality he is trying to change as compared to those existing when he arrived…

"I don't know about change, because I don't really know what the mindset was, really. I’m just trying to teach them to work hard, to trust each other, to trust us. To take care of your body. To get as strong, as fast and as lean as you can. To learn your assignments and practice good habits every day. A team looks a lot tougher and a lot faster if everybody is playing fast - just like our defense. It’s hard for one guy to make a real big hit. That happens once in a while. If you have guys swarming, and one guy slows him down or gets him corralled and everybody else a piece of that guy legally, before the whistle blows, that’s what you want.

“My rules with these guys – I ask them to be on time. I ask them to be prepared when they get there, regardless of what it is. I ask them to be respectful to everybody around them – someone in authority or a fellow student, or whatever it may be. And I ask them to do their best. Sometimes we have to help them get to their best. Here’s what happens in coaching a lot: a guy is here [lowers right hand], and we know he can get here [raises right hand]. As he's climbing to that spot, he knows he has worked harder than he has ever worked before. He knows that he is better than he ever has been in the past. But we know he can get here. We're trying to get him there, and he’s thinking, ‘Man, Coach, I'm working harder than I’ve ever worked. I’m better than I’ve ever been.’ ‘Yeah, you are. But we still know you can get to this point.’ That's the thing that they have to understand. We love them and we want them to be great, and that's why we're pushing you to get there, and doing it on a consistent basis."

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