Richt, Bulldogs preview Kentucky game
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Richt, Bulldogs preview Kentucky game

Mark Richt
Photo: John Kelley/UGA

ATHENS, Ga. – Georgia head football coach Mark Richt, along with several players, addressed the media on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s game against SEC East rival Kentucky at Sanford Stadium. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt

Opening statement… 

Alright. Here we go. Kentucky Wildcats, Coach (Mark) Stoops is really doing a fine job there, putting together some really good recruiting classes. Guys are playing extremely well. We’ll talk about their offense first. They’re averaging 24 points a game. They’re averaging 387 yards a game, of which 142 is running the ball, and 244 is passing the ball. They actually had back-to-back 400-yard games against Auburn and Mississippi State just recently. Very balanced offense.

I’ll start with their quarterback, Patrick Towles, a guy who has thrown for close to 2,000 yards, nine touchdowns, has rushed for 154 yards, and actually I think he’s the leading rusher for touchdowns. He has five TDs, so they’ve used his ability to run the ball down there in the red zone. He’s a cery impressive guy — 6’5”, 240 pounds — throws the ball beautifully. Like I said, he is athletic. For a man that big to be able to run like he does has been kind of fun to watch actually until the week you play them because we do watch a lot of their film. When we study other opponents’ defenses along the way, we always like to see what Kentucky is doing because they do such a great job offensively, and we do some similar things that they do as far as formations and passing concepts, running concepts, all that kind of thing.

Talking about their running game, (Stanley Boom) Williams is out from what I’m hearing. He really has had a fantastic year. I think he broke off a long run against us last year, but he has close to 600 yards rushing, but it looks like he won’t be playing in the ballgame. I know they’ve done the rest by committee between (Jojo) Kemp, (Mikel) Horton and (Sihiem) King. I think Horton had over a 100-yard game after Williams was out of the game just recently. Still, I’m sure they’ll still be able to run the football and run it well, but Williams has been a pretty dynamic player for them.

As far as their receiving corps, the No. 1 receiver is Dorian Baker, No. 2. He’s 6’3″, 208 pounds, very good-looking kid. He has 42 catches for 441 yards and three touchdowns. Their second leading receiver is Johnson, Garrett Johnson, he has 35 catches for 562 yards and a couple TDs, and then Jeff Badet, No. 13, who has 22 catches, 325 yards, two touchdowns.

Their men up front, they’ve got three returning starters up front in (Jordan) Swindle, (Jon) Toth and (Ramsey) Meyers, and they’re averaging as a unit over 300 pounds — only one guy under 300. They list him at 298, but by this time of the year he’s probably over 300. That would be my guess just looking at him.

Defensively, they’re giving up 29 points a game, 414 yards per game, 182 rushing, 232 passing. They have gotten some turnovers that have set up for points for the offense that they actually scored themselves. I know big Cory Johnson, No. 67, 6’3″, 300-pound big senior D-tackle scooped up a fumble and took it 77 yards for a touchdown for the first score against Tennessee. Very impressive to see him rumbling down the field as big as he is and how good he plays. He’s actually the leading tackler of their big men.

They play a predominantly a 3-4 look, and he’s very strong inside. He’s got 49 tackles, four and a half tackles for loss, two sacks, very active player, very tough player.

They lost No. 90, (Melvin) Lewis. It sounds like they lost him maybe for the rest of the season. Really, really fine football player, big nose guard type of guy that you’ve got to have to run this type of 3-4 scheme, and you’d think they’d be in trouble in that regard, but then Matt Elam shows up, 6’7″, 360 pounds, just he’s a giant. He’s a big man and very tough physical inside defender.

They also up front have another D-end in No. 91 (Farrington Huguenot), 6’4″, 282 senior, doing a great job up front.

And as far as the leading tackler on the team, Josh Forrest, former wide receiver turned linebacker, is their leader in tackles with 66 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, has a pick, has a bunch of pass breakups, doing a great job in the linebacking corps.

On the back end, Marcus McWilson, No. 15, six-foot, 208 pounds, has 54 tackles on the perimeter, very active, rolling into the box to get that extra hat in there that usually is unblocked by scheme and he comes up and makes a lot of great tackles. Last ballgame against Tennessee he had 10 tackles, a sack, caused a fumble, also had two tackles for loss.

They’ve got a young receiver really playing well. He leads the team in picks, Westry, Chris Westry, 6’4″, 185. You don’t find many corners that long, but with the type of receivers people are putting out there, it’s good to have a guy that really has the length to compete in that regard.

As far as their punting is concerned, they’re averaging 40 yards a punt. Their longest is 52 yards, and have nine inside the 20. Their punt returner is (Ryan) Timmons. He’s averaging 8.7 yards a return. (Austin) MacGinnis is their field goal man, and he’s made 11 of 13, which is one of the best in the league and probably in the country. He’s got a long of 48. He’s made — every kick inside of 40 he’s made every one of them. The only ones he missed were longer than 40. And then (Sihiem) King is their kick return man. He’s averaging 20.6 yards and had a long of 48. So that’s the Kentucky Wildcats.

Noon kickoff, as Claude said. Looking forward to the Dawg walk. Looking forward to our students. Looking forward to our fans coming out and supporting the young men, and looking forward to being home again.”

On how he rationalizes this season… 

“Well, it’s not over yet, number one. At this point — we didn’t make it to the Eastern Division championship. That’s all I can say right now. It’s been up and down, but we’re battling. We’re battling.”

On changes to the offense… 

“Here’s the deal, everybody. Y’all can pay attention to this. We’re Georgia. We’re a team. We work together. We’re going to fight. We’re going to fight together, and we’ll do the things we think we need to do to get better as we go, but the Georgia people can count on us fighting our tails off and doing it in a way that everybody would be proud of the effort of our young men and everybody’s efforts to get better. So that’s where we’re at right now.”

On Sony Michel’s heavy workload in the backfield… 

“Sony is a very talented guy, and he’s been doing that kind of thing his whole life. I think he played high school ball in the eighth grade. He’s used to being that guy to carry the load, but really, I don’t think we’ve signed a back at Georgia that we thought would be one guy to carry the load by himself. We’ve really wanted to have a situation where we have two, three guys that can share the load. I think that’s healthier for those guys. I think it’s the way to hopefully keep them fresher throughout a game and throughout a season. I’ve said that many times. And I think you can look at the last few years of us signing players, it’s not like we just sign this one back per class and say we’re good to go. We have tried to get more than one great back in a class, tried to encourage guys to understand that it is important to have a running mate, so to speak.

And I think nowadays, most kids really get that. We don’t run across many guys that are like, man, I’m afraid if you sign this other back, I don’t want to come. They want to come because they like how we go about our business, how we play the game of football, and they can see themselves succeeding just like the men in the past that have played that position.

So we’ve not really had an issue with that.”

On if he has told his players to get off social media this week… 

“What I tell our players is to — good or bad, this is policy, period, but we try — we call it noise. We say ignore the noise, and it’s — when they’re bragging about you or they’re saying not-so-nice things about you, and just focus on what’s being said in this room by our coaches and by each other. That’s the thing you’ve got to really focus on.

You know, I can’t control what people write, and I can’t control what people read, but I can control certain things, and that’s what I focus on. That’s what our staff is focusing on, and I think that’s what our players are focusing on. But you’ve got young people that — they’ve got to walk to campus every day, go to class, and they’re around people all the time, and I think they just kind of grew up on social media all the time, so I don’t think it’s stay off of it quite frankly. It’s kind of up to them to decide what they look at.

But the biggest thing is to focus on the people that really know and understand the game, number one, know and understand this team, number two, and be mostly concerned with what it’s going to take to have success moving forward.

You know, what we’ve done to this point really doesn’t define us as much as what we do from here on, and that’s how you’ve got to handle adversity in a season and that’s how you’ve got to handle adversity in life in my opinion. You have to decide what are you going to do now. What we’re going to do now is we’re going to focus on our jobs, we’re going to fight like mad, and we’re going to do it together. That’s what we’re going to do.”

On how well Brice Ramsey handled punting duties vs. Florida… 

“Brice had a good performance. That first punt was not real pretty, but it rolled for 17 yards and got a 50-yard punt, so that probably helped him. If that had bounced backwards I don’t know how he would have felt after that. But I think just to get that first punt off — I asked him, were you nervous? He said, yeah, I was nervous on the first one, but after that he settled in and actually did a really nice job.

You know, part of the job of a punter at Georgia, and most places, is the direction of where the punt goes, and in practices he’s done a very nice job of landing the ball where we want the ball to land to help us cover the kick. You want distance, you want height, but it’s nice to have it in a certain third of the field where everybody can rally around that point instead of trying to cover the whole 53 and a third yards or whatever it is. But he’s done a nice job.

And I’ll say this: Collin (Barber), he’s been competing his tail off in practice. He’s still getting reps. We always do that, and he’s actually been kicking the ball pretty good. I don’t know if we’ve seen the last of him, either, but he’s doing well.”

On criticism…

“It’s the nature of the business. It’s the nature of leadership. Leaders make decisions. Decisions aren’t always popular. There’s rarely a decision that’s made that everybody thinks is a great one. You know, even within our own building. But somewhere along the line we’ve got to say, okay, we’ve all agreed this is what we’re going to do and this is how we’re going to do it. But there’s definitely — anybody who’s been in a leadership position knows that there’s going to be criticism. That’s just all there is to it. Now, some jobs you might have a bad day at the office and maybe three people know, you know? We have a bad day at the office in our line of work and millions of people know and millions of people have an opinion, and a lot of people know football. A lot of people think they know football, you know, so there’s a little bit of everything.

There’s actually some pretty good constructive criticism out there, but it’s kind of obvious, I mean, we know it, too. But I’ve said for years that I’ve always wanted to be at a school where the people care. I’ve always wanted to be at a school where there’s tremendous support, where people are going to get in the stands and get excited and have passion, and you can’t just decide to have passion one way. People have opinions, and when things don’t go well, I don’t blame people for getting mad or upset or whatever. But I do want everybody in the Bulldog Nation to support our players. I think that’s the most important thing, support these guys. These guys, they’re — I mean, it’s unbelievable the amount of workload they have when you take football and school, and it’s a lot. And those guys, they need us as coaches, just to help them navigate life in general, and certainly learn how to navigate tough times.

I think there’s some great lessons that can be learned in football, but there’s some great lessons that can be learned in life for these guys, as well, because sooner or later, like I was talking to the seniors, within weeks you’re out on your own. You’re pretty much an independent adult making a lot of life decisions, and you’re getting married probably, probably have some kids, probably have issues at job or family or whatever it is, and it’s going to be tough times, and you’ve got to decide how are you going to handle the tough times. Well, you know, ignore the negativity. Negativity brings people down. No one likes negativity. So ignore that. I’ve had the ability to listen to comments that may be directed in a negative way, but if it makes sense, I’m still open-minded to listen to the idea, even though I don’t like the delivery of the idea at times. But then, you know, also begin to focus on the positive, and then focus on standing up, manning up, taking care of business, and do it hopefully in a unified manner. You know, families blow up because somebody decided it was too tough and they decided to run. You know, don’t do that. Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that guy. So that’s what we’re trying to teach them.”

On if he has decided on the starting quarterback this week…

“It would be nice to get more stability at that position, but it just hasn’t played out that way. We’re basically competing this week at a lot of positions, especially on offense, just making sure the guys aren’t too comfortable. I guess the bottom line is we want to get the best 11 on the field for whatever situation it calls. It’s not going to be just 11 guys. We know we sub. We know we have different personnel groups and things of that nature, but the bottom line is to get the best people in the game and help them execute.”

On the response of the players since last Saturday’s loss…

“I think our players appreciate how we’re handling our business as coaches and how we’re moving forward. I had a meeting with our leadership followed by a meeting with our team, kind of set the course of how we’re going to go from here. One of the things I mentioned to the team is sometimes when adversity strikes, you don’t know how to act. You’re like, how am I supposed to — you know how you feel, but how are you supposed to act, and I just wanted to help them understand how to act and how we were going to go about our business as coaches and how I was going to go about my business as head coach. So hopefully, and I think everybody took it in a real positive light and I think everybody is like, let’s go. Let’s go to work. We had a very good practice yesterday.”

On using QB Faton Bauta’s mobility…

“Well, we had — and I mentioned this on the call. Somebody asked that last night. I mean, there’s a lot of read plays that — zone read being the most popular one, and if you don’t really know for sure what a zone read is, if you took two receivers and spread them out and you’ve got two defenders on them, that’s four. Two and two is four. You’ve got a safety deep, that’s five. That leaves six defenders. So you’ve got five linemen, a quarterback and a back, so you’ve got five linemen who are going to block, okay, six guys. So there’s one guy left over. When every zone block is left, you’ve got your back sitting over here, and the quarterback will stick the ball in his belly and he’ll watch that end man on the line and he’s not being blocked, so when he’s riding that ball into that blocking scheme, if that defensive end decides he’s going to go come and make the play, that’s when the QB pulls it out and he runs. That’s a zone read as simply as I can state it.

And I imagine everybody knows, but if you didn’t know, that might be helpful. Then there’s other blocking schemes. You might have a power play where you’re reading a defender, or you might decide to block the end man on the line and read a linebacker, and if the linebacker pursues it, people pull the ball out and throw the ball. But if you’re going to do QB run, a lot of QB run is predicated on what that unblocked guy does. And the other thing is what happens with unblocked guys, if our five don’t block their five good enough, there’s no reason to add this extra guy, if you know what I’m saying.

So for the most part we were getting whipped at the point, so they didn’t really need to add a sixth guy to start chasing down the back or feel the need to go do that where the quarterback could have pulled the ball and run with it a little bit. Now, you can run QB draw and QB sweeps and things of that nature, but we had called enough plays where he could have ran the ball, but because of how the defense had played it, he didn’t run it as much.

But, to answer your question, we would have QB run available if he’s in the game.”

On any disharmony on the coaching staff…

“Not really. You know, everything — there’s always things that happen in the heat of the battle and all that in every game. I think if you put a microphone on every — if you’ve got a play caller upstairs and you’re calling a game and every word was recorded, you know, there would be like people get hot about this, that or the other, but it’s just typical game-day type stuff. But we’ve had no issue there.”

On anything he has learned from past seasons…

“Yeah, same thing. Same thing. You know, don’t worry about things you can’t control. Focus on what you can control. And you know, fight like mad, trust, have faith, believe in each other. You know, keep grinding. You just never know how close you are to success. Like you say, 2011, if everybody said the sky was falling and everybody fell apart at the seams, we never could have won 10 in a row like we did that year. You just keep playing, keep believing, keep moving forward in a positive way.”

On who else he is considering on the offensive line…

“Yeah, Sims, we’re going to give Dyshon Sims some work, and we did a good bit of competing in the open date week, but we didn’t really follow through and change anything because we thought everybody competed well. We thought the starters did a good job. But there may be — Sims might have a chance to work his way into getting some playing time. I’m not saying he’ll start or anything like that. I mean, he could, but we’ve got a couple physical days of practice today and tomorrow that might help decide that.”

On any additional freshmen he might play this season…

“Well, we do — like our young receiving corps is getting closer and closer. They’re getting in there a little bit. You have to watch kind of close to see them in there sometimes, but they need to get in there some more, I believe. We’ve already played 22 true freshmen, so it’s not like we’ve got to get somebody in there for the first time. I just think we’ve got to continue to give them opportunities, and some guys are starting. Some guys are playing a lot. Some guys, a massive amount of them, are on our special teams, and they’re all gaining valuable experience. But as the season goes on, regardless of what you’re chasing, I think guys just develop as they go and they earn more playing time as they go.”

On the plan to get TB Keith Marshall more carries…

“Yeah, I’ve seen him improve basically weekly. I think he’s in a good position to get more totes. That would be my guess going into this week.”

Sophomore TE Jeb Blazevich

On the conversation inside the program about their season thus far…

“Coach (Mark) Richt addresses it. All the coaches address it in terms of just our suffering three losses this season. We talk about it and what we can do to fix it. As Coach Richt says, there’s the pile of blame and even if it’s a little piece, you just need to worry about your piece and what you can do to get better. In terms of myself, I’m just trying to get my blocks better, my routes better. Just doing whatever I can to help the team.”

Senior WR Malcolm Mitchell

On dealing with Georgia’s injuries… 

“Being a competitor, you want to compete. You want to do your best week in and week out so whatever obstacles you face, you just find ways to overcome it. In the game with adrenaline, you probably won’t feel a majority of hits unless it’s just excruciating pain. Other than that, you probably won’t feel it until afterwards.”

Sophomore TB Sony Michel 

On how much he counts on the other running backs…

“Everybody counts on those guys (Brendan Douglas and Keith Marshall) because they have the ability to go in and help out, I would say.”

On this season…

“It’s really all on the players, if you really think about it. It’s not the coaches because the coach is going to put you in the best position possible to succeed. And, it’s all about execution. It’s about which team executes better. Florida defense executed better than our offense so therefore, we weren’t successful. It’s all on the players.”

Senior ILB Jake Ganus

On how the team will stay focused in the home stretch of the season…

“It’s tough, it’s disappointing having a second chance (to make) the SEC Championship and losing it. But as a man, as a football player, in this case life goes on. We’ve got four more weeks of the regular season and then a bowl game. I’m a senior. All the other seniors, we want to go out on the highest note possible, win the rest of our games and go to a good bowl. Just do everything we can. It’s tough but you’ve just got to go back to work. This is a tough situation, but we can handle it and we can show everyone how we fight and how we deal with adversity.”

On the atmosphere around the locker room…

“It’s tough with losing those games. No one likes to lose. Just as a person, as a player and as a team, we have to come together and realize that there are four games left on the schedule and a bowl game. We still have a lot to play for. It’s disappointing not being able to get to the (SEC) championship, but we’re still able to do a lot of good things this season.”

Senior DT Sterling Bailey

On maintaining focus on the task at hand…

“Just play ball. We came here to play football and get an education. We don’t really pay attention or listen to media say or any outside sources because that’s not what we came here for.”

On added pressure on the defense…

“As a defense there’s always going to be a huge responsibility to stop the other team from scoring. There’s no added pressure at all. It’s our job to stop the other team from scoring.”

On keys to a good performance against Kentucky’s offense…

“Just being able to stop the run and chasing the ball. They’re really explosive. They can make plays. They have a good receiving corps, a good quarterback, and we just have to be able to get after them all.”


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