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UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA MEDIA CONFERENCE
December 17, 2014
MARK RICHT:Â Looking forward to the great challenge of playing the Cardinals.Â Coach Petrino obviously doing a great job.Â They're 9‑2 just like we are.Â Let's start out talking about them a little bit as a team.Â From what I'm reading, they are 2‑0 versus SEC opponents in bowls.Â They've won five straight against SEC opponents, and Coach Petrino is 5‑1 at Louisville versus SEC teams.Â So there will be a great challenge for us to try to change that trend.
Offensively they're averaging 396 yards a game, 150 yards rushing, about 246 passing, and they're averaging about 32 and a half points a game.
I'll start with their quarterback.Â Of course I know they've had some injury situations.Â I'm not 100 percent sure the health of everybody, but from what it looks like, No.14 Bolin will be the quarterback.Â Doesn't have a lot of reps, but the reps that he had were just fantastic.Â The last game that they played against Kentucky, he comes off the bench, and he lit it up, just threw for 350‑some yards and I think he was 21 for 31 and just played phenomenally.Â Very, very impressed with what he did.Â I think he's a freshman.Â He might be a red‑shirt freshman, I'm not 100 percent sure on that.Â Guy that had mobility, guy that made plays on the run.Â They're making great catches for him.Â They just took the game over and I think they were down 13‑0 early in the game and came back and rallied and won it.
The running back, their leading rusher, actually is Radcliff with 648, Dyer has 481 yards, and Brown has 378, so three very capable backs that have carried the load.
As far as their pass receivers, Parker, who I guess only played the last five games, just talk about a guy lighting it up, five games, averaged seven catches per game, caught over 730 yards passing, just been very, very dynamic, a senior that is playing very, very big.
Their No.2 receiver, Quick, has got 509 yards receiving.Â Rogers has got 444 yards receiving.Â They do use their tight end, Christian, No.18, in their pass game, as well.
Their offensive line averages about 300 pounds per man, so a big, strong, physical line that can pass pro and run well.
They're, as you can see, very balanced in their approach with 150 rushing and 250 passing basically.Â Very typical of Coach Petrino trying to keep the balance in his attack offensively.
Defensively they are sixth in the nation in total defense.Â They're third in the nation in rushing defense.Â These are not conference stats.Â They're No.1 in the nation with 25 interceptions, and in six games they've held their opponents to 20 yards‑‑ excuse me, 20 points or fewer, which is tremendous.
Just talking about some of their personnel on defense, you've probably got to start with Holliman, Thorpe Award winner, led the nation in interceptions with 14, which is spectacular.Â I think the last time that happened was in 1968, so a guy that I'm sure will be looking to break a record or do something‑‑ I think that ties the record for the most.Â I'm not 100 percent sure.Â So he'll be looking to break a record there.Â But outstanding player.
Their other safety, Sample, No.2, is No.2 on the team in tackles.Â Got 76 tackles, four picks of his own, which is pretty darned good, and they also have two returning starting corners in Floyd and Gaines.Â So very experienced on the back end there.
At the linebacker position, Kelsey, No.55, he leads the team in tackles with 78.Â He's third on the team with sacks with six.Â A lot of sacks, too, in this defense, by the way, a lot of pressuring, a lot of guys getting involved in a chance to go sack the quarterback.
Burgess, their other inside linebacker, No.13, 61 tackles which is third best on the team, and he's got 10 tackles for loss.
Lorenzo Mauldin, who's their Will, got 13 tackles for loss.Â That leads the team.Â He's got six and a half sacks, No.2 on the team.Â And Mount, the Sam linebacker, has got 10 and a half tackles for loss, which is third on the team.
When you look at the guys up front, Sheldon Rankins is No.98, leads the team in sacks with seven.Â He's second on the team with 12 and a half tackles for loss, and just an outstanding bunch of ball players.Â They play really hard, and they've had a lot of success, obviously, with being sixth in the country in total defense.
As far as special teams, Wallace is their field goal man.Â Career‑wise he's hit 51 out of 64 kicks.Â His longest is I think 51 yards.
Their punter, Johnson, is averaging 40.5 yards.Â He's had 11 kicks over 50 yards, so he's got a big leg.
Their punt return man, Quick, has had 7.4 average; Rogers, 10.2 average on punt return.Â Kickoff return, Radcliff has the most returns with 21.8, but Lamb with a fewer number of returns has had 31.2 yards per return.Â They have some dangerous guys back there, as well.
Without question it's going to be a great match‑up in a great city, and we're looking forward to playing this ballgame.
With that, I'll open it up to questions.
Q.Â What's the timeline and when did you find out that Colorado State had this interest in talking to Mike Bobo and what's your advice on those kind of opportunities coming up for your assistants?
MARK RICHT:Â Well, a couple days ago I found out that Mike had that opportunity.Â You know, it's obviously a very good job, very good opportunity for a guy to become head coach.Â Mike is taking advantage of the opportunity to go visit, and right this minute he's our offensive coordinator and we're planning on him being here at practices.Â We'll see where everything goes.
Obviously if there's an opportunity for a staff member to do big things, you want to give him that opportunity.
Q.Â In the time that you've been here at Georgia, 14 seasons now, there have been dozens and dozens and dozens of coaching changes in the conference, almost 50 coaches have been at the other schools in the time that you've been here with the exception of Coach Pinkel at Missouri but I'm not sure if he counts because they haven't been in the SEC that long.Â I guess my question is what is the secret to longevity, and what is the secret to being happy in longevity?
MARK RICHT:Â Right.Â Well, I've always said that you stay a long time for a couple reasons.Â I think one is you win enough to stay, obviously.Â Someone has got to decide that you're allowed to stay.Â And then the other thing is by choice.Â Rarely does someone stay somewhere that long and not have opportunities to go to different places, and so it's a choice of whether or not you want to be there or not.Â I've always wanted to be at Georgia as far as being happy.Â I don't know if anybody is ever happy unless you win every game and win a championship.Â You might could lose a game if you still win a championship.
But I think it's a matter of doing the things that you believe are right, doing the things that you believe are in the best interest of the program, doing the things you believe are in the best interest of your players, and just choosing‑‑ that's another choice, too, as far as how you feel about things.
If we always let our circumstances dictate our mood or dictate our‑‑ using the word happiness, then it can go up and down pretty good.
You know, I think you've got to choose‑‑ it's like I tell our players, there's two things you can be in charge of:Â One is your attitude, and one is your effort.Â And I think the same thing is true in coaching.
Q.Â Will you consider dropping a couple of practices in between the regular season ending and today, and what will it be like to kind of have a shorter window for your practices?
MARK RICHT:Â Right.Â Well, we chose to condition.Â We had our guys come in every single day that there weren't exams, and either get a lift or a run or both, so that one week after Tech, that whole entire week we did that.Â Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of last week we did that, and then once final exams hit, we were kind of at the mercy of not only exams but studying for exams, preparing for exams.Â It's such a crucial time, we didn't want to disrupt that, and because of that, it was more of when guys had time to get in, get something in more sporadic.Â It wasn't like everybody is in the room at the same time and here's what we're going to do like it was on those other days.
But we know we've got to maximize the time that we have right now, and that's part of the reason why I was late, just we normally have an 11:00 staff, and it just ran a little bit long, just making sure that when we hit the ground running we're highly organized and we have one purpose.
Q.Â What's the most difficult thing with the short time span, getting a game plan put in or getting the guys acclimated to being out there practicing and playing?
MARK RICHT:Â Well, today is going to go a long way getting everybody back acclimated to practicing and playing football.Â It'll be a heavy fundamental day.Â Today we'll do a little bit‑‑ just a little bit of Louisville.Â Tomorrow we'll do a little bit more.Â The next day we'll do a little bit more.Â But overall the heavy emphasis would be on remembering how to block and tackle and change direction and throw and catch and do the fundamental things, secure a ball, strip a ball.Â You know, those are the things that sometimes get you in a bowl game is your fundamentals tend to slip.Â So we want to have a heavy emphasis on that this week with a pretty good sprinkle of game plan but not so much that when you give them a few days off for Christmas that they come back and have to start from ground zero.
And then when we get to the bowl site, our first practice, which is Christmas Day, will be like a Monday, and then the 26th will be like a Tuesday, 27th like a Wednesday, 28th like a Thursday, 29th will be like a normal Friday where we won't practice that day, which is typical for us.Â We'll just do walk‑throughs and film study and get them kind of rested, and then the game day, 30th, will be obviously like a Saturday for us.
Q.Â Is it tough to make the call to report on Christmas Eve and practice on Christmas Day?
MARK RICHT:Â Well, you hate to not be home for Christmas.Â You hate your players not to be home for Christmas.Â But the date of the bowl, I don't think we had a choice.Â I don't think we could have‑‑ I don't think we could have gone there, reported Christmas night and started practicing the next day and truly been as prepared as we need to be.Â We also know that it's very important to be prepared, and considering the date, we felt like and I felt like this was the only time‑‑ the only way we could do it and truly be prepared for this ballgame.
Q.Â Where is Leonard Floyd with his shoulder and is he going to be available for this one?
MARK RICHT:Â Leonard will not be available for this game.Â Leonard actually had some surgery yesterday to clean up his shoulder.Â We want to give him the maximum amount of time to be prepared for his senior year, so we've made that determination to do that.
Q.Â Did that figure into his decision on coming back?
MARK RICHT:Â You'd have to ask Leonard.Â I mean, I don't know.
Q.Â Will there be spring practice with Leonard or is that timetable not set yet?
MARK RICHT:Â It's not set.
Q.Â What's going on now with Mike, did you always kind of suspect that that day is going to come at that point, that he was head coaching material?
MARK RICHT:Â Oh, yeah.Â Mike is a great coach.Â Mike is‑‑ he understands the game extremely well.Â He's an old‑school ball coach as far as getting after it.Â Got a good edge about him as far as being demanding, things of that nature.Â He's got great knowledge, he's a very demanding coach, and he's got‑‑ but he sees the big picture, too.Â He's got all the ingredients, and I'm not shocked that this is happening.
He's had other opportunities that he knew in his heart‑‑ well, I won't speak for him, but he's had other opportunities, as well.
Q.Â Is this as well as an offensive line has played for you throughout the course of a season?
MARK RICHT:Â Well, first of all, I don't think we had any injuries as far as a guy missing an entire game.Â I think we had some moments where we missed some time.Â Yeah, I think the line‑‑ they had their act together, and they stayed healthy.Â Great tribute to Coach Friend and his ability to coach and teach and motivate, but also I think what we do with our guys from a scheme point of view, I mean, some guys can really run block good and some guys can really pass block good.Â Sometimes they're not really good at both, but I think the balance we've had offensively over the years, to be able to run and throw the ball like we do and protect the quarterback like we do, it's‑‑ they've really done a great job.
Q.Â Heading into the final weekend, you guys thought you could play for an SEC Championship and certainly felt good about your chances of being in one of the access bowls.Â Obviously the situation dictated something different.Â In the past it seems like you guys have kind of struggled in those years where you had late season disappointment and then you had to go play a bowl game.Â Are there concerns about that this year, and is it something you can guard against?
MARK RICHT:Â Well, there's always that, but that's where we've got to coach.Â That's where our players got to decide to compete.Â It's important.Â We've got a chance to win 10 games for I don't know how many times, but Georgia has had maybe‑‑ y'all know that stat?Â How many 10 wins?Â Anybody know?Â I don't even know for sure what it is.Â But a chance to get 10 wins, a chance to finish in the top 10.Â We're 13th now and there's a very realistic shot to end up in the top 10 in the country when this whole thing is said and done.
You know, our seniors, there's been a class that won 44 games in a four‑year period.Â There's been a class that's won 43 games in a four‑year period, and these guys have a chance to have the next highest total ever, four‑year total of 40 victories.Â That would be a great accomplishment for those guys and for everybody.Â For everybody.
Q.Â You've made time to work Brice Ramsey into the offense in some of the earlier games this season.Â Do you see him getting some snaps in the bowl game?
MARK RICHT:Â You know, I don't know.Â We haven't got that far yet.Â As soon as that Georgia Tech game was over, we hit the ground running really hard in recruiting.Â There were an awful lot of kids we had to see in a short amount of time, and we spent an awful lot of time doing that, and just the last few days we've been starting to get the game plan put together.Â Those are kind of decisions you make closer to the game.
Q.Â There could be a couple guys as there usually are during bowls that are maybe one place and getting ready to go someplace else.Â You went through that before coming here.Â What are the challenges that a coach faces when he's trying to juggle those two?
MARK RICHT:Â Right now, I mean, Coach Bo is our offensive coordinator and he's going to be preparing us to win.
Q.Â But there could be‑‑
MARK RICHT:Â You want me to answer a general question about a hot topic, it doesn't usually get recorded that way.Â Everybody just kind of slides it on in there, so I'd just as soon not talk about that.
Q.Â So only time will tell how the upperclassmen and everybody is going to react?Â The 24‑hour rule, I understand it's passed a long time ago, but do you feel like everybody is kind of past that and on to this point and 10 games and all that stuff?
MARK RICHT:Â I think so.Â We're going to have a team meeting here.Â I haven't had a chance to really sit down with the whole team for a while now.Â There have been‑‑ I did at least once or twice after that game was over and talked about what we're going to do in the meantime and all that kind of thing.Â But we're practicing in earnest for a victory starting today.Â The other parts we were preparing as far as trying to stay in shape and trying to get a little bit stronger and get healthy and all those types of things for the guys that had the minor bruises and nicks and all that kind of thing, but now it's time to get out there on the field and prepare.
I'll let you know if I see you tomorrow or the next day how we're doing.
Q.Â Malcolm announced he's coming back.Â Considering you're going to be so young at that position‑‑
MARK RICHT:Â Yeah, we are young.Â It was big.Â Malcolm is an outstanding player and person, and having him back is big because I think he's got some leadership skills, too.Â Like you say, I think it'll be good for the younger guys to be around him.
Q.Â If you could address that as a whole, Jenkins and Theus, and I don't know if they're all completely decided, but‑‑
MARK RICHT:Â Yeah, obviously things can always change, but I think where they're at right now, I wouldn't have made that statement unless I had their permission to make that statement.Â Yeah, they're excited about coming back.
Q.Â Does that provide a nucleus for next season?
MARK RICHT:Â Oh, absolutely.Â There's other guys that are coming back, obviously, that are going to be in the senior leadership role, but those guys that are highly productive and have worked hard and guys that the younger guys look up to, I mean, you're absolutely going to put them in a leadership role.
Q.Â With Leonard being out, how does that shift around the way you use the rest of your defense?
MARK RICHT:Â Well, those other outside linebackers are going to get to play more.Â They've got to be more productive.
Q.Â Hutson played last year in the bowl game and kind of primed him for the next year.Â Do you think there's going to be a premium on just not a quarterback but across the board getting some more reps to guys that you're kind of preparing for next year?
MARK RICHT:Â We're not thinking about next year.Â We're thinking about playing Louisville.Â They have our respect as far as the type of team they have and the season that they've had, and that's our full focus is trying to win a ballgame.
Q.Â You've got a player who's playing in his final game, Watts Dantzler, a guy who's kind of been knocking on the door of starting but never did.Â Could you kind of assess his time here?
MARK RICHT:Â You know, Watts has been a good Dog.Â He's been a good Dog.Â He's worked hard.Â Early on, like a lot of guys, a little immature, but grew up as he went and got serious about everything on and off the field and got to the point where, like you say, he was right on the verge of cracking the starting lineup, but some other guys had got the nod.Â You know, he's not done anything but try to do his best and do it for Georgia, and I'm proud of him.
Q.Â The progress the secondary has made this season, do you think it was going to happen anyway given the youth back there, or how much do you think Jeremy accelerated that?
MARK RICHT:Â Oh, there's no doubt Jeremy is responsible for how well those guys played and their growth and the speed at which they learned.Â But those guys have obviously a lot to do with it, too, just how hard they worked and how well they listened to coaching, and we made a lot of improvement back there.
Q.Â The departures of the two guys that left in the secondary, are there any other guys that you think would be in line to play a little bit more, get a few more reps here?
MARK RICHT:Â Obviously if somebody gets banged up that'll happen.Â I mean, if someone who was getting playing time is gone, then somebody else is going to get it.
Q.Â Where have you seen tackling go in 20, 30 years, whatever you've been in coaching?Â Obviously this goes at all levels where they don't practice it a lot during the week and a lot of people think it's not what it once was.
MARK RICHT:Â Yeah, a lot less people tackling during practice, a lot less people tackling to the ground.Â But there are a lot of fundamental drills that are actually even harder to do than tackle.Â Sometimes you can lay out and grab a guy and clip his heels and tackle him, but if you thud him like we teach to thud him, then you've got to get good body position, sink your hips, strike with your eyes up, wrap, and then let the guy go, and that takes more effort, more energy.Â But I think you tackle better when you play hard.Â I think you tackle better when everybody takes care of their gaps.
For example, if the down linemen maintain their gap integrity and this linebacker has this gap, then there's nowhere to go but that space, that guy is going to be in great position to make a tremendous tackle.Â If a guy gets gapped out or does something he's not supposed to do, now this linebacker is trying to cover two gaps and trying to tackle in more space, we always say space is the enemy in tackling.Â The more space a guy has, the harder it is to tackle somebody.Â And so if guys don't do their job, it's harder to tackle well, whether you're a good tackler or not because you've got to cover more distance and cover more ground as far as this guy having a‑‑ we call it a two‑way go.Â If he could go right or left, it's tough to get him.Â If he only has one way to go and that's outside towards the sideline then you can take an angle and get him out of bounds or get him on the ground.Â And if everybody is hustling, then again, that‑‑ the faster you run, the closer you get to the runner, right, and again, you close his space.Â You give him less options.
If you give average to good backs or good to great backs space, they're going to hurt you by making you miss or gathering up enough speed or enough steam to either run through a tackle or knock you back.
Q.Â When you see guys coming along in the college game or even in the pro game, if you watch games‑‑
MARK RICHT:Â Again, I think it's‑‑ I think the more discipline you play and the faster you play, the better you tackle because tackling is a team thing.Â Even though one guy gets the tackle, everybody on the team has got to do their job to make it to where there's not a big amount of space for that guy to look foolish out there.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports