Richt, Bulldogs Hold Preseason Media Day
Coach Mark Richt

Aug. 2, 2012

ATHENS-----Georgia head coach Mark Richt and a delegation of football players met with the media Thursday during the Bulldogs’ annual preseason media day. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt
Opening statement…
“It’s good to be here. We are getting ready to start our practices. We start today - practice No. 1 of five days of acclimation. The first couple of days are in shorts and helmets, then we put some shells on for a couple of days, then put pads on day five. Then we are allowed to go two-a-days, then we have to go back to one, then two. I think we might have three two-a-days this year. We are excited about camp starting and excited about having the time of year where we can focus solely on the game of football and our team and the team building exercises we do. We are really looking forward to that. It’s supposed to be pretty hot today. Obviously it’s been hot all summer. I think the guys had a good summer, and I think they’ll be ready for that. I probably won’t do a whole lot of injury talk this year, but I will say that this may be the first practice since I’ve been at Georgia that everybody can practice and no one is in a green jersey. You guys would have figured that out because you are good at that kind of thing, but that’s a good thing for Georgia.”

On the status of Kolton Houston…
“Obviously Kolton hasn’t been playing. Kolton had an eligibility issue. Basically, prior to coming to Georgia, he had a shoulder surgery and unknowingly was given a substance that is banned by the NCAA. He ended up testing positive for that substance, and it wasn’t a recreational drug or anything like that. He ended up testing positive for this substance, so the NCAA has a protocol that if you test positive for that type of thing you miss a year of competition. Basically his first year he missed a year of competition for that reason. Over time you assume that this substance would leave your body to the point where the NCAA says you can go back and play. We’ve been waiting for that moment and it hasn’t come. It’s been two and a half years and this thing has not gotten out of there. The bottom line is he’s been tested probably more times that anybody in the history of college football, and we’re 100 percent certain that he has not continued to take this thing. It’s just never gotten far enough out of his system for him to be declared eligible to play. That’s about as much as I can explain in layman’s terms. It’s been a very difficult situation for Kolton and his family and for us as coaches. You continue to assume it’s eventually going to get out of there, but it just hasn’t. You’ve been asking me questions for a while and I’ve always been saying that we’re hopeful he’ll be ready to go, but he’s still not ready to go. It could happen any time, really that he continues to get tested. What does that do for us as a football team? We have to prepare as if he won’t be able to play and hope that he can. We had Kolton at right tackle, and we’ll have Watts (Dantzler) there. We’ll have (John) Theus backing him up at the right tackle position. I guess that what it means as far as what our depth chart looks like right now.”

On the cohesiveness of the offensive line…
“One of our bigger challenges in camp is to put together our starting five, and anybody else who we think is capable of playing SEC football up front, we have to find out who they are. The two things are to get the starting lineup as soon as we possibly can and let them work together. They need to be a cohesive unit, they need to be a unit that works together in tandem and understands each other’s calls and the communication is just so crucial up front. We’re going to find five that can do it as far as a starting five, and we’re hoping to find two, three, four more that we think can play. It will be a big challenge for us, but the thing about the offensive line that I’ve seen over the years is that if you do have guys who understand what they are doing and they do a great job with their assignments of knowing who to block, you put your hat on the right guy and you fight for 60 minutes, you can function pretty well offensively. I’ve got no doubt in my mind that we’ll be able to find that group of guys. It’s just a matter of who it’s going to be and how quickly can we put it together to where that group can have some time working together to where we’re comfortable to open the season.”

On Georgia’s running game…
“We have Richard Samuel working back at tailback, we have Ken Malcome, who was the No. 1 back going into the spring game, and we have two other scholarship players.  As we all know they are both true freshmen – Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley. Keith was here in the spring and Todd arrived this summer. We have a couple of walkons who have done a good job. Of course (Brandon) Harton was put on scholarship a year ago, but Harton and Kyle Karempelis were playing some pretty valuable snaps in the Kentucky game as we were trying to win the Eastern Division. We do have a lot of guys with experience and guys who can play well. The thing that kills a running play is when you turn somebody loose. It’s not just the offensive line; it’s the tight end, it’s the fullback and an offensive line. Those are the guys who are mainly going to get you to the line of scrimmage or past it. If we do a good job as coaches of getting our guys in the best possible play, and that’s the beauty of having Aaron Murray. Aaron is going to know how to get us in the right play. You can just call a running play and run it no matter what and you may run into a good look or run into a bad look, but if you have a quarterback who really understands what he’s doing he can get you in the best look. Now if we get in the best look and get guys who will not have those missed assignments, you will create some running room for backs. Are they going to be giant, gaping holes? We’ll find out. I’m sure at times there will, and I’m sure at times there won’t be. If you watch NFL games and SEC games, every once in a while there’s a pretty big crease and a lot of times the road is closed. Sometimes your best runs are one or two yard runs that you get what you can or if you get hit in the backfield and don’t fumble it sometimes that’s the best play of the game. Do I think that we can provide enough space for our backs to make plays? I really do and I think we have a talent base at the tailback position that will be able to take advantage of when they are in space and when there’s not I think they can create on their own. It will be a little bit of a learning curve for the two true freshmen, although Keith has had a little bit more time in the system, which will be helpful, but they are two very conscientious young men. Historically, true freshman have been able to play big, so I’m thinking that there’s a chance those kids could possibly play big, but they have to beat out Richard and Ken first.” 

On replacing a player with Isaiah Crowell’s talent level…
“These guys are pretty talented too. There are a lot of talented running backs. Just look across America. There are a lot of great running backs out there. We have some outstanding ones right here that we are very excited about. There are some really good backs out there. The thing about the running back position, like any other position, a lot of it is just a matter of knowing what to do and having a willingness to do it with a lot of effort and doing it every snap. We don’t expect one back to carry the load. I don’t think anyone expects one back to carry the load anymore. This will be a situation where our backs will get it done by committee. Is it going to be predominately two or three? LSU was playing four at a time, and they are very talented guys. We feel like we have a good group of guys who can make plays for us.”

On how physical Georgia’s preseason practices will be…
“Every year one of the hardest things to do is you want to get your guys to the first game healthy, but you also want them to be game ready. You have to have a good combination of doing the teaching, but you also have to have some physicality in your camp or you probably won’t be able to tackle as well as you should or block as well as you should. We have a plan to be so many days in shorts, so many days in shells and so many days in full pads. The days we are in full pads we’ll tackle to the ground and do a lot of scrimmaging. Will it be too much or not enough? You have to keep an eye on things and see how you’re doing. As camp goes on, unfortunately you get pulled muscles from time-to-time, you get guys who get nicked up and you lose some playing time because of it or practice time because of it. What happens sometimes is you may have a position where you think you have a lot of depth, but if two guys get banged up and all of a sudden there might be five guys in that position group and two get hurt and the other three have to get more reps than they normally would. Before you know it they are at risk. You just have to keep an eye on it, but we’ll have enough of a physical practice in my mind that we’ll be ready to tackle like we should be able to and block like we should be able to when the season starts.”

On whether Kolton Houston is committed to staying on the team until his situation is resolved…
“Yes. He is eligible to practice, obviously. He’s been practicing. He will practice with us and we’ll continue to work with him and hope he gets to the point where he’s allowed to play again. We have not lost hope on that.” 

On how much Jarvis Jones returning for his junior season affected his teammates also coming back…
“I think Jarvis had a big effect on the number of guys who decided to come back. A majority of the guys were defensive players. As you mentioned, Jarvis didn’t even put his name in the NFL committee to take a look and talk about draft status. He just said I have a ways to go, I can get better, I love Georgia and my teammates and I want to see how good we can be. I think that resonated with those guys. I’m sure that was one of the factors that they put in the bin there to decide what they were going to do. I think if Jarvis came out and said I’m going to the NFL, I’ll see y’all later, I don’t know if the results would have been the same.” 

On the new kickoff rules and whether it’s a disadvantage that other teams might have gotten a head start in spring practice…
“I don’t think it’s an advantage for the other teams or a disadvantage to us. If our kickers can knock it out of the end zone, I’m all for them knocking it out of the end zone. The bottom line is there will be days when it’s windy and sometimes it’s going to be at your back and sometimes it’s going to be in your face. When it’s in your face you probably won’t be able to knock it out of the end zone, so you better have a plan to place the ball where it needs to be placed and allow your cover team to get there. Not only place it where you want it, but give the type of hang time you need for your coverage team to get down there. We can’t just say he’s going to knock it out every time and just kick a line drive and knock it out, because if you kick a line drive and it doesn’t go out, then you have some of the best return men in country in our league running back the kickoff with a bunch of space, and that’s a dangerous thing. We will be hoping for our guys to be able to do that, and there will be plenty of time. They’ve both been here all summer, really working on those types of skills. Personally, if I knew we could knock it out of the end zone on any give attempt, that’s what I would love to see happen. We are going to allow them to have that freedom, but they are still going to have to kick in a certain direction with enough hang time to where if it doesn’t get out of there we can cover it. The thing about punting is height for me is exciting. The higher you kick it, the less chance a guy is going to be able to get started. You kick it high, you have a good chance of them not being able to get started. The two freshmen, they have big legs. How consistent will they be? It’s just like when we had (Drew) Butler early in his career he was about a five or six out of 10 guy. Then we he got consistent was when he became a great punter. That’s what we need is consistently for those guys to do their job. They’ll be competing with (Adam) Erickson and (Jamie) Lindley as well and some other guys on campus.”

On why he hasn’t lost hope with the Kolton Houston situation…
“It could get to the point where the substance that’s in his body that’s having trouble getting out of there can get the point where he will be able to play. When you do a test and there is something in your system, little by little it gets lower and lower, it gets to the point where it meets the guidelines of the NCAA, then he can play. It just hasn’t done that. For whatever reason it’s been stubborn to get out of there.” 

On whether Kolton Houston will wait as long as he can…
“He’s here now, so I don’t think he has any plans of doing anything different. I haven’t really had that conversation with him.” 

On how Georgia’s defense would change his preparation as a head coach…
“We’re still going to have the same amount of practices, we’re still going to have the same amount of periods, we’re still going to work certain situations and do the same drills. I just think that the defense – because of its maturity up front and all the way around – if they do their part as far as preparing every day to be great, it’s going to help the offense get better. Just from me watching practice early spring to watching the end of spring, how the offensive line was coming around and the offense in general, quite frankly early on, I think the offense was getting whipped pretty good. Then about mid-spring there was one scrimmage where there was a breakthough drive and it seemed like they knew they could move the ball against this bunch. I think that created some momentum for the rest of the spring. When the spring was over, I wouldn’t say that the offense had taken it over, but they were competing so much better and had some victories along the way too. That’s just the way football is. Iron sharpens iron, and a mature side of the ball usually helps a younger side of the ball grow up. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

On Malcolm Mitchell playing on offense and defense…
“I think Coach (Mike) Bobo has been tongue-in-cheek with some of his comments. He knows that we need Malcolm to play corner. He understands that, but he also understands he’s a heck of a wide receiver, and he wants to make sure he sees him play a little bit of offense still, even early on. I think Malcolm is going to spend time on defense early on. I think as the season wears on he’ll see more offense. Does that mean he’ll play less defense? Not necessarily. He probably will play a little less defense when everybody comes back, but I also think that in September, my guess is if he’s able to play 70 plays or 60 plays and be able to handle the heat, whatever that number is, when it’s 60, I think when the weather cools a little I think he’ll be able to play 10 or 20 more plays a game. By virtue of that, then all of a sudden he may be playing more offense just because he’s able to play more plays, and maybe there is some more depth at the defensive backfield position. He’s a great competitor. He loves practice, he loves preparation. He loves to win the drill, no matter what it is. He loves the challenge of learning a defense. Last year he learned the offense and he didn’t show up until the summer. This year he spent the whole spring with the defense and he’s got a summer and fall. He’ll remember a large percentage of what he was doing offensively, so he won’t have any trouble there. He has great change of direction, he has good ball skills, he’s muscled up since he’s been here. He has a lot of great tools to be a great cornerback. He has the same type of tools that usually equates into being a great receiver as well.”

On being ranked sixth in the coaches’ poll and whether Georgia should be considered a national title contender…
“The bottom line is the last six years, whoever won the league got to play for it. Our goal is to win the East, go to Atlanta and win the game. If you win the SEC you have a pretty good chance. It’s not guaranteed, we know that, so our goal as always is to win the SEC, then get to Atlanta and win that thing. If at that point we’re allowed to play in the big game, then we would be.” 

On QB Hutson Mason…
“If something happened to Aaron (Murray) today, Hutson is second team. (Christian) LeMay would be third team right now. Hutson has to be prepared to play if something happened to Aaron. The question is how long into the season do you say that Hutson won’t play if something happened. If you are midseason or beyond you probably have to have a good discussion and everybody be on the same page and have everybody’s heart where it belongs. The other factor is that there are still 29 practices before the first game. Christian will certainly get a lot of reps, and he made a lot of progress in the spring. We’ll see if he can continue to make progress to compete for that second team position. Of course Faton (Bauta) is competing as well. We haven’t factored in how much progress can those guys make, but today I would say that if something happened Hutson would be the guy.” 

On Ray Drew…
“I thought Ray handled everything well (last year). He’s always been a guy with a great spirit about him. He’s been a positive guy for us. He didn’t play a lot, but he’s working his way into that position and into that role, and I think he’s hovering somewhere around 290 pounds and he’s in great shape, and I think he understands much better what we are trying to get accomplished on defense. I don’t think there’s any doubt he’ll play better than he did a year ago.” 

Junior QB Aaron Murray
On the improvements he’s made in the offseason...
“My foot work is the biggest thing that I’ve worked towards improving this offseason. I’m working to be able to move around the pocket more fluidly; to be in a position at all times to make accurate throws; to make sure my eyes are looking down the field at all times and I’m not looking at the rush or getting haunted by guys, so that I can stay in a good base and making an accurate throw.” 

On his decision making skills improving…
“I think it’s a lot of maturity, I think it’s a lot of repetition. I’ve got two seasons under my belt, I’ve had a lot of reps, I’ve watched a lot of film on myself and I think that’s helped out a lot. I know when to tuck and run, when to slide, when to throw it away, when to take a sack. It’s all repetition; it’s all about getting experience and learning those kinds of things. I think I’ve had a ton of experience, I’ve learned a lot in my first two seasons and I’m looking to build on that.” 

On being ranked No. 6 in the preseason poll…
“We’re not worried about it. Last year we ignored the negativity and all the bad talk about Georgia and this year we’re going to ignore all the positive stuff. We’re just going to focus on what we need to do, and that’s work hard, show up to practice everyday with the right attitude, get in the film room, get in the weight room and do a lot of little things to make sure we have a successful season.” 

Sophomore CB/SE Malcolm Mitchell
On playing corner this year…
“At first it was something I wanted to do to expand, but it’s become a necessity. It’s something I look forward to doing to help the team until we can regroup and get everybody back here.” 

On bouncing between positions…
“It’s difference because you have to go from being on the attack to waiting and adjusting to what others do. It’s fun and I like to do both of them. You just have to push yourself differently.” 

Senior TB Richard Samuel
On his expectations for the tailbacks…
“I expect big things out of those guys, I expect that they’re going to work hard, they’re going to come and know what they’re doing. During the summer, they showed that they were in there to work; they would come ready to play and ready to work. They ask questions, they are quick to learn, they want to know everything they can and they want to soak up a lot of information.” 

On his expectations for himself…
“I want to show them how to get it done. You can learn the plays, you can learn what to do, but it’s a different story when you have to get out there and get it done. I want to show them how to get it done and what it takes to get it done.” 

On his development as a player…
“I feel like switching between running back and linebacker slowed down my development because I didn’t have much time to get used to the linebacker position. Switching between fullback and running back hasn’t slowed my down too much because it’s basically the same plays and I just have to learn the little differences.” 

Junior OLB Jarvis Jones
On the start of practice…
“It’s a blessing to have another opportunity to get here. We’ve been grinding and grinding so hard all summer long, and I can’t wait to see our team put it together and show each other what we’ve been working for.” 

On the feelings of the team entering the season…
“We know what we’re capable of. We had a lot of hype last year, and we had a great run. This year, we know that people are expecting us to be way better. We’re just going to take it all in stride. We’re going to go out there everyday and make it our best, practice at our best, and then try to take it from there. Everything starts in practice so we’re just going to go through these days in camp and have fun doing it to try to get out everything we can before September 1.” 

On personal expectations for the season…
“To win is first and foremost. We are coming here to win, and also I want to just play up to my standards. I want to have fun doing it and make plays. It’s not all about the stats. We have a lot of great players on our defense that are a year older now, so they understand the system we have and how we play. For me, I just want to play at the level that I did last year. If we win and play at a higher level than we did last year, that’s definitely an accomplishment for us. We expect to go out there everyday and get better.” 

On his leadership style…
“I’m not an in-the-face kind of guy. A lot of guys look up to me, and I respect everybody just like they respect me. When it’s time to go, they know it’s time to go. Every time I step on the field, it’s 100 percent, and they see that. I do talk to players from time to time, but I’m not the type of guy to get in their face. I’ll just call them to the side or tell them how it is to better our team.” 

Senior SS Shawn Williams
On impressive underclassmen during spring practice…
“I would say Malcolm Mitchell, Corey Moore, and Devin Bowman. They are guys that are going to be able to step up and help us out a whole lot this year. I know Malcolm is going to play a lot of offense and defense, and he’s going to make plays. Corey Moore will step in and play some, as well.” 

On using the two losses at the end of last season for motivation this season…
“We haven’t really talked about it in the off season because last year is last year, and we can’t really do anything about it. We just have to go out and not make the mistakes that we made in those two games, and hopefully the outcome will be better this time.” 

On lessons learned from Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham…
“One thing that I’ve picked up from him is to be accountable and to know your stuff. That proves how valuable you are in the system that we run. Having him here is like a blessing to us, and his mindset that he brings to the table helps us a lot.” 

Junior OG Chris Burnette
On the team’s improvement during spring practice…
“I think we did a good job as a whole, and our goal during the spring was just to get better, regardless of how far along we were. We just wanted to get better in something. That’s our goal everyday, to get better in something. We tried to do that, and I definitely feel like we accomplished it.” 

On Kolton Houston’s situation…
“It’s been tough because obviously it’s something that he didn’t want. It’s just tough having to see that and see how much talent and ability he has while he has to sit on the sideline and wait. Hopefully all of this can get resolved, and hopefully before the season starts because I would be ecstatic to see him out there finally.” 

On the situation at right tackle if Houston is not able to play…
“I’m sure we’ll figure out somebody to put there and something to do. I feel confident that whoever we would wind up putting there, it would be someone who can get the job done.”



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