Mark Richt

Tuesday Q&A with Mark Richt

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

Opening Statement…

“Let’s start out with some good news - academic awards. Braxton Berrios and Brad Kaaya were both named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America All-District Team, which is great news. I’ll be tweeting that out in a little bit. I didn’t mention captains last week in this meeting, but this week’s captains will be: special teams Michael Badgley, our kicker, for defense will be Trent Harris and offensively we have Brad Kaaya and Mark Walton. Those will be our captains. Another thing I’m going to try to do a good job of is to honor our scout team ‘players of the week’ from the week prior. Pittsburgh scout team players of the week - on the offense side was Austin Pfenninger, he has had a pretty good run of that, won that more than once. Then we had had one guy that won not only the defensive scout team player of the week but special teams scout team player of the week - that’s Tyler Murphy. I want to thank those guys publically for the job they do.”

“Getting onto Virginia, Coach [Bronco] Mendenhall is in his first season. I’ve known Bronco for a good while now. We both got to to know each other through some events that head coaches go to from time to time, and I got to know him pretty well. I’m pretty good friends with Bronco, and I’m looking forward to competing with him and his team. Offensively, the first guy you have to talk about is [Taquan] Mizell, their running back. He’s on the verge of 1,500 [career] yards receiving - he has already had 1,500 [career] yard rushing - and he’ll be the first player in ACC history to ever do that. He also has 185 catches as a running back, and that’s the most in the history of the ACC as well. A very dynamic guy, he already has 42 catches this year. He leads the team in catches and has over 600 yards rushing as well – a very dynamic player and one that we have to do a good job on. Their quarterback, [Kurt] Benkert, is a transfer from East Carolina. He’s doing a great job, putting the ball on the money. Big kid that can move well and runs good. He has a receiver with 34 catches, one with 40 catches, one with 39 catches – his running back has 42 catches. They’re throwing it around the yard good and spreading it out. You can’t really focus on one guy, so to speak. Up front, their right tackle [Eric] Smith is going to hit his 42nd career start, really an outstanding player. Mooney, their left guard, has got his 24th career start. All of those guys are up around 300 pounds. They’re doing a good job of providing space for the runners and time for the quarterback to throw the ball.

“On defense, have to start with [Micah] Kiser. He leads the league in tackles. He has 102 tackles. You just watch the tape and you can see why he is making so many tackles – he’s very physical, very fast, big kid at 6-2, 240-pounder. He’s a great thumper inside the box but can play in space pretty good too…second in the league in tackles is [Quin] Blanding, their safety. He has 90 tackles and he has six career interceptions. He has two interceptions this year. Outstanding player. Donte Wilkins, their nose guard, is about to play in his 43rd game. I think it’s his 20th career start - 300-pound guy, real physical nose guard. When you play a 3-4 defense like they do, the nose guard has to be big and strong and physical, and that he is. [Andrew] Brown I know was a high school Gatorade Player of the Year, he’s also another outstanding linemen up front - usually when the big guys have single digits [jersey numbers], they’re pretty good. [Laughs]. In the kicking game, [Nicholas] Conte their punter is No. 1 in the league with a 45.5-yard average. I think he’s 10th in the country – he 25 punts inside the 20, 11 inside the 10 and six inside the 5. We have to make sure we’re ready for what we call the ‘black zone’ - when you’re backed up deep, you have to have a plan to get on out of there. It’s just happened too often for us not to be ready for that. Their punt return man [Daniel] Hamm has got 190 yards this year, it’s the most since 2007. He’s doing a great job, averaging almost a first down every time he returns it. Joe Reed, the kickoff return man, is averaging 25 [yards] per return which is outstanding – he’s 25th in the nation and sixth in the league. They’ve had a couple of guys attempt field goals this year – both of them are 50 percent. Alex [Furbank] is 1-for-2 and [Sam] Hayward - I guess he was a member of their national championship soccer team in 2014 - walked on in the middle of the season. I think he showed up September 19th and won the job. He’s a guy that is getting his feet wet as a kicker, but he has a lot of ability. With that, I’ll open it up for everybody’s comments.”

 

On senior Alex Gall seeing time at center due to the injury to Nick Linder…

“Gall played the whole spring. Nick wasn’t working in the spring and Gall got just about every snap with Brad [Kaaya], so that was good experience. Even in this last ballgame, he played the whole second half and really things went fine. Pre-practice every day we do quarterback-center exchange, and we have our top four centers and top four quarterbacks and we rotate along the lines – Brad will get one with every single guy every day at the start of practice, so that helps as well. The other thing too is we want each center to snap it in the same spot. We want each quarterback to put his hand placement in the exact same spot. We want the cadence to be very rhythmic, so if a new quarterback comes in, it doesn’t blow everything up, or if a new center comes in, it doesn’t blow things up. I think we’ll be fine with [quarterback]-center exchange. That’s the most important thing…he actually graded out pretty good in the second half [against Pittsburgh].”

 

On senior Standish Dobard approaching the coaching staff about practicing at defensive line…

“Stan played defensive line in eighth grade, okay, so he had some experience. [laughter] He saw the need. He saw the team needed help and he wanted to go help. He knew he had at least the body type and athletic ability. I went to the defensive coaches about it first and at the time, it was a good idea – just as thin s as we were at that spot, it was very important to get somebody in there in case of an emergency. If you have more people hurt, even if he didn’t play a little bit the first game or two, he would be ready to play. As it turns out, we’re getting more guys back healthy and all, but we’ve kept it over there because he has been doing a good job and he’s been enjoying it. If we need him to play tight end, he could do that in a pinch too.”

 

On what he took away from watching his team respond to a four-game losing streak…

“It was good. It was good confirmation that the guys still were fighting hard, that they care, that we have a good team. Pittsburgh is a good team. We all know Pittsburgh beat Penn State. Penn State is a quality team, Penn State knocks off Ohio State…it was really a great performance, considering the momentum that we were losing, so to speak. We were trying to fight to stay motivated, fight to stay with the attitude of wanting to get better on a daily basis. I’m proud of them. That’s what I told them on Sunday. Normally we celebrate victories and we celebrate all the good things that happened, but I want to celebrate the team. I want to celebrate you guys, as a team, to really stay together in the tough time and just understand that we stopped the bleeding a little bit. We haven’t arrived by any stretch, but it was a good sign.”

 

On Miami’s historic struggles in Charlottesville against the Cavaliers on the road…

“I don’t know much about that. I would just say they’re a very quality team. I watched the tape and I think they’re a heck of a football team. Who’d they play last week, Wake [Forest]? Before that, Louisville. They’ve been playing their tails off. They have a bunch of close games that they’ve played as well. They’re trying to get things established under a new head coach. We know it’s going to be a challenge. As far as the history, I don’t know all that.”

 

On if the team discusses bowl eligibility, given the players responses…

“That’s good. If you ask a guy a question, ‘Are you excited about becoming bowl-eligible?’ he’ll probably say yes. I hope so…I’ve been blessed. I’ve coached 33 years, and every year, I’ve been to a bowl. I kind of expect it.”

 

On what he has learned as a play-caller from last year that he didn’t during the four games prior…

“I’ve said it from the beginning - in the play-calling category, if you call sound plays and call plays that have a chance to put a hat in a blocking scheme on everybody, and has a chance to stretch a defense in the pass game and all that - I think that the execution is really what’s most important. When we execute well, usually good things happen. If we don’t, it doesn’t happen. Obviously a lot of great things happened, but we had our share of things that weren’t very good either, still. When you win, you don’t look at that as much – at least the fans don’t or the media doesn’t - you look at the good things when you win and the bad things when you lose, and that’s very understandable. But I just think we executed extremely well. When you get a lot of one-on-one situations throwing the ball, if you protect and put the ball in play and the guys make the plays on the balls that hit their hands or are in range to catch it, good things happen. We still dropped two or three balls that could have been even a bigger day. Overall, I think we executed better.”

 

On the differences he has seen coaching in the ACC compared to his career in the SEC…

“I think this is a very competitive league. I don’t know what would happen with a bunch of crossover games, I couldn’t really say that, for certain. I think it would be very competitive three too. But top-to-bottom in our division, I think every game has been very close. There have been a couple of games where maybe somebody ran away with it just a little bit, but every week, there’s no ‘gimmes.’ That’s very similar to what it was in my experience at the SEC - you couldn’t just say, ‘Oh we got this one.’ There was no game you could say that. I don’t think there’s any game in this league where you can say, ‘Oh, we got this one’ - at least we’re not in position to say that right now, I can tell you that.”


Canes Time Top Stories