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November 25, 2014

Mark Richt

COACH RICHT:  Pretty darn good this time of the year.  Talk about their offense first.  They are first in the ACC in a few categories.  I'm just going to rattle them off.  Total offense, scoring offense, rushing offense, yards per completion, passing efficiency, fewest sacks, fewest interceptions thrown, third‑down conversions, fourth‑down conversions and No. 1 in turnover margin.
Nationally they're No. 1 in yards per completion and third‑down conversions, and from what I heard, they might even be breaking an NCAA record for their third‑down conversion rate, and actually they're No. 2 in the nation in rushing.  So obviously getting it done on offense.
You know, everything‑‑ most offenses everything starts with the quarterback.  Justin Thomas for them is really outstanding football player.  Has passed to close to 1400 yards and 15 touchdowns.  You already heard the stat of not hardly having any interceptions thrown, best in their league but he's also had over 800 yards rushing and he runs their system extremely well.  He's just very, very dangerous, very fast.  Got a strong arm.  I think they're throwing and catching better than I've seen them in the last few years.  Very impressive guy.
Their running backs, their B backs get the majority of the carries in yardage, Zach Laskey has got 608 yards rushing.  Synjyn Days has got 592 yards rushing, so they've got a lot of guys that can carry the mail and do a good job.
Their A back, Hill's got‑‑ excuse me.  That's pass receiving there.  Let's go to the pass receiving categories, their No. 1 receiver is Smelter.  He's got 32 catches for 671 yards and just an extremely high yards per catch stat there.
Their second leading receiver is Waller, No. 88.  He's got 15 catches for 248 yards.  And then their No. 3 receiver is Zenon, No. 9, he's got 8 catches for 161.  So they're doing a great job.
Their offensive line is very impressive, three returning starters there.  Actually nine‑‑ excuse me, six returning starters offensively overall, but three are up front.  And they average nearly 300 pounds.  They're big, their athletic.  In some years past they weren't quite as big as these guys, but they're bigger, stronger, faster than I've ever seen.
So a tremendous challenge for our defensive line and linebacking core.  As far as their defense is concerned, they're No. 1 in their league in defensive touchdowns.  They've given up 24 points a game, given up 388 yards a game and 165 rushing and 228 passing.
They've‑‑ very impressed with their linebacking core.  I'll start with that.  The No. 1 tackler is P.J. Davis, No. 40, he's got 90 tackles.  He's also tied for first with tackles for loss with 8.  He's also No. 1 on the team with sacks, with four sacks.  And then Nealy, the middle linebacker, is No. 2 in tackles with 75, No. 3 tackles for loss with 6, and he's actually third in interceptions with two picks.
Up front, Freeman, No. 42, he is tied for first with tackles for loss with 8.  He's second on teams with sacks with three and a half.
And then in the back end, Jamal Golden, who he leads the group with interceptions with four.  Also has 43 tackles.  He's also their kick and punt return man.  I'll talk a little bit more about him in just a second as far as a return man goes.
White is No. 3 with tackles with 57 and No. 2 with interception‑‑ two on interceptions with three picks.  Their nickel back, Smith, No. 12, is‑‑ he's fourth on the team with 55 tackles, very active player if you get into three wide receiver sets.
But again, another challenge for us offensively.  We're looking forward to.  As far as their kicking game, they're No. 1 in their league in blocked kicks.  That's punts and kicks.  Their kick return man, Golden, I mentioned a little bit ago, averaging 26.6 return, which is the most of anybody that we've played all year long.  Snoddy also has an average of 22.4 which is outstanding.  Golden is also their punt return man.
Their field goal kicker, Butker, is 10 of 16 with a long of 46; and their punter, Rodwell, averages 41.3 on the punting game.  So again, another good matchup in special teams.  We've gotta do a great job in that area to have a chance.
So those are the things that we've been studying about Georgia Tech.  Again, they're a very hot team right now, and you know, our are Coastal division champions, so they're a championship team this year and we need to play our best to have a chance.

Q.  Coach, you guys have obviously gone against this offense a lot over the last few years.  Coach Jeremy Pruitt, I don't know how much he has.  Have you weighed in more on that part of game planning, just having been through it so many times or where does that factor lie for your defense?
COACH RICHT:  First of all, I'm not going to try to tell any defensive coordinator how to try to defend this particular offense because I just don't‑‑ I don't know enough to give the great detail that you need to try to defend it.
Jeremy has had experience, and I think all of our coaches have had some experience defending this type of offense, but going head to head with Georgia Tech, I don't believe they did at Florida State last year.  So you know, it'll be the first shot out of the cannon, so to speak, for this staff to go against that offense here at Georgia Tech.
I have done my best to explain, you know, kind of how this game goes, and the emotion of the game and how relentless Georgia Tech is in how they go about their business, and it's kind of‑‑ it's a game where you've gotta be‑‑ you've gotta be tough to play in this game.  You gotta be tough, because the type of offense especially that they run is one where they're going to come after you down after down after down, and you gotta be resilient, you gotta be good fundamentally.  You gotta be tough fundamentally, too.
And they play a physical brand of defense as well, and we try to play a physical brand of offense, so it'll be interesting to see how that matchup goes, too.  But it is going to be a game where you've gotta be physically and mentally tough.

Q.  Do you speed up your practices during the week preparing for Tech because of how quick they are?
COACH RICHT:  Well, their tempo is they do have some good tempo.  We've played a lot of teams that run tempo, and when I say tempo, fast pace, and our offense has our moments when we try to go fast as well, so I think we can operate under that circumstance, you know, because it's kind of what a lot of people do as far as how fast they go.  But I think the big thing with Georgia Tech's offense is just the pure execution of it that is the most daunting task to try to slow it down.

Q.  During practices to get the defense ready for some of those cut blocks, do you go more full speed as opposed to the sub you normally would during the week?
COACH RICHT:  We do.  We work on drills, you know, to work on cut blocks, and then, you know, we'll get some scout team work as well, but you just can't simulate it.  You can't simulate how well they play offensive football and the way they block, and they're not always cutting.  You know, and a lot of teams cut block, so it won't be the first time we'll play a cut block all year.
But you know, on average they probably do it more than most people.  But you have to‑‑ I just got a feeling we're going to have to play a series or two to really get a feel for how fast it happens, and not so much fast in between plays, but when that ball is snapped, how fast things happen, how fast they can get you on the ground, how fast they can be up on you.
So it's going to be interesting to see.  I mean we work hard to get our scout team to try to simulate it, but you just can't do it.  You can't do it.

Q.  What's the value that you've happened to experience against the triple option.  You have some freshmen on the back end?
COACH RICHT:  I think just the original thing I was talking about as far as, you know, just how the game goes, I mean how you have to be ready every single snap, because any snap it could go to the house.  If one guy makes a mistake or one guys decides he's not going to play good fundamentals this play or one guy decides he's going to do his own thing, bam, big play.  Because you'll see a lot of three, four, three, two and a half, you know, and then bam, big play, pass or run.  And that's what we gotta try to minimize, if possible.

Q.  The guys that were there for that six and seven and then a couple of East titles, so it seems like when you think about that '10 class, seems like they've been through a good bit.
COACH RICHT:  Yeah, they have.  You know, they do reminisce about those kind of things.  You know, I'll hear them from time to time.  The thing I hear from those guys the most, though, is just how fast their senior year went and how they can't hardly believe this is the last game between the hedges and how much it means to them.  It really does.
You know, they'll start saying, you know, this is the last Tuesday practice of the regular season of my career, you know.  And then the last Wednesday and all that kind of‑‑ I mean they know it's the last of a lot of opportunities that they've had here at Georgia, and they get, I don't know, they get reflective.  You know, young guys usually don't get reflective, but when you're a senior, you start reflecting back on your career and you look and you remember yourself as a freshman and then you see yourself as a senior and you realize how much you've grown, and they have grown.  I'm proud of them.

Q.  Speaking of redshirt, there's some guys that we haven't seen.  You haven't redshirted many guys this year, I guess, but are there some guys that you're excited about their future?
COACH RICHT:  Yeah.  We haven't thought much about that right now.  We're just trying to beat Tech right now.  That's all we're thinking about.  But obviously‑‑ every year there's either new freshmen or redshirt freshmen that have a chance to do big things, and sometimes in bowl practice you'll try to get a lot of those guys work and all that.
But with our calendar the way it is, and with really the lack of depth that we have right this minute, I don't know if we'll have a lot of those scrimmages maybe that we've had in the past.  We may do a little.
I was just looking, you know, Brad Hutchinson, our director of football ops, we have to do a little bit of planning down the road, and as we're looking at it, you know, our exam schedule is kind of a week later than it has been in the past.  So we gotta figure out how we're going to handle our bowl practices.

Q.  Second half of the year and fans were calling into your radio show saying you need to put Brice Ramsey in there.  What made you know that Hutson was still the guy?
COACH RICHT:  Well, I think his performance at Kentucky kind of solidified that part, and then everything he's done since that time.  But when you‑‑ if you played quarterback or you've coached quarterbacks, you know as you're training a guy or as he's practicing or as he's in a meeting if he's going through the right process to be good and to play well.
And sometimes you just have to be patient.  And you're like, well, I'm being patient with a fifth‑year senior, but we're also being patient with a first‑year starter, and there is‑‑ there's a different weight.  There's a weight that's on a starting quarterback.  Second‑team guy, everybody loves second‑team guy, but when you're the man, there's a big responsibility, and like I say, it's not a burden, but it's a weight.
It's‑‑ I always talk about‑‑ people ask me what am I looking for in quarterbacks.  You know, they've got to be able to hit their target, be accurate passers and have the arm strength to get it done.  They have to be very good decision makers, guys that are sharp guys that can make good decisions.  But then they have to be able to handle the pressure of that job, and you never really know how a guy is going to handle that until he is the guy, and sometimes it just takes a little getting used to.
But I think‑‑ I think Hutson's deal this year was knowing he only had one shot at it and wanting to be perfect, wanting to not make a mistake, wanting to make the most of it, and I think it kept him from being free to cut the ball loose like he had done all along in all the practices we watched.  And then when he finally said, you know what, I'm going to get back to dropping back, hitching up and ripping the ball, he's done extremely well.

Q.  (Indiscernible).  Seems like they're really high on guys.  What do you see?
COACH RICHT:  He's good.  He's a winner.  He's got "it."  You know, obviously the physical tools, speed, agility, even a feel for‑‑ you know, I'm no expert on his reads and all that kind of thing, but you see him execute extremely well, and on the decisions that he has to make, and even the pitches that he makes.  He's just very clean in his ball handling and the pitches.
And he throws the ball very well.  He's got‑‑ I mean we were talking about anticipating and all that kind of thing.  I was watching a film where he was rolling out to the right, and we stopped the camera when the ball left his hand, and the receiver was about two steps before he stuck his foot in the ground and came back on a little comeback route.  Guy turned his head around, bam, right there.  I mean you can't defend that.
You know, I mean it goes to show, they're definitely No. 1 in their league in pass efficiency, and you can see why.

Q.  Some percent of the time.  Had a lot of success doing it.  Is that something you see most of the line coming back?
COACH RICHT:  You know, I don't know.  I think we'll‑‑ I think we'll end up getting closer to the balance we've had in the past as far as, you know, the run‑pass ratio and all.  I think we've got some good QBs coming in or moving up through the ranks, and we think we'll have the skill at receiver, and I think we'll get back to‑‑ I mean let's face it, the last four years Murray threw for over 3000 yards each year, first time in the history of the SEC.  So it's the same staff, same system.  We just emphasize it a little heavier with our runners because of the strength of that group.
And early in the year we had some injured receiver issues, you know.  It just happened to be that way, but I got a feeling it'll start swinging back a little bit more.  But we're not going to forget how to run the ball either.  We love to run the ball and run it in a physical manner.

Q.  What will your team be doing from 2:30 to 6 on Friday when the SEC is going to be determined?
COACH RICHT:  You know, I hadn't looked at it yet, but we have our normal Thursday routine as far as meetings, special teams meetings, offense and defense meetings, walk‑throughs.  Meals are tied into there.
Then obviously‑‑ sooner or later we'll get in the bus and we'll take it on to the team hotel and get ready for dinner.  So I'm not exactly sure what's going to be on the agenda right at that very moment.  But I can tell you this.  We're very focused on this game.  That's really the only thing we can control and it's the only thing that is worth talking about right now.

Q.  In light of what you lost at tailback and you mentioned it took a while to get all your receiver core together.  Any special nod toward Mike Bobo for the job he did this year?
COACH RICHT:  I think Coach Bobo and the rest of that offensive staff are outstanding.  And I've been knowing that for a long time.
Again, it's kind of like when you‑‑ as you're watching the process of a quarterback and you know he's going to be really good, sometimes you gotta be a little patient.  It's the same thing with coaches sometimes, and of course, Mike's been here the whole time I've been here.  I've seen him grow tremendously.  He's one of the best in the business.  But will friend the running back coordinator and John Lilly and B Mac and Tony Ball, they're all outstanding, and they have a tremendous working relationship.
I mean it's not just a one‑man job, just like head job is not a one‑man job.  He wants to know what Will thinks.  He wants to be what Ball thinks.  He wants to know what Lilly thinks.  He wants to know what B Mac things, and they're all in there grinding out that game plan and putting ideas together.  But you know, then you gotta call the game, too, and you gotta motivate and all that kind of thing, and Mike is just a super, super coach.

Q.  Adam Erickson is another one of those guys this will be his last game in the stadium.  Can you talk a little bit about his contribution to the program?
COACH RICHT:  Adam's done a great job for us.  He's been our holder for I guess the last two years.  I don't know how many years he's done it.  But holders are kind of like long snappers.  If they never make a mistake, you don't notice them that much.  So we haven't noticed Adam much which is good because he's done such a nice job in that area and he's been our short‑range punter.  He's been a back up kicker at times.  He's been the punter, you know, for us, and he's‑‑ you know, part of his contribution to the team was just adding some depth to the punting and kicking units, but also actually being the guy.
And the holder is‑‑ it's sometimes a thankless job, but it's such an important job, and he's been spot on on that.  And he's been‑‑ he's just a positive guy.  He's a team guy.  He's an unselfish guy.  I'm really proud of what he's done for us.

Q.  Why do you think you've had so much success against Georgia Tech?  I mean obviously there's some years you've had better teams, but you've also won some games.
COACH RICHT:  I don't know.  I don't know.  We've had a bunch of very, very close games that we've been able to win.
I do think we‑‑ you know, you want to take every game serious.  We do try to take every game serious around here.  But you know, this one, it's the end of the year.  It is a rival game.  It does‑‑ it gets our blood pumping, and if you show up with the right mental attitude, you got a better chance.

Q.  Also y'all talked about probably more significant than this game has been for both teams, I think it's the best winning percentage for the combined since '66?
COACH RICHT:  Oh, both teams as far as going into this game?

Q.  Yeah, both teams at 9 and 2.

Q.  And both, obviously you guys have got‑‑ you know, if other games go your way, some aspirations, and they obviously are in a championship game?
COACH RICHT:  Both teams are ranked.  Both teams have won nine games.  Both teams, again, I think are playing really well.
You know, you can show up 9 and 2 and have lost your last two games or you could show up with a pretty good string of victories, and I think both teams are in the process of that and in the middle of that.
I don't know.  It's just‑‑ it's a game you do‑‑ you think about all year long.  It's a game you think about all year long, and you know, I've enjoyed the competition and hopefully we'll have a good performance.

Q.  (Indiscernible)?
COACH RICHT:  Yeah.  It is nice‑‑ first of all, just to see guys that were injured to come back and begin to produce again.  They work so hard.  It's hard to rehab and it's hard to get yourself back in position to get in there again.  I mean because what happens is the world keeps moving while you're hurt, you know, like it or not.
And other guys are getting opportunities.  And you know, we've found ways to have success, you know, maybe a little more heavy in the run game or whatever it took to kind of get things going this season.  And so if you're having that kind of success, it's hard to all of a sudden change gears and say, well, now we're going to start slinging it all over the yard.  So that's just part of it, but it's good to see those guys back and to know that we have them and to know that they've been productive in the past.

Q.  Coach, I think this is Coach Johnson's seventh season.  This team, any facet or any players stand out this year that are different than the last six years?
COACH RICHT:  Well, every team is different.  You know, every year both teams are starting new guys.  I mean they have one, two, three, four, to my best‑‑ to the best that I can see, four return of starters on defense and six return of starters on offense, you know, so they've got a lot of new guys, and it happens that way most years for us and them.
And you know, we're both major D‑1 schools.  We recruit major D‑1 players, and you know, to sit there and point out one over another, it's hard to do, but you know, obviously the guys that get the most attention, you know, in everybody's system is the quarterback, and I think Justin is a guy who's as good or better than any of them that we've faced.

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