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November 27, 2017

Lorenzo Carter

Terry Godwin

Rodrigo Blankenship

Atlanta, Georgia

BEN BEATY: Hello, everyone. This is Ben Beaty from the SEC office in Birmingham. Welcome to the SEC Championship Game student-athlete media teleconference. We'll have three players from Georgia and three players from Auburn available to answer your questions. Representing Georgia today will be Lorenzo Carter, Terry Godwin, and Rodrigo Blankenship.

We'll begin today's call with Lorenzo Carter of Georgia. Lorenzo, while we are waiting on questions, in you'll take a moment to give us your general thoughts on the upcoming SEC Championship Game.

LORENZO CARTER: My thoughts on this upcoming Championship Game, I'm just excited. It's a lot of energy, a lot of excitement around Athens. Getting a chance to play for a championship is one of the reasons I came back for my senior year. And then just getting a chance to redeem ourselves. We didn't play up to par the last time. So it's a lot on the line.

Q. I wanted to ask you how did you feel you personally played in that first game against Auburn? I know it wasn't a good overall team game, but what did you personally feel your game was that day, and what do you think you've got to do to just play a better football game in the Championship Game?
LORENZO CARTER: Yeah, I definitely didn't play my best game. As a defense as a whole, we didn't play up to our standard. I hold myself to a higher standard, so I didn't play well at all.

Just got to come in there with the right mindset ready for a 60-minute battle, four quarters, and ready to shed blood, tears, and whatever it takes to get this championship.

Q. Hey, Lorenzo, last week before the Tech game, you were just talking about how you couldn't leave being 1-2 against Tech. You guys have avenged a lot of losses from a year ago. How much does revenge -- how much has revenge played into what you guys have been able to do this year?
LORENZO CARTER: Yeah, revenge, we look back at it, and we see what we've done, but coming into it, we really don't try to focus too much on that because, like Coach Smart tells us, we don't try to put a lot of emotional energy into games because that will drain you out. That will have you tired in the fourth quarter when you really need it.

So we try to stay focused and keep going to work and keep chopping wood, taking it one play at a time, one game at a time.

Q. So there's no revenge from three weeks ago or whatever going into this game? If there is, how much -- when the game actually kicks off, does that stuff go away after three or four plays no matter how excited you are?
LORENZO CARTER: Oh, yeah, that stuff definitely goes away. All the emotion, all the thoughts you had before a game, the feelings go away once you start hitting and once the bullets start flying. We'll go out there, and we'll -- I'm sure people will be excited. We'll have a lot of energy, a lot of emotions, but when it comes down to it, those emotions aren't going to win the game. It's how you play.

Q. Lorenzo, Saturday the Alabama guys talked about not reading their keys on defense, and they talked a lot about what they called the Auburn eye candy with motions and formations. I wonder how much eye discipline it takes to play Auburn and what you guys have to work on this week.
LORENZO CARTER: Yeah, it takes a lot of eye discipline, like you said. It's a lot of eye candy. It's a lot of things that go on, tricks and gimmicks that you can get your eyes in the wrong place very easily.

But it all comes down to trusting one another and trusting our defense. Our coaches are going to put us in the right spot. They're going to have a great game plan. And then we just have to trust each other out there on the field that each person is going to do their job so there are no holes.

Q. Did it help that you saw it already this year, that you kind of -- you got used to a lot of the formations and motions?
LORENZO CARTER: Yeah, it helps, especially that we just played them recently, within the month. We've seen it recently. We still have a good memory of what happened, and we'll watch the film -- we're watching film, seeing what they do, what they like to do. We'll be a lot more comfortable this second game, second go around.

Q. Lorenzo, how hungry are the seniors right now? This is what you guys have been trying to play for, an opportunity like this for an SEC title and perhaps even more if you can pull off a victory on Saturday. So how hungry are you guys?
LORENZO CARTER: Yeah, this senior class is very hungry. Like you said, a lot of us came back to be able to have a chance to play for a championship. Even just being able to say that we have a chance to leave Georgia better than when we came in, bring a championship. We've already got our plaque on the wall for the SEC East, and we're just trying to keep doing, keep building off of this great season.

Q. You've talked a little bit about the first game. What did you all learn from that first game that you, in your mind, you definitely think will be an improvement in being able to win the game on Saturday?
LORENZO CARTER: I think eye discipline. It all comes down to just read your keys and just doing the right thing. I think we learned that it's not going to be easy. We already knew nothing was going to be easy playing in the SEC, playing in league play. But we realized that we're just going to have to keep our eyes in the right place and keep our heads focused and stay locked in for a 60-minute battle.

Q. Yeah, just curious how you guys are approaching the game considering that it's question marks whether Kerryon Johnson will play because of the injury.
LORENZO CARTER: I think our coaching staff is going to do a great job just preparing us for a lot of different things, but you have to prepare to face a back like that. He's a great back. He can make a lot of plays, and he's a game changer. So you have to be ready for him to play at 100 percent.

Q. Hi, Lorenzo. I'm wondering -- and this goes back more probably to your preparation for the first Auburn game -- but did Jarrett Stidham surprise you a little bit? If you watch the early season film, he's kind of feeling his way still a little bit. Did he surprise you at all with how well he played?
LORENZO CARTER: Not really. Coming into the game, we knew he was going to be one of the best quarterbacks we played all year. He went out and played a lot with his legs and arms. We'll be out there ready to try to keep him in the pocket, try to keep him contained, and just cause pressure, make him uncomfortable.

Q. Lorenzo, did you watch some of the Alabama game versus Auburn the other day? Did you get to see the film already?
LORENZO CARTER: Yes, I got a chance to watch it.

Q. How did Auburn succeed so well in getting Alabama's defense out of the middle of the field? I mean, they had crossing patterns, no linebackers there, what Nick Saban called a rat in the hole. How do you think they did that?
LORENZO CARTER: I mean, I can't tell you exactly how, but I mean, Auburn, their offense is a lot going on. It's a lot of distractions, a lot of things that -- a lot of options that they can hit you with. So I mean, it just comes down to trusting the coaches and trusting the game plan and then just making sure you do your job and not trying to get too greedy or seep into other people's gaps.

BEN BEATY: Lorenzo, thank you. That's all the questions for today.

We will continue on with Georgia's Terry Godwin. If you would, just take a moment to give us your thoughts on the upcoming game against Auburn.

TERRY GODWIN: I mean, this week we've got to go out and practice hard and be prepared for whatever they bring, they throw at us Saturday. We know they're going to come out with a couple of tricks and gadgets and all that type of stuff because that's what Auburn does. But I mean, we've got to be prepared for anything.

Q. Terry, the offense, that was y'all's worst game of the season. Was it more of what they did on defense or what y'all didn't do on offense that you've been able to do all year?
TERRY GODWIN: I mean, it was more of self-inflicted wounds. We made a lot of mistakes, and we seen that coming from the film we watched the day after, and it was just the little things that mattered that we didn't do, and we feel like we've got to come back and correct those and be better this weekend.

Q. Adding Ben Cleveland to the offensive line, do you think that will also help you all be able to run the ball a little more effectively so that you can spread out their defense a little more?
TERRY GODWIN: I mean, if that's who Coach feels like is going to do the best job at that position and to help our team do the things that we need to do, then we're all for it. He's going to be the best player that we know he can be. He's going to give it his all.

Q. Terry, that first game, like I said, against Auburn, you think the Auburn secondary did anything to kind of throw you all off your routes or anything? Or just seemed to be a case of them getting so much pressure on Jake there wasn't a lot of time? What would you say, just a combination of all that, maybe why you didn't have the success on offense that you wanted?
TERRY GODWIN: I kind of put the blame on us receivers because we wasn't getting open quite as often as we should or fast enough for Fromm to find us. Once you're doing that, the pocket is going to collapse sooner or later. So you've got to get open and give him that target to throw to. It's kind of something we didn't do, and we've been getting better at it since then.

Q. Terry, how big is the revenge factor this week given what took place down at Auburn?
TERRY GODWIN: It's not so much of revenge. It's just so much of us underclassmen wanting to send our senior class out on top and send them out the right way. It's just Auburn, they're just having to come back up in our way again, and we just have to go out and defeat them.

Q. I wanted to ask you, as a return guy yourself, how much do you appreciate -- how has Mecole Hardman been so successful in these recent weeks? Obviously, he had a huge game at Auburn. He had a huge early punt return the other day at Tech. What has he been able to do these last three or four weeks to really turn up his return game?
TERRY GODWIN: He's been amazing, just being able to give our offense great field position, from a punt return standpoint to a kickoff return standpoint. Just being able to get out there and utilize his speed and vision and be the playmaker we know he can be with the ball in his hand. I mean, he's done a tremendous job.

Q. You just talked about taking some ownership as far as receivers not getting as open as you guys should have or could have on a consistent basis. So how much are you guys motivated to make more plays and give Fromm more opportunities to make plays?
TERRY GODWIN: I mean, we're very motivated because, I mean, that game just goes to show that we can't relax and just be on our heels. We've got to always be on our toes and be prepared for anything. I mean, there's just the thought inside of the receiving room, we're going to come out and not let anybody else do that to us or even Auburn do that to us again. We've just got to go out there and be on our "A" game.

Q. I just wanted to ask how much better do you think Auburn is going to be from three weeks ago? And how much better are you guys from three weeks ago?
TERRY GODWIN: I mean, we're a lot better. We've been fixing all the nicks and bugs we had messed up against them three weeks ago, and they've been on their "A" game as well. So it's going to be a great game, but the better team is going to come out on top, and I feel like that's going to be us.

Q. Hey, Terry, do you see playing Auburn twice in one season as an advantage or a disadvantage when the SEC Championship on the line?
TERRY GODWIN: I would say an advantage because I mean now you got a lot more film than what you had from previous years or whatever, now seeing the recent stuff they've been doing or the recent stuff they did against us. So I mean, you've just got a lot more film to watch on them and a lot more knowledge than you had before to see what they're going to throw at you and all this type stuff.

BEN BEATY: Terry, that's all the questions for today. Thank you.

We will continue with Georgia's Rodrigo Blankenship.

RODRIGO BLANKENSHIP: Hello. This is Rodrigo Blankenship.

BEN BEATY: Hello, Rodrigo. Thank you for joining us. If you would take a moment to comment on the upcoming game against Auburn.

RODRIGO BLANKENSHIP: Yeah, it's the SEC Championship Game. It's the biggest game of the year that we've got. It's just going to be another great opportunity for us to go out and just execute a great game plan against a great opponent.

Q. Rodrigo, have you seen a lot of Auburn's Daniel Carlson? He's been a great kicker the last three or four years and one of the top in the country. Have you gotten a chance to watch him much, and what do you think of him?
RODRIGO BLANKENSHIP: Yeah, he's an incredible kicker. He's a finalist for the Groza Award, and I think that just goes to show just how talented of a guy he is. He's been at the top of the SEC for a long time now, and he's someone that I look up to as a model that I just want to be able to emulate his success in field goal kicking and kickoffs. So I think it's really great to just have the opportunity to match up with him again because he's an incredible talent.

Q. Hey, Rodrigo, just your thoughts of Mercedes Benz. Have you been in it yet? How important is it to kind of get familiar with the new surroundings?
RODRIGO BLANKENSHIP: I have not been there yet. I was in the Dome last year for our season opener against North Carolina, but I have not been in Mercedes Benz yet. But honestly, I don't think it's going to -- I don't think it's going to matter too much just because we're going to be playing in a closed environment, so we're not going to have to worry about any wind or rain or cold or anything like that. It's just going to be perfect weather for game day.

Q. And then what is it like when -- I mean, you've got a teammate, Mecole Hardman, who's been on an absolute tear as far as kickoff returns and punt returns. What's it like being a kicker facing someone like that? How much do you try to -- do you put extra pressure on yourself to try to -- you've had a lot of success with touchbacks this year. Do you put a little extra pressure on yourself to try to boom them all into the end zone when you've got someone like Mecole standing back there?
RODRIGO BLANKENSHIP: Well, he's someone else's problem, not mine. There are some very talented return men in the SEC and across the country, and Mecole is at the top of that list for a lot of people. But as far as like going out for kickoff, the game plan is just to hit touchbacks at the highest rate you possibly can, and you hit a ball good enough to a certain extent, and no one's going to be bringing it out. You just hit it clear out of the end zone, no one's going to be able to get to it.

That's the plan going out for every kickoff. It doesn't always happen like that, but I wouldn't say there's any extra pressure just because I know that, if I strike the ball like I know I'm capable of, no one's going to be able to get to it.

Q. Rodrigo, I know a lot was made last year about were you supposed to be there, and then there was a scholarship issue at the beginning of the season. But watching you in person, you have definitely improved your game this year. What did you do in the off-season? And then how much has that helped, getting that scholarship, as far as ease of mind as you prepare each week?
RODRIGO BLANKENSHIP: Well, I did some -- I did a little bit of tweaking with my technique. Sorry, that was a little bit of a mouthful there. I changed my kickoff approach to approach in in a little bit more efficient angle to the ball. I've changed my stance a little bit on field goals to allow me to just have a much cleaner and more freely moving swing. I think that those things have been a major help, as well as just getting in the weight room and getting as big and strong as I can. All those things have been big factors for just allowing me to make some improvements for this year. So, yeah, it's just about just doing those things.

As far as the scholarship is concerned, I mean, I know every day that that's something that I need to prove that I've earned. It was a great relief to be able to have that and to just know that the hard work has paid off, but at the same time, I also know that, if I want to prove to everyone that I'm worthy of it, that I need to just keep working, keep chopping, and keep grinding every single day.

BEN BEATY: That's all the questions, Rodrigo. Thank you.

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