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July 19, 2012
THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Georgia head coach, Coach Mark Richt.
COACH RICHT: Hello, everybody. Good to see y'all. Good to be here again. I thought I'd start out by talking a little bit about the young men that we brought to Birmingham today.
We've got Abry Jones. Abry is a big defensive end that has just quietly become one of our better football players, I think one of the better football players in the SEC. Certainly a guy that has become an outstanding leader for us. Really pleased that he's here.
Jarvis Jones is here. He's a guy that just showed up last season for us, actually two seasons ago, had to sit out a year after transferring from Southern Cal. His first time that he got to play for us, ended up leading the league in sacks. Just really a tremendous person and leader for us. He's done a great job of working this off‑season, getting guys fired up to do this.
Then, of course, Tavarres King is here, one of our veteran receivers, senior leader for us, big play‑maker for us, and a guy that has also done a great job leading us.
A lot of people might be wondering what happened to Aaron Murray. He was at an Elite 11 camp he was invited to go to. Having a good time with that.
As far as this season is concerned, I'm excited as always. Going into the 12th season at Georgia is a blessing. It's an honor to be able to be in that position from a leadership standpoint, but I'm more excited for the players because I know what type of work they've put in.
I know we had a group of draft‑eligible players at the end of last season that tested the water for the NFL Draft. 10 of them did that. One of them who didn't do that was Jarvis Jones, who was draft‑eligible, probably could have been the highest pick on the team last year. He jumped right out immediately and said, I'm coming back, I've got things to improve on as a player and a person. He said he wanted to do great things at Georgia with his teammates.
I think that was the catalyst for some other guys to decide to stay as well. Nine out of ten guys did stay. That bodes well for the leadership of this team.
I think it was good for those guys to go through the process of thinking, Should I stay, should I go. They got a chance to talk to family members, pastors, friends, got to really decide, Do I really want to be here or not? If I do want to be here, what are my goals?
I think it was very, very exciting for Georgia the day all those guys decided to stay. They've been working their tails off. I think that's another reason I'm optimistic for this year.
With that I would open it up to any questions you guys might have and just let it rip.
Q. Georgia has seven home games this season, more than past years. Is that something you would like to see, or six home games and a big non‑conference game?
COACH RICHT: A few years back when the extra game was added, we had the philosophy of adding another BCS opponent outside of the southeastern region. It sounded like a good idea at the time.
But after living it out a little bit, went to Arizona State, Oklahoma State, those are long road trips. It takes a lot out of you just to prepare for a team like that, then it also takes it out of you on the traveling part of it. All of a sudden you're flying home in the middle of the night, your guys are trying to find a place on the floor on the plane to sleep. You get behind the eight ball that way.
I love having seven home games. I'd like to have 12 home games if we could, certainly for our fan base and for our players. This season is one that I think the amount of home games is outstanding.
The fact that we always play Florida in Jacksonville is going to give you a cycle of every other year not getting that one home game, but it's certainly worth it to play in Jacksonville.
Q. What are your thoughts on being picked to win the east? And the fact that we rarely get it right.
COACH RICHT: I hope the media's right this time. But we haven't done anything yet. We haven't played a game. We haven't won a game. We know our league is tremendous. We know the Eastern Division is going to be a rough road.
All we're trying to do is prepare the best we can to hopefully play the very best we can play and maximize the potential of this football team. Hopefully that will be good enough to get back to Atlanta and hopefully play a little bit better this time around.
Q. What do you remember of Zach Mettenberger with his time at UGA?
COACH RICHT: Zach, first of all, is a guy I've known since he was a little peanut. His mother Tammy has been working in our football office ever since I've been at Georgia. I don't know how old he is now. 21, 22. I knew him when he was nine, ten years old. Being around the football office, coming to summer camps, a guy we've known and loved the entire time I've been at Georgia.
Anything good that happens for Zach, I'm excited about. I hope every game he plays, he wins unless we catch him in the SEC championship game.
He's a fine young man. He's a great player. LSU is going to be excited that they have him.
Q. What about his standing with the team if he was still with Georgia.
COACH RICHT: Oh, I don't know, he'd be competing to be the starter, if not being the starter.
Q. Even discounting any postgame bulletin board material after Vanderbilt last fall, how do you feel about having three such high‑profile division rivalry games in the first half of the season this year?
COACH RICHT: You know what, all the games are so big, all the games are so important. A year ago we lose game number one and we're in trouble in league play, losing to South Carolina. We knew South Carolina was a great football team. We knew once we got behind the eight ball, it was going to be very difficult to dig our way out of it. Everybody we played had a chance to beat us.
I think all the games are tough, quite frankly.
Q. Where do you feel Georgia fits into the SEC East now as compared to when you took the job 12 years ago?
COACH RICHT: Well, I think Georgia has as good a chance as anybody to win it. My very first season, I really didn't know what to expect. It was my first year as a head coach, my first year in the SEC. I mean, I saw the talent base at Georgia, but I didn't really know how to compare it.
After playing that season, even though we didn't win the East, I felt like we could have won the East. If we won a couple close games, we could have been right there. Ever since that time I've always had the belief that Georgia has a tremendous opportunity to win the Eastern Division. That's our goal this year. It's not going to change.
But I know it's a tough league.
The other thing, after year two, we won the East, we won the SEC, did not get a chance to play for the national championship that year when Miami and Ohio State were undefeated. But I knew we had done something special to win the Southeastern Conference. To play in that Southeastern Conference game, there's really no game like it. The national championship game is the only thing that really can exceed it or come close and exceed it. Other than that, it's as good as it gets.
Our fans appreciate every victory we get within the league. Anytime you can win the division or the SEC championship, it's a huge accomplishment. It's one of the reasons why the SEC is such a great league.
Q. A lot of people underestimate how much you have won at Georgia. You just mentioned 2002. On top of '02, 2007. With the four‑team playoff, you would have made a berth more than likely. What are your thoughts on the upcoming four‑team playoff?
COACH RICHT: I think the four‑team playoff is going to be outstanding. I'm not sure who's going to decide who the top four teams are, but hopefully we'll get a chance to have one and maybe two teams play out of our league if the season's just right.
One of the reasons why I like it is it doesn't destroy the bowl system the way it is. Some people may not like it the way it is, but I think the bowl system is outstanding. I think our regular‑season games are huge. I'm talking about the entire BCS. I'm not talking about just the Southeastern Conference.
I think if you get a 16‑team playoff and beyond that...
I just hate to see a day where we might play Florida, and whether you win or lose, you still go to the playoffs, no one thinks it's that big of a deal. It is a big deal every game we play. I don't want college football to lose that.
I think it's the right amount and I think it's a good step. It might be the only step, as far as I'm concerned. It might be just right.
Q. A lot has been publicized about Georgia student‑athlete drug and alcohol policy. It's considered to be stricter than some of your conference partners. Have you lobbied internally to other schools or the league itself for a uniform policy?
COACH RICHT: No, I haven't. I think every university has the right to decide what's in the best interest of their student‑athletes. We at Georgia have got our policies there for a reason. We don't want guys to get into that type of thing.
When a guy makes a mistake, you want to stick him. You want to hopefully have a discipline that would teach a lesson and be painful enough to where they wouldn't want to do it in the future. When the teammates are watching, hopefully it would help them not want to make the same type of mistake.
I don't think there will ever come a time in college football where everybody has a uniform policy in those issues. But I do think we're doing the right thing for Georgia. Everybody has a right to make their own decisions.
Q. I know it's an old story, but could you reflect on how close you did or didn't come to going to Missouri, your experience interviewing there. Beyond that, your thoughts about what it would be like to open there.
COACH RICHT: Well, I did get the opportunity to interview for the Missouri job the same season that I ended up taking the Georgia job. I think Missouri found their man in Coach Pinkel. It wasn't a decision that I turned down Missouri. It was a decision that Missouri, I believe Coach Pinkel was the best man for the job. Obviously, they were correct.
But as far as playing Missouri, it will be an exciting ballgame for sure. The first Southeastern Conference game in the history of their school. Certainly is generating a lot of excitement for them.
But they played in a great league. They're a great football team. I've watched their team. I know Coach Pinkel's ability to motivate and teach. His staff is outstanding. It's going to be a battle. It's going to be a battle. It's going to be on their turf. It's going to mean a whole lot to their season, but it's going to mean a whole lot to our season, as well.
Q. In the aftermath of Penn State, the Big Ten has floated a proposal that would allow conference commissioners to fire head coaches not based on wins and losses, but extreme situations like that. Do you have any opinion on that?
COACH RICHT: Well, I just heard that this morning for the first time.
I think the bottom line is we're in a business, or we're in a world where there's rules that are associated with the business that you're in. If the rule says that the commissioner has the right to make that type of decision, then that's the way it is. I don't necessarily see a problem in that.
I would think the commissioner is going to do what's in the best interest of the league, in the best interest of the people involved. I would say for him to have the right to do that, for her to have the right to do that, is fine. Doesn't mean they have to, but they would have the right to do that. It's just one more check and balance in a system that, you know, certainly‑‑ I would just say it would make sense to me. It wouldn't bother me if that was the rule here in the Southeastern Conference.
Q. What are your plans early on in the season with Malcolm Mitchell?
COACH RICHT: Malcolm Mitchell, we recruited him to play cornerback, to play defensive back. When we got towards the end of the recruiting process, AJ Green had declared to go pro, so Malcolm got excited about playing offense. He also caught more balls in the state of Georgia than anybody his senior season. He had a tremendous offensive season. A.J. Green left. He's thinking, Maybe I can make an impact as a freshman on offense. Coach, can I do that?
No problem, Malcolm, that's what we'll do.
Of course, he had a tremendous freshman year at the wide receiver position.
When the season was over, he immediately started to lobby to play both ways because he missed playing defense, as well. I was like, Okay, we'll think about it.
As it turned out, it was a decision that made a lot of sense for us to do that. Malcolm spent the entire spring playing defense. I wanted him in every meeting. I wanted him at every practice as a defensive player because I don't want to limit CoachGrantham's ability to call some type of scheme because Malcolm is in the game. We need to match up against some of these teams we're going to play that love to spread the ball, as Missouri does.
Early in the year you'll see a whole lot more of Malcolm on defense percentage‑wise. As the season rolls along, you'll see more of a fix, closer to 50/50 offense and defense.
I also think early in the year he'll be able to play only so many plays because of the heat. But as the weather cools, if 60 is the amount of plays he can play effectively early in the year, maybe he can go to 80 or 90 place.
I was looking at some history, Claude Felton, our illustrious sports information director, Hall of Famer, by the way, he got me information on Champ Bailey, when Champ played both ways. After the first few games, he averaged over a hundred plays a game. I don't know if Malcolm can handle that many. If he can, he'll be able to handle it mentally. We'd love to see him play on both sides of the ball.
Q. Could you give us an update on the suspensions, Ogletree, Rambo, and tell us why this continues to happen in your program.
COACH RICHT: Well, I'm not going to update anything other than we know that Sanders Commings has a two‑game suspension. Anything else we'll let you know sooner or later, but not at this moment.
To answer the second part of your question, people are human. People make mistakes. When they do, you discipline it. Some people have policies, as you mentioned earlier, that bring certain things to light, and some people don't.
So the bottom line is, you know, I love every guy on our team. Part of love is to be able to help teach them right from wrong. When they make mistakes, you need to discipline them in such a way that hopefully they'll become better men down the road.
That's what we do at Georgia. To say that issues aren't happening around the country isn't really realistic.
Q. Now entering his third season, Aaron Murray, kind of leader he's become, can you talk about that, how he's evolved over the three years.
COACH RICHT: Aaron Murray is a great leader. No question in my mind. He pays the price as far as the preparation it takes to be a great football player. But he loves it. I think he loves preparing as much as he loves playing. He loves the game. He loves his teammates. He loves people in general. I think he's just a guy that loves life.
The reason why he's not here today, he's helping some young kids out at an Elite 11 camp. He's been to the Manning camp. People want a picture, autograph, whatever, he just stops, takes the time, thoroughly enjoys being in that role. Really proud of him. Hope he continues to play well and even exceeds some of the things he's done in the past. If he does, we'll have a great year.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports