Bennett, King, Richt & Others Preview Vanderbilt
Sanders Commings

Sept. 18, 2012

More Video: Coach Richt Addresses the Media at Tuesday's Media Day | Gameday Central

ATHENS --- Georgia head coach Mark Richt and a delegation of football players addressed the media during the Bulldogs' weekly press luncheon. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt
Opening Statement...
"We're getting back into conference play at home and looking forward to that with Vanderbilt. We have a lot of respect for them. Of course last year's game was a wild one that went right down to the wire. I can't imagine it being anything but a battle. Vanderbilt has 17 returning starters, and their offensive line has four of five starters back. They're just very good at what they do. They ran for over 200 yards against us a year ago. Also, their special teams has just been great. They're very aggressive as a football team. I think Coach (James) Franklin is doing a wonderful job of coaching that football team. It's big for us, and we're looking forward to it. We think the weather's going to be nice, and it's another game under the lights and `Between the Hedges', so we're looking forward to that." 

On playing a third consecutive night game this week...
"I do like playing under the lights. I don't like waiting for it to get dark, but it's nice. I think it's nice for our recruits because they easily have an opportunity to come, especially if kids need to come from some distance. I think there's more energy at night, and the weather's beautiful at night this time of year. From what I see, it's supposed to be another great weather day in that regard. But nothing has really changed for me. The night before the game, I travel with the team to the hotel and spend time with them. I come back a little bit earlier, usually when the rest of the coaching staff comes in to work on offense and defense, I'm making my way back for some recruiting and that type of thing. But not much has changed. I know when you play at night, it normally means you're having a good season, so I'm glad we're playing at night."

On punt returns...
"The main thing is that we're looking for a guy who will field the ball and communicate well. So I think we're still searching for that, but it's a tough job. You're back there and guys are flying down the field getting ready to pop you as soon as you touch it, and sometimes it's hard to decide whether to catch it, to let it roll, to fair catch it or to return it. It's a tough job, and we're trying to get someone who will go back there and just take the bull by the horns and make good decisions and communicate well to everybody and wrap up the ball." 

On Michael Bennett...
"My first recollection of Michael was at a camp. It was actually at a camp where we felt like we had some of the better cover cornerbacks to come and participate in the camp - some kids from around the southeast. We were really anxious to see that these guys could do, and then Michael Bennett showed up and started whipping them. It was one of those camps where you practice a little bit, there's a lunch break and you come back. During the lunch break we as a staff would grab a quick bite and will try to assess what we've seen to that point. We might have a certain position coach make sure they see a certain kid. A lot of times a kid will say who's coming, but you don't really know until that day. Michael was very impressive in the first half. I don't remember exactly what I said, but if he came out in the second half and did as well as the first half, plus I wanted him to match up against the best DBs, we might offer this kid. Sure enough, the second half of the camp he continued to do what he did the first half. So at the end of the camp we offered him and it wasn't long after that that he committed. He just showed great ability to run routes and had a toughness about him. He seemed to be in great condition, had great hands, very competitive nature, had good size. Of course since that time he's really muscled up and has even gotten better at what he does. He's a tough, hard-nosed football player, and he likes every aspect of the game. He plays special teams, he blocks well, he catches balls in traffic. We've seen him go deep a couple of times. Last year he had a couple of phenomenal catches - one against Florida on fourth down and one against Auburn early in the game. He's just been very reliable for us."

On Todd Grantham's fire and intensity...
"I knew he had a lot of fire. Sean Jones played for him in Cleveland and Sean said that about him. Brad Johnson, who is my brother-in-law, was on the team playing quarterback at the time, so he got to observe the type of coach he was in practice. I wanted that. That was one of the things I wanted in the guy who was going to lead the way for us on defense. Defenses play a lot on emotion. You certainly had to have good schemes, and Todd had a great reputation for that, understanding not only how to pressure people, but also how to play the back end in coverage and all that. I heard just great things about him in that regard. It's an emotional game. It's about playing hard and getting after it. When the guy in charge of that group is that type of personality, it tends to bleed over into the way his players play."

On Vanderbilt coach James Franklin...
"I think any coach that comes into a new program, most of the time unless you are replacing someone who retired, you are there for a reason. You are there because the culture probably needs to be changed in some way, shape or form. It's not that uncommon to feel like you have to change the culture of the program when you get there. You have to put your stamp on it. You have to be who you are and let your players know who you are and try to motivate and rally people to become special. I think Coach Franklin has definitely done that, and you see it week to week. It's not just one game here and there. They play hard every game. They get after it every game. They take calculated risks every game and they play to win."

On preparing for Vanderbilt's special teams this week...
"With the 20 hour rule you can't change much, because if you add one spot, you are pulling from another. Everything we do we think is important down to the very minute. I don't know how much more we could do it. You get a negative return on your investment sometimes if you overdo something. I think we have the right amount of time to get the job done in our special teams, and I think we've improved. We've only had three games, and we are going to be challenged this week on special teams more than any game this season. We'll get a little better gauge of where we're at because I know they have a lot of returning players, and they've already proved this year they are back on track from where they were a year ago." 

On whether Mark Beard would start at left tackle if Dallas Lee can't play...
"I think we would start with that lineup if Dallas can't play. We're not certain of that yet. I don't know how much he'll go today. He may not go at all today; we'll just have to wait and see what he does. My guess is we would start with that same lineup that we finished the game with." 

On T.J. Stripling...
"He feels 100 percent. His upper body strength is still a little ahead of his lower body strength. It had to do with the surgery a year and a half ago. I think he's recovered well. He has no fear of anything right now. He's just playing football again, and it was great to see him get in there and make plays on scrimmage downs. He's already been making an impact for us on special teams. I'm happy for T.J that he's making progress." 

On Amarlo Herrera and his interception returned for a touchdown against FAU...
"Amarlo is doing great. It was a great interception and return for a touchdown. He really looked like a ballplayer there. He's been very physical tackling. He hustles to the ball. I felt like he's been a little bit better in the run game than in the passing game. It was really a great play that he made. It was a crossing route where sometimes linebackers get caught up in the play fake and they lose their man. He saw that it was a fake and turned and got in the hip of that crossing route and made the pick. Usually those guys at best will knock it down, but he not only intercepted it, but took it to the house. It was just a great play in the passing game. Anytime another linebacker is out it gives more opportunity for the next guy, and I think Amarlo is certainly taking advantage of his time right now." 

On whether Malcolm Mitchell will remain on defense...
"Malcolm will definitely stay with the defense as far as being ready to play. I imagine he will still play. His offensive reps will increase, and he'll probably start to spend some meeting time with the offense as well. I'm thinking about trying to find a way to split time with him if he can manage it. We think it can work for us. He's a guy who I think is in good enough condition. I know he's smart enough to understand what's going on on both sides of the ball with the experience he's had. We need him on special teams too. He's going to play offense, defense and special teams off and on for the rest of the year I would think." 

On whether Georgia has watched film from Wyoming of Austyn Carta-Samuels...
"I don't know if Coach Grantham got to watch any Wyoming tape or not. We did watch what happened in the Presbyterian game, and he played well. He didn't have to really run the ball that often and wasn't pressured much. He did drop back and throw the ball well. It looked like he ran the system well. Everything was pretty smooth while he was running the show, and I can only assume that he'll start but we don't know that either. They didn't change what they would have been done schematically a lot. As a matter of fact, they probably did a little bit less in this game than they had done in the others, probably due to the fact that the first play of the game they took off for a touchdown and the score got out of hand quickly. I don't think they needed to show much." 

On motivating his team...
"I do think that when I first started as a head coach I would have rather practiced five more minutes than give some kind of rousing speech. I think that emotions do only last so long, then you have to settle down into a game where you have to rely on the habits you've created throughout the week of practice, your offseason, two-a-days and that type of thing. Emotion is important, and guys, when they play with their blood hot, they tend to play better. We try to find ways to motivate either by words or motivational tapes. Anything that we can grab that we think will get them revved up and ready to go, we'll try to use. I think you can give them a little something that might give them a little extra motivation to practice that day, but usually most of that type of thing we save for Friday night and Saturday before we go to the Dawg Walk." 

On any carryover from last year's game against Vanderbilt...
"I don't know how everybody is going to feel. I can only try to get the focus on what I think is important, and right now, Tuesday is our practice day. It's our preparation, it's our fundamentals, it's learning the scheme and practicing with the kind of effort that you hope will carry on to the game. Those are the things that I am focusing on with our staff and with our players. I don't know how everybody is going to feel deep down and how everybody is going to react the closer we get to the game." 

On strengths and weaknesses of the team...
"I just like being 3-0. The Missouri game was a game that was hard fought. It was a game that went well into the third and fourth quarter before it was settled, and it could have gone either way. We had a game where we needed to win the fourth quarter and we did. That was probably the thing I'm most proud of. In a very hostile environment against an outstanding team we found a way to win it. We found a way to make plays when it counted the most in crunch time, which is one of the things I have talked about. People were asking about our defense and how great I thought they would be. I said I don't know what we are going to look like statistically, but my guess is we are going to have to make plays when it counts the most, and we did do that. That's one game that we did that. The other two were pretty much settled early in the second half. I'm still concerned that too many balls have ended up on the ground. It hasn't been that one guy is doing it a bunch, but we've had each one of our tailbacks in the last game the ball came out. Malcolm Mitchell tried to be a hero on a punt and ended up fumbling the ball there. We just have to secure the ball better. We've had a pretty decent number of penalties, but a large majority of it was young freshmen jumping when they were stemming late and the crowd noise of the Missouri game, that was a mass amount of them. We haven't had many issues with the personal fouls, and that's a good thing. A few missed assignments here and there, but overall I'm pretty pleased where we are. I'm glad we are 3-0 and still have room to improve."

On big plays given up by the Georgia defense...
"When you blitz and you don't cover every gap, you are exposed to something popping like it did on that run. If somebody is putting a double-move on you it means that you are pretty aggressive and get after it and try to make plays. You want them to do that, but you want them to try to make plays in the perimeter where they are still in position to collision a double-move. You can't just go for the pick 100 percent because you are going to get beat like that. In some sense it's positive that we have some guys playing aggressively. We just have to be a little bit smarter and be a little better fundamentally when they do it."

On Georgia's vertical passing game...
"I think we have some god vertical threats, and I think we have a quarterback who can put it on them. I like the vertical passing game. I like the passing game period. It's the most fun as a coach. Coming up from playing quarterback to today, I still really enjoy a good passing game. There's pass protection, all your blitz situations you have to deal with. You have your short, intermediate deep ball. There's great strategy to it and it's not easy to do. When you get good at it you can really shake some people up. You can really put a hurting on some outstanding defenses. Usually it's the big play that will get a great defense a little uncomfortable to the point that you can break them down. It's rare that you can hammer a great defensive football team and make them submit. Somewhere along the way you have to get a big play. It can be through the running game and it can be through the air as well, but most big plays come through the air." 

On Georgia's running backs...
"I'm pleased with Todd (Gurley), Keith (Marshall) and (Ken) Malcome. I think we have a good battery of backs. Everybody is staying healthy, everybody is being productive, everybody is staying fresh. That's a good thing. I'm not saying any given day one of those three might get a bunch of carries. It could happen, but I like how we are rotating them right now." 

On Richard Samuel...
"He still plays both positions - fullback and tailback. He just didn't get any reps the last game." 

On the status of Watts Dantzler...
"Watts is getting there. He has a chance this week. I don't know how much he'll do this week, but he has a chance." 

WR Michael Bennett
On his skill set...
"As a receiver you need be fast - it's important to get open and use your speed. I need to show [those who think I can't run] that I can do everything. I've gotta show them differently." 

On his first career 100-yard game...
"It was a goal of mine going into the year. I wanted to be a 100-yard receiver - it's cool to do it. I know that's a threshold that, as soon as you get to it, you know you can do it. I want to continue to do well and get yards for my team." 

On three different 100-yard receiving games by three different players...
"It makes it tough for opposing teams because they can't key in on one guy. We give them three or four different receivers to look after. And with Artie [Lynch] having a great game on Saturday, there's a tight end that they've got to look after. It's a lot for a defense to focus on." 

QB Aaron Murray
On the offense's performance...
"We're comfortable as an offense. Coach [Mike] Bobo has put a lot of trust in me and in the receivers to run great routs and get open and make plays. We feel great with our progress. There's still work to be done and guys who still need to get comfortable in the four-receiver set, but we're doing well." 

On Michael Bennett...
"Since day one he's been a kid who has worked his tail off. He's a very physical receiver - as a quarterback you love a big, strong receiver who can get off a jam and crate space, and he's able to do that. He's out there every day in practice working hard, and in the film room watching film making sure he's ready." 

On Vanderbilt...
"They're strong [in the secondary], they're strong everywhere. The thing that jumps out about them on film is how hard they play, every single snap. Whether it's a two-yard run you have defensive backs running up the field, or on a 30-yard pass you have linemen sprinting to get involved in the play - they have a lot of intensity and they don't give up." 

DB Damian Swann
On defending against the Vanderbilt quarterbacks...
"We haven't really gotten into their two quarterbacks too much yet. We've watched a little bit of tape from last year, which was [Jordan] Rodgers, but we haven't really gotten into their other guy who could be their starter for this week." 

On the feel of the clubhouse through week four...
"There isn't really any extra motivation going around. We all have the same mindset and that's just to play hard. We just want to play hard and execute our game plan so that we can get to where we're trying to go. It's the fourth game and we're about to hit a big SEC stretch that starts this week." 

On playing against Vanderbilt after last season's match...
"Some of those feelings and emotions might carry over from last year, but also it might not. A lot of teams like to dwell on the past but we aren't one of them. We're going to go into the game with the mindset that what happened last year in the past, is in the past. This is a new game, we're both new teams and we're both just trying to win the game." 

LB Amarlo Herrera
On last week's interception return for a touchdown...
"It felt great. It was the first time I've scored in my college career and it was a great feeling. I had my eyes on the pylon the whole way. I recognized the play action right off the bat and played underneath the receiver and was able to turn my hips and pick the ball off. I'm working really hard on getting better at defending the pass and the run, but this was a big play for me." 

On the play of the defense thus far...
"I'm not worried that we haven't played up to people's expectations so far, it's only the beginning of the year. We're on a roll now and I think there are better things to come. Suspensions and injuries may play a factor in our performance, but like I said before. We didn't have the same starting line up in every game last year so you can't really say that we aren't playing as well because certain guys are missing." 

On how the team treats out of conference games compared to SEC games...
"Personally I don't treat those games any differently. I can't speak for everybody else but we put the same amount of time in for every game. We go in every Monday and work just as hard every week no matter who we are matched up against for that week. We're always in the same mood as a team, we're just trying to win week. We try not to put too much emphasis on off the field hype and what not, we just try and play football the best we can and win the game."

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