Tuesday Q&A with Mark Richt

Read on to see everything Mark Richt is saying a few days before his team travels to take on North Carolina State.

Opening Statement…

“I want to start out honoring our scout team players of the week – on offense, Crispian Atkins did a great job for us. Michael Jackson, on defense, did a super job for us. And Jack Spicer on special teams was our scout team player of the week. I’m very happy for those guys and want to give them as much props as we can, as much honor as we can. We can’t do it without them. Scout teamers are a blessing to our program.

“We got Coach Doeren’s team, NC State, coming up. Miami hasn’t played them that often, it’s been awhile – I guess 2008 since we’ve been there – so it’ll be a new experience for all of our players. I’ve been there a few times back in the day when I was at Florida State. Very rough place to play. Their crowd does a beautiful job, and we’re looking forward to that challenge.

“Offensively, they’re averaging about 20 starts with their offensive linemen and they’re averaging over 300 pounds apiece. Pretty veteran group. As a matter of fact, their whole team is very much a veteran team. The quarterback [Ryan] Finley has passed for almost 2,500 yards and 15 touchdowns. [Matt] Dayes, their running back, is on the verge of 1,000 yards – that hasn’t happened for them for a while, and I know they’re probably trying to knock that out this game. That’ll be a challenge for our guys. [Jaylen] Samuels, their No. 1 receiver, has 43 receptions and over 400 yards and four touchdowns, doing a great job. [Nyheim] Hines is right behind him with 34 catches, and is also their kick return man, doing a great job. Then [Bra’Lon] Cherry, who is also their punt return man, has got 28 receptions. So they spread it around pretty good offensively.

“Defensively, they are one of the best run defenses in America. They’re only giving up 99 yards, just under 100 yards per game. That will be a huge challenge for our guys up front, and of course our tight ends, backs and receivers trying to be able to run that ball well against this group. They’ve got nine juniors and two seniors. That’s a very veteran group - and a bunch of them are redshirts. If you look at their roster, there’s a ton of redshirts on their team, which shows the depth that they’re creating and the job the coaches have done there is outstanding. Their linebacking corps – [Airius] Moore, [Jerod] Fernandez and [Dravious] Wright – kind of remind me of our linebacking corps. The only difference is they’re about two or three years into it. They’re averaging around 30 starts apiece - a couple of them 27 starts, one of them 34 starts. Looks like they came in together, they stated playing early together in their careers, and they’re a very, very productive bunch. Up front, huge guys on the interior – 312- and 313-pounders in [B.J.] Hill and [Justin] Jones. You don’t stop the run well like they do unless you have a front four or front seven like they do. [Bradley] Chubb, on the edge, is big and physical. He has 18 tackles for loss, eight sacks, [he’s] 6-4, 275 [pounds]…really a prototypical NFL-type end. He’s doing a great job there. He has some relation to Nick Chubb, from what I understand, and of course I have a great admiration for the Chubb family. They’re a very stout and talented bunch.

“As far as their kicking goes, their punt returner [A.J.] Cole is averaging 41.2 yards a punt. Cherry is their punt return man I mentioned earlier. Hines is fifth in school history on kick return yardage – he’s had over 1,500 yards and averaging over 22 yards per kickoff return. We have struggled in that area, so that will be a big challenge for us, to try to slow that down a little bit. [Kyle] Bambard, their kicker, has made five out of 10, with his longest being 48 [yards]. That’s NC State.

“I thought we had a good practice this morning. There were a couple moments when I heard Coach [Manny] Diaz going off on the defense a little bit. I don’t know what that was all about. It didn’t last all day, but there was probably a 15-minute barrage there. Something wasn’t going just the way he wanted – I’m not exactly sure [what], I haven’t talked to him yet. I thought the offensive group did a good job. The scouts gave a good look. By far the best part of our practices is when we hook it up against each other – just a lot more competition, a lot more energy. We kind of debate how many reps we do. We did as much or more than we’ve done any [practice] this season just to stay sharp. With that, I’ll open it up and see what you guys want to talk about.”

 

On the NC State front seven and what makes it such a tough group to play against…

“They’re big. They really are. The two inside guys are over 300 pounds apiece, their edge guys are big, long, 275 or 280 pound-type guys. Their linebacking corps I mentioned, veteran group…it’s rare to have that many guys, on one side of the ball, have that much experience. Even in their secondary, they’re averaging around 20 starts. All across the board on defense. When that happens, you tend to get better as a group. I’m not 100-percent sure, but I think they changed their strength coach in the offseason. I didn’t know what they looked like a year ago, but I know what they look like now. They’re doing a good job in the development of their players.”

 

On the play of redshirt junior RB Gus Edwards and his contributions…

“Gus has been battling. He’s coming off an injury. He didn’t go through the offseason program, the mat drill program, at all. When we started spring ball, he really was thrown in there...his foot was healthy, but he hadn’t had all the conditioning, so he was struggling a little bit with the conditioning in the spring. Then by the summer and fall, he really came around and was in much better condition. We hadn’t gotten him the ball a lot, obviously, but like you said he’s been very patient, very diligent. He kept earning the right to play, and then when he got his opportunity, he played well, so he’s going to get more opportunities because of that. I’m proud of his attitude through it all because obviously he’s a very talented guy.”

 

On what Miami needs to do to be feared as a team again…

“I don’t know if anybody is ever going to admit that they’re afraid. I might have been overdoing it a little bit. I know when I see film, I have a certain feeling in my gut. There are some games when I have a worse feeling in my gut than others. I don’t know if its fear or not, but we’re in for a battle royal. I think you just have to win on a consistent basis and play dominating football. We’re not there yet, but that’s going to be the goal. I think we’re playing very competitive football, and football that I think people respect what they see on tape, but I don’t think we’re shaking them up and keeping them up too late right now.”

 

On if the position of tackle is better than guard for Kc McDermott…

“I don’t know. Maybe. He played well at tackle. It’s one game. The whole group actually pass protected pretty well. A lot of times you might play a 4-3 scheme where they have those ends on the edge coming up like a bunch of madmen every down. Those guys will test at tackle more than a guy playing right in the middle of you, so to speak. They’re more of what we call a two-gap team that will play right in the middle of you and work right or left, according to what is happening. When they do that, you can cover them up better in pass protection…if you get a wide rusher and he’s flying, and you really have to move and set but not overset where you get beat inside, it’s a whole different world. I’m not saying he can’t do it. He did an excellent job last week. We’ll see how he does this week.”

 

On the status of junior OL Trevor Darling…

“He’s back. He didn’t get a lot of work today. But he was right there with us, watching and getting himself ready to go.”

 

On the decision by FIU to hire Butch Davis as head football coach…

“I think Butch is a great coach, period. I think he’s a great person. I think it already is a home run for FIU. I know he’s going to be excited about the challenge and the opportunity there. We’ll have to get ready when the times comes. I don’t know him well, but I’ve known him for a while, and I have a lot of respect for him as a coach and a person.”

 

On the team’s halftime adjustments and improved play in second halves recently…

“Usually at halftime you’re either confirming that what they’re doing is pretty much what you saw on tape. If we’re not executing well, it’s just a matter of reminding everybody what they’re supposed to do, how they’re supposed to do it, the type of effort we’re looking for – all of those things. Then just emotionally encourage them to keep playing hard. The other thing that happens sometimes is there will be something new. Either a lot new or just a little bit of difference here and there – maybe playing a different coverage that we didn’t see a whole lot of. You remind them, ‘They’re playing a lot more two-man than they did on tape.’ They might not have shown any, then all of a sudden they watch Notre Dame tape, and Notre Dame ran two-man against us and they decided to play some of that. You have to be able to adjust and help them understand what is happening, if it’s different than what you saw on tape. I don’t think it’s rocket science. Mostly you’re confirming what’s happening, you’re reminding them of what it’s going to take to have success, and you’re trying to get them to go. They’ve done a good job.”

 

On how he handles NFL Draft-eligible juniors, given Clemson’s recent midseason announcements…

“I’ve never done that. I’ve never done that. I don’t think it’s wrong at all, I’ve just never done that. I always try to wait for the season to end, and then talk about those things – the regular season. You’re going and you’re going, and you’re focusing on the season. Then there’s that time in between the last game of the year and the bowl game, if you’re fortunate enough to go to a bowl, that’s where people have time to think about things and talk about things. There will be a time sometime in there I’m sure we’ll have a conversation with Brad [Kaaya] and all the guys that are draft-eligible. It happens every year. We’ll have some conversations, and there will be some guys who submit their names to the NFL system, trying to give them a rough idea of where they see they are, as far as possible draft status and stuff like that. My policy has always been to wait after the regular season and then to try to get our guys as much real information as you can get.

“When I’m talking about real, I’m talking NFL information – NFL scouts, NFL general managers, NFL people. I’ve got a guy that helps our guys understand the reality of the draft. 32 picks. I might have a guy who has on one sheet of paper [lifts sheet of paper], there’s 40 names. All these guys were projected first-round draft picks by the media. Then, by the way [flips paper over] - that’s just offense. On the back, there’s 40 more guys picked in the first round. That’s 80 guys picked in the first round, and there’s only 32 spots. Not everybody that is projected to be a first-round draft pick is a first-round draft pick, or becomes that. A lot of times guys will get this information and get their hopes and think, ‘Hey, this is going to be me.’ Then it may not be real. We try to get as much information from the NFL as we possibly can, and then just talk to them about what’s going on.

“I’ve had guys like AJ Green, Todd Gurley and Matt Stafford…there’s nothing to say but you’re probably going to be the first player picked in the draft or the first player picked by your position. Knowshon Moreno…your draft status is not going to improve by sticking around. If you want to help win a championship or maybe win a national award or you just love college, whatever it is, you may want to stick around. From a business point of view, there’s probably not going to be much too of it. Most of the guys can improve their status by staying. Most. Not all. Most. You want to do the best job you can of educating them on the reality of where people see them.”

 

On the passing of Bill Stanfill, former Georgia and Miami Dolphins great…

“I knew Bill. When I first met Bill, as a coach at Georgia, I think somehow he was being honored by our school for the [Outland Trophy]. I asked him where his trophy was. It was a national award for a lineman, the best lineman in America, when he won it in college. He said back in that day, they didn’t give them to the players. We called the people that handed out that award and I just secretly asked, ‘Could you make one for him?’ Then we actually awarded it to him, which was pretty cool. He was a great player and a great person. I know he will be missed. God bless his family.”


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