Mark Richt

Tuesday Q&A with Mark Richt

Read on to see everything coach Mark Richt was saying following Tuesday's practice.

Opening Statement…

“We’re getting ready for this ballgame here on Thursday night against Coach Fuente’s team, Virginia Tech. We’re playing at their place. I know it’s going to be very exciting for both teams. I think when one team is getting cheered for, it gives them juice. I think when one team is getting cheered against, it pumps them up too.  There will definitely be a lot of emotion going into this thing. It’s a short week, we all know that. It’s really my first time experiencing it as a coach. I think I’ve had Thursday night games as an assistant, but I’m almost certain that there was an open date prior to that. It’s a little bit different for me, but I think we managed this week well. What we couldn’t manage was the rain out there today. I was a little bit rough, throwing and catching. But we did get it in, we didn’t have to go inside which is nice to get that done.”

“I want to talk a little bit about their offense. It starts with [Jerod] Evans, their quarterback, a junior college transfer. Big kid at almost 240 pounds and 6-foot-3. He has run for over 300 yards and he has passed for over 1,300 yards already. I think 17 touchdowns and two picks…just having a tremendous start to his career at Virginia Tech. They have great receivers. [Isaiah] Ford was all-ACC last year, the guy already has five touchdowns. I think he has had at least two catches of every game of his career, so a very consistent performer. [Bucky] Hodges – the 6-foot-7, 245-pound receiver - is really a challenge to any corner, safety, linebacker…there just aren’t many guys that tall that play the game of football, especially at that position. And then Cam Phillips has a bunch of catches as well. [Travon] McMillan, their back, had over 1,000 yards last year, very talented kid. Their right tackle, [Jonathan] McLaughlin is kind of their veteran there. I think this is going to be his 42nd career start already.

One interesting thing, I guess you guys know that Coach Fuente and I have something in common. We were both recruited out of high school by Coach Schnellenberger, of course me at Miami and him at Oklahoma. I got to find out some stories form him on that.

But Coach [Bud] Foster, as we all know, has been at Virginia Tech for a long, long time and had nothing but great success. It’s a lunch pail bunch. They get after it. They have a lot of veteran players. [Ken] Ekanem, No. 4, their end, is making his 33rd career start. He already has 18 career sacks. Up front, they just play hard, they play fast, they play physical. [Andrew] Motuapuaka, No. 54, is an outstanding football player. He’s a guy that is averaging over 10 tackles, and close to 10 tackles per game for his entire career. He’s going into his 22nd start. Then on the back end, [Brandon Facyson and Chuck Clark] both have close to 30 career starts. [Greg] Stroman, their corner, has three picks. I think he leads the league in that category, or maybe he’s tied for first. But he’s also a tremendous punt return man and kick return man. Their kicker, who is their kickoff man, Joey Slye, has 80 percent of his kicks out of the end zone on kickoffs and he’s 70 percent field goals with a long of 37 [yards]. Very talented bunch in the special teams area, like Virginia Tech has always been. With that, I’ll open it up to any questions you might have and move this thing right along.”

 

On how he has evaluated QB Brad Kaaya’s play so far this season

“I think he has done pretty well, for the most part. We don’t grade passing percentages as much as we grade accuracy. If a play is protected well and he’s directing a ball to a receiver, if he throws it on the money - whether he catches it or not - he’ll get a positive grade for his accuracy. It doesn’t take into account if a ball bounces off a guy’s hand or whatever it may be. An accuracy grade, most of the time, is higher than a pass percentage grade. He has missed a couple of shots, but if you watch anyone across America, even in the NFL, not everybody hits it right on the money. I think he’s adjusted well. He has a lot of responsibility in the run game. He gets us in the right plays. He handles some of our protection issues, as far as helping everybody understand who they’re assigned to. And he’s really been a very good leader for us.”

 

On if there is a certain area he has spent time focusing on to improve the offense…

“We just have to make sure everybody understands their assignments real good, everybody understands their technique, and everyone plays with effort that it takes. And then just do a good job of overall execution – that’s a big part of it. There have been a couple of times that we didn’t get information signaled well enough, and we missed a couple of those here and there, which hurt. You get some self-inflicted wounds here at times, whether we jump offsides or have a hold or whatever it may be, so we can’t have the penalties. Again, all of those things boil down to myself and the coaching staff getting the job done. We just have to keep banging away, keep believing and we’ll get better as we go.”

 

On keeping energy level high despite back-to-back losses and injury concerns…

“We had good energy today. We had good energy yesterday. Everybody understands in the game of football, injuries happen. There’s attrition for different reasons, in the collegiate game especially. I think everybody has done a good job of focusing on the moment, focusing on what’s important. There’s always a difference between how you might feel and how you need to act, but once you start practicing and getting your blood pumping and all that kind of thing, the guys have enjoyed it out there. I don’t have an issue or a concern right now with that. I think with this fast of a turnaround, it’s hard for everybody to catch their breath a little bit - physically and mentally. But Virginia Tech is going through the same thing. They’re coming off a loss which wasn’t exciting for them, and they have to turn around quick as well.”

 

On the status of defensive linemen Chad Thomas, Gerald Willis and Demetrius Jackson…

“When do we give our report? 3 p.m.? I’ll give it to you then. We’ll get the report out. But they didn’t practice today.”

 

On if he has ever implemented rules based on practice participation and game participation…

“I’ve never really had that. I think coaches have that in place for guys they think might be dogging it a little bit, like ’Hey, I’m not going to practice and all of a sudden I’ll get well at the end of the week.’ If I think I had guy like that, I would implement that, but not as a base rule, because sometimes guys are banged up. If a guy feels good enough the day before the game, moves around and gets the okay by the doctor, and he’s a veteran player who knows what to do or at least has been in every meeting and is up to speed, I would let a guy play. It’s up to the doctor to say he’s okay, but if I thought a guy was trying to work the system to where he’s not going to practice on Tuesdays because he’s going to act like he’s hurt, you have to address it at that point.”

 

On if targeting calls have started to go away from the original purpose…

“I think there are some targeting fouls that weren’t necessarily the type of hits that people are trying to take out of football. I think the launching, the leading with the top of the helmet, putting your head down or just striking a guy above the shoulder, those are the kinds of fouls you’re trying to get rid of. But there’s been a few that are tough to call. Anytime you write a rule, it’s hard to get it just perfect. Just like the hit we had against [Jamal] Carter - I think when the rule was implemented, I don’t think anybody would say that’s the hit we want to get rid of. I really do believe he led with his shoulder, he didn’t launch, he struck his chest first and that was his target, that’s what he was shooting for. I’m just afraid if you start lowering your target even more, then you’re lowering a guy’s head, or you’re putting a guy more vulnerable to below the waist injuries as well. It’s a tough penalty, but I think it has made the game safer, the fact that we have that penalty. It depends on which side of the ball you’re on, whether you think they’re right or not. But I do think we’re teaching how to strike properly. By no means was that a flagrant shot [by Carter] where we had no regard for the rule. I think we were trying to stay within the rule, and in the officials’ opinion, we were fractionally off - just a little bit high.”

 

On if defensive lineman Scott Patchan suffered a setback after playing against Florida State…

“I guess that’s a good way to say it. But we’ll have a report out today.”

 

On his lack of familiarity with Thursday night games…

“The SEC will play some, but Georgia, in particular, played zero. It was just a presidential decision. I really think it’s wiser to have an open date prior to Thursday night, and after the game, obviously you’re not playing on Saturday so you have some time there. The five-day turnaround, in my opinion, I don’t think it’s very good, even though both teams are doing it. If you have one team with an open date, and one team with five days, that’s not fair. As far as what makes sense for TV, I’m sure it makes sense for TV. But what makes sense for the student-athletes? I don’t think it’s a good idea. I think it’s a bad idea.”

 

On having coaches recruiting Friday, with no Saturday game to prepare for…

“We’re going to get in around 4 a.m. or 5 a.m.]. I hope the coaches can sleep just four or five hours, maybe. [laughs] We do plan on getting the coaches on the road, but we are going to get in super late. The good thing is we’re on fall break academically, so we don’t have to worry about getting the guys in school Friday after a late night like that.”

 

On if he has an offensive philosophy as it relates to how many points it takes to win…

“One more than they got. Coach Schnellenberger came from that school - his number was 24, when we played. He said that’s what the offense needed to score to win, was 24. Nowadays, you just get one more than them and I think everybody is happy.”

 


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