Richt, Bulldogs Preview Clemson Game

Coach Richt addresses the media Tuesday heading into week one and Clemson. He discusses Clemson's stout defensive line and our defensive newcomers, game day responsibilities, etc.


Aug. 26, 2014

ATHENS -- Georgia head football coach Mark Richt and a handful of players met with the media on Tuesday ahead of the Bulldogs' regular season opener against Clemson this Saturday in Athens. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt
Opening Statement...
"Alright, well it is finally here, the first press conference of the year, and I am sure everybody in America is going to say the same thing about being ready to play somebody besides yourself. We are looking forward to that opportunity. Coach Swinney has done a really great job at Clemson. He has an outstanding football team. Starting with their offensive unit they have four returning offensive linemen, although Beasley will not play so they have three that will play as returning starters. Offensively they are the quickest tempo team we play, and by tempo I mean how many seconds between snaps. They really like to go fast. They have a new quarterback in Stout, a guy a lot similar to Hutson, at least as far as he has been around the program a long time and has gotten a lot of practice reps. He was able to get a lot of game reps, too. They often blew teams away early and a lot of times last year they were able to get their second and third team quarterbacks in the games at times. Stout is a very tall, accurate and efficient passer. He can move well enough to extend plays and he makes good decisions."

"Deshaun Watson, the back-up freshman quarterback, we all know from Gainesville, Georgia, is a very talented guy who can run and pass. He is such a dynamic player, he will probably get in the game so we have to have a plan for him."

"They did lose some outstanding receivers and running backs from a year ago, and unfortunately they did also get a running back hurt as well.  So we don't know a lot about their backs who are playing, D.J. Howard and C.J. Davidson, who are the top two guys on their depth chart. We will just have to see what these guys have got.  At the receiver position, Adam Humphries is the returner who has the most catches. He is more of a slot receiver for them, but he is a very productive guy. Charone Peake will be a starter. I think he played about 3 games last year and had an ACL injury and he is coming back off of that. Then there is Williamson who is a starter as well. He is 6'2, 195, and can make plays. In history, they have recruited well across the board and have a lot of great players."
 
"If you look at their defense you start with their front, and Vic Beasley is where you should start. He is a guy who got 2 or 3 sacks against us last year, and he got 13 sacks and 23 tackles for loss last year, 44 tackles, 6 pass break ups, 12 quarterback hurries, and 4 forced fumbles. The guy is one of the best players in America and he is definitely a guy we are going to have to deal with. Grady Jarrett up front is another guy. He is a Georgia boy and he is a senior. They have him at 6'1, 270. He is very active football player who plays extremely hard. He gave us some fits last year. I think we had 2 or 3 holding calls against him just because of how hard he played and because of how athletic he was. Another senior up front, Josh Watson, had 47 tackles last year. They have Shaq Lawson on the other end and he had 35 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 9 QB hurries and a PBU. Just a bunch of guys who have played and have been highly productive."

"In the middle linebacker position they have Stephone Anthony, who is a great player and sort of the leader of their defense. He's 6'2, 235, and he had 131 tackles, 13.5 TFL's, 4 sacks, a pick, and a bunch of PBU's. He's a very physical guy and I have a lot of respect for him. The other two guys who played a good bit, but were not starters, are Steward at the Will, and T.J. Burrell."

"In the backfield I am not 100 percent sure how they are going to start everybody out. Just reading about them, Robert Smith seems to be the one that is their leader back there. He is their senior safety who had 79 tackles from last year, a sack, 2.5 TFL's, one pick, and 5 PBU's. He is a very good football player. Our notes say that Kearse is at the other safety position, and he had 55 tackles last year. It looks like Mckenzie Alexander is going to start for them and he is the guy who came in last year and was highly touted, but he got hurt and redshirted so there is no stats from him from a year ago. And we think Tankersley will be the other corner, a guy who had 13 tackles last year. So we will see how they line up. We are kind of fluid back there, too, so I don't know if they know who is going to start for us because we don't know yet."

"Special teams, Lakip, the new placekicker, he did get two kicks last year and he was 1 of 2 and made a 41 yarder. Bradley Pinion, the punter, averaged almost 40 yards a punt for the last two years. He is also their kickoff guy and he is extremely strong. I don't know if we will have a chance to bring any out. He knocks it out most of the time. Their long snapper is back. Their punt return man Humphries had a good season last year as he averaged around 10 yards per return, so they do have a very nice punt return game. Then for kick returns Sammy Watkins was their guy a year ago and no one really got many chances besides him, so Green and Davidson are going to be new there."
 
"Anyways, it is a game we have been looking forward to for a long time. I know our fans are looking forward to it. I am looking forward to see what the Dawg Walk looks like. I am looking forward to see our students show us what they've got by getting there early and really cheering our boys on during pregame warm ups. I am also looking forward to our fans wearing red and getting after it and creating enough noise that we can hopefully disrupt some of the things they are trying to do offensively. It is going to take everybody, and our fans are going to be a huge part of it."

On the Georgia secondary this season compared to last year...
"The situation is very similar to last season. We have guys who don't have a lot of experience who are going to be playing, and some who have no experience who are going to be playing. It'll be interesting. We are actually going to meet tonight on both sides of the ball and try to nail down whose going to be where to make sure our guys know where they stand and can be studying the right things. So yes, it is very similar to a year ago."

On the depth at corner...
"Devin [Bowman] started out with a good camp and then had a hamstring pull. But he got well and is practicing again. This depth chart, I wouldn't go to crazy about to be honest with you. I don't even know if it's worth writing anything [about the depth chart] right now."

On whether it's scary or intriguing to have unknowns at several positions...
"It's intriguing. We'll see how they do. We've got some guys that have played some ball and made some plays and all that kind of thing, so we've got a little bit of that. But there's enough of the unknown that it will be interesting to watch the film when it's all over."

On Hutson Mason's preparation for this moment...
"It feels like to a certain degree that we have a veteran starter back with us. It doesn't feel like a new starter. Obviously he did start two games last year and finished the year as our starter after transitioning from Aaron Murray, who started all those games and did all those things. You would think that when he left it would have been a bigger deal than it has been. Not that Aaron didn't do wonderful things for us, but we have a guy who has been in the program and going into his fifth year and had a chance to start a couple of games and did a nice job of leading throughout the summer. When your quarterback knows what to do, you kind of take it for granted. He goes to the line of scrimmage and you just start playing ball. All throughout practice and in the games, usually when you have a new QB, you wonder if he can comprehend and whether he can handle being the starter and that sort of thing. But those questions have already been answered so I haven't thought a whole lot about it."

On how the absences of two deep threats will affect the passing game...
"Sometimes you don't have to have blinding speed to go deep, and sometimes it's just a matter of getting off the jam and getting the guy cut off. You know all these guys have pretty good game speed. Not many guys just run away from people, but you know we have had a good history of placing the ball where our guys can catch it. You know if a guy's got him beat down the field we are going to lay it out and let him go get it.  If it is kind of a battle down the field we may throw the back shoulder throw to what we would consider a deep ball or a take off. The other deep ball is a post route. I think our QBs do a good job at placing the ball where we have a better chance than the other team. That's the whole key to passing the ball, period. There is going to be some tightly guarded situations and if we put the ball where we have a better chance of catching it than they do, or if we can anticipate where our guys are going to be and cut it loose a little early, then we got a chance and Hutson knows how to do that."

On the punters...
"Both punters are very capable. They've had outstanding operation times and I think they have had wonderful hang times, and all those kind of things. It hasn't been quite as consistent as I want from either one of them, not to say it's been awful, but I like 10 out of 10. So every once in a while they'll have a kick that is not their best, but the good news is that the kicks that have been less than their best have been ones that we'd be able to get under and cover. Some of the shorter kicks have had enough hang time that I don't think anybody is going to be able to return those. When they punt their best they're anywhere between 40 and 50, 55 yards sometimes. They're capable of some pretty big bombs, but what you don't want is a long bomb that doesn't have hang time. I'd rather have a short kick with hang time than a long bomb that doesn't have hang time and you give the return guy too much time to return it on you. So the kicks that aren't their very best are usually ones that we can cover good so I'm not concerned in that area."

On freshmen besides Lorenzo Carter who might play...
"It looks like [Dominick] Sanders will play. Those two tailbacks [Nick Chubb and Sony Michel] will play. It looks like [Jeb] Blazevich will play. I don't know about the offensive linemen [Isaiah] Wynn and [Dyshon] Sims but they're in the two-deep and it's possible that they could play. I'd say Isaiah McKenzie will [also] get in the game and play."

On how Brendan Douglas fits into the crowded backfield...
"Brendan knows what to do. He's a very physical runner and good pass protector. He'll have a role throughout the season. I don't know exactly what is going to happen this game as far as his playing time, or the two freshmen's [playing time] for that matter. I am not really sure how much those guys will get, but Gurley is the starter, Keith is the number two guy, and the other guys are ready to play and my guess is that they'll play. They'll play special teams for sure and my guess is that they will probably get some scrimmage downs as well."

On how much of a weapon he considers Marshall Morgan to be...
"If he kicks in the games like he does at practice he's going to have a great year. One thing I always loved about him when we watched film on him his was how high that ball would go off his foot. When he kicks it, it gets up quick, and when you're kicking extra points and field goals you want some height, you don't want to drive a low kick and get it blocked. Not only does it go up but he's got great range. His field goal kicking has been tremendous last year and in camp so far. I really like what I see."

On what he sees on his roster across the board...
"I don't know if there's ever been a year where at every position across the board you're like 'we've got experience, we've got depth.' You know, it doesn't happen like that very often. This year, in particular, the defensive backfield is an issue of youth and inexperience so you just don't know how they're going to play or how they're going to respond. I think what you've got to realize is that mistakes are going to be made and you can't just lose your poise. Other guys are going to have to lift these guys up, and guys that have been productive and had experience in the past, they need to play like that, and if we do that we'll be okay."

On if he's ever seen youth and experience come through...
"A lot of young guys come through. Obviously we've had young receivers come in and make big plays. You know, A.J. Green was a guy who came in and led the league in receiving yards. We've had running backs come in as freshmen. Even guys like a walk-on Tra Battle, who some years back was a walk-on defensive back who started in nickel and had a great freshman year. It's not all that unusual to have a young guy come in and play well for you."

On blocking Clemson DE Vic Beasley...
"Whoever lines up against Beasley has got their hands full. I don't know if they're always going to put him on one side or the other. He may end up on either edge or coming up the gut, I don't know what they're going to do with the guy, but whoever has the assignment of blocking Beasley has got their hands full and they're probably going to need some help."

On sophomore OLB Leonard Floyd...
"Leonard has got the chance to be a very productive guy. He's a very talented guy who loves football and practices and plays hard. He's got a very natural football I.Q. It all comes very natural to the guy. You don't have to give him rep after rep after rep for him to get it. You just kind of get him the concept and get him to understand what you're trying to get done and he seems to pick it up quicker than most."

On whether or not there will be progress in turnover creation from the defense...
"We've got some good ball skills back there. Balls are getting caught. Whether it's scout team throws that are in the range of our guys to go get them, they're catching the ball pretty good right now. I think we're serious about disrupting the ball as far as getting fumbles, either punching it out or stripping it out, whatever that may be, we work really hard on recovering fumbles. Whether that's out in space scooping it, securing it, and trying to score or if there's a bunch of bodies around just to get on it, we're doing the right things fundamentally, and if everybody plays fast enough and hits hard enough, and rallies to the ball then we'll create turnovers.

On how the returners will handle their duties...
"I think you have to start with who fields the ball. You've got to field the ball. The toughest thing to do in college football is punt return. I think that's the hardest thing. It's the hardest transition from high school. I think even from college to pro it's easier. I think it's easier to go from college to pro punt returner than from high school to college because in high school they'll bang it out there, it'll be flied, they'll catch the ball and have space or it'll bounce three times and they'll pick it up and go. And then when they get to college they get those high, towering 4.5 hang time kicks and here they are waiting for that ball and there's a bunch of guys hanging around. I tell them you're going to smell their breath, son. They're going to be right there. It's a different sensation to do it in practice. First you're just trying to do it, period, and then we've got guys trying to harass them while they're trying to catch it so they get used to that. And then you do it in a scrimmage and get used to that and then all of the sudden you get in the game and it's even different, so that's a very tough transition. We've got to start with who we think can field the best and go from there. That's kind of where we're starting with it. But do I want them to score? Yes."  

On whether or not the strong start to the schedule will affect the team's potential playoff seeding...
"There's so much ball to be played between now and then. I can't imagine the AP and coaches' polls to not have some effect on the [playoff] panel, so I'm sure that will have some kind of weight even though it's not supposed to be part of the formula. I think everyone's human so they're going to look at those things and agree or disagree with what people are doing, but I'm not really worried about all that right now. I'm more worried about getting it going and making sure we're organized and maximizing every opportunity we have in the game."

On whether he's addressed the self-inflicted mistakes during practice...
"There have been years where I let the boys get after it a little bad. Like when two guys get mad and get in a scrum and it turns into an even bigger scrum. There's been times when I just let them get after it a little bit, but this year there's been none of that. I think we've had one time when there's been a fight and those two guys were on the same side of the ball arguing about something. They ran their butts off after practice and I don't think anyone else wanted to do that. There might have been a little bit of a scrum there for a second but it took just two to three seconds to break up and we kept going.

On what coaches will have headsets during the game...
"We're mostly set on who is going to have headsets they're wearing and all that. There's still one thing in question a little bit because some coaches, like Mike Ekeler for example, not only have a defensive responsibility during the game but also special teams responsibilities. So we're going to have to find the best place for him to be to still allow the defense to function and allow him to handle the special teams responsibilities as well. So we're probably just going to make sure we're all on the same page with that tonight as well."

On his initial impressions of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt...
"He's a very demanding coach. He's definitely got a plan. I think he's a very good teacher and communicator. He's driven to have a great defense and over time he'll do a phenomenal job. I don't know what's going to happen in game one with a lot of moving parts and even the veterans learning his system. There's a high learning curve with this bunch and some inexperience in the back end, which no one likes inexperience in the back end, but Jeremy and the rest of this defensive staff are outstanding men and I'm just glad we got him."

Senior CB Damian Swann
On the defensive depth chart...
"It's up to change every day until game day. Guys are competing and that's what it's all about. We're going to try to get the best guys out there that are going to help us win. We have a lot of guys that can do it, we just need to find that guy that's going to give us that edge."
 
On the impact of Jeremy Pruitt...
"His résumé speaks for itself. He's a winner and he knows what winning feels like. A lot of guys want to accomplish some of the things that he has accomplished being a part of those national championship teams. A lot of guys buy into and listen to what he has to say. That's one of the things he put in, that we're going to have to communicate if we want to be good."
 
Junior TE Jay Rome
On being listed as the starting tight end...
"I've been working hard. I knew it was going to be a crunch for myself, trying to get back, especially during camp coming off an injury, getting the necessary reps to be able to start. We've been making a lot of progress and I feel like I'll be ready."
 
On the injuries at wide receiver...
"I feel like [the tight ends] are going to be pretty important to make up for the lack of personnel we have at receiver. Hopefully those guys will be back sooner than everyone hopes. We're going to play our part and whenever our numbers are called we are going to go out there and perform to the best of our ability."    

Senior SE Michael Bennett
On this year's offense...
"I don't want to compare to other years. But I still think our offense has the potential to put up crazy numbers and put up a lot of points if we just execute. We definitely have the talent. So if we just execute like the coaches want us to, I think we'll be all right."
 
On the offensive line...
"I think they're doing a great job of opening up holes for Todd, Keith and the other running backs. They're also giving Hudson time to get the ball down the field, so that's really all you can ask of them."
 
On big games early in the season...
"I think it shows the character of your team right off the bat. We haven't done a really good job in big games lately in the beginning of the season. So it's definitely a time when we can change that streak. We definitely need to get the season started off on the right foot, and we haven't been able to do that sometimes in the past. Hopefully we can get this one under our belt and be great."
 
Junior DE Sterling Bailey
On avenging last year's loss and the first game in the Pruitt era...
"With Coach Pruitt coming in, he has something to prove. We have something to prove. After losing last year's game, this is huge for us. But we're not going to let all of that hype get to us. We still have to go into the game focused on getting the job done. The coaches have done a good job of keeping us focused on the task ahead."
 
On Coach Rocker...
"Coach Rocker brings a different level of football to us. The way he teaches is very comfortable. He teaches us slow-paced. Whenever we ask him about a technique, he'll sit there, pull us aside and take the time to show us the footwork, show us the technique we're supposed to be doing. His coaching style is very comfortable to me. And I look around to my fellow defensive lineman and it's really comfortable to them as well."
 
On going against another team...
"It's very exciting. We're all looking forward to it. Me and my teammates joke around with each other and say, `I'm tired of seeing you. I'm tired of hitting you.' It's all fun and jokes, but we're excited to be hitting another team. There's a lot I'm excited about. Great things are coming between the hedges."
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