Richt, Bulldogs Preview Vanderbilt

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Gameday Central | Game Notes

Oct. 11, 2011

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

Head Coach Mark Richt
Opening Statement...
"We are getting on the road again and playing Vanderbilt at their home. They have not lost at home this year. I know they are going to be working hard towards defending their turf. I can't tell you how many times we've been at halftime (at Vanderbilt) wondering what's going on. They are an outstanding team and a team we have a lot of respect for. We certainly have a lot of respect for Coach (James) Franklin and his team, his coaching staff and the job they are doing.

"They started out 3-0. Our first taste of watching them was against Ole Miss. As we were preparing for Ole Miss we got to see them on both sides of the ball, and were very impressed. One thing that stands out to me is the number of guys they have from Georgia. There are a lot of guys from Georgia who are going to be playing in this ballgame, and I know how that usually affects a guy if you are playing Georgia and you're from Georgia of if you're playing Alabama and you're from Alabama or whatever it might be. I know that will be a big deal for those guys.

"You hate to wait all day to play a game, especially on the road because you know you are going to get back late. Thankfully we have an open date after that, so it shouldn't affect us too much. You can get behind the eight ball in your sleep pattern. I know I'm a little behind the eight ball from this last one against Tennessee. I'm glad we have an open date to let everybody get some sleep when we get home. It's a great challenge, another Southeastern Conference game that we know is so crucial to us in trying to keep pace in the SEC East."

On Georgia's defense...
"I don't want to get too excited yet, but I'm feeling like we've built a very good foundation on defense. I'm hoping the best is yet to come. I think we are gaining confidence. If you can start out by stopping the running game, it's huge. We've done a really good job with that, which has allowed us to get people out of their game plan a little bit. We've scored enough points also where he might cause people to think about getting out of their plan a little earlier than they wanted to, which is good. We're doing so much better on third downs. That was a big issue last year. We got people in third downs, and got them in third-and-long a bunch, people just kept getting them. We're just getting them off the field. We're getting better time of possession because the offense is getting more opportunities. I like the direction we are going. I don't want to say we are a dominating defense quite yet, but we're showing some good signs."

On Michael Gilliard...
"Michael has really done well, and so has Amarlo (Herrera). Michael being named SEC Defensive Player of the Week was big for us and big for him. He deserves it. He's really studied hard. He's really been a very physical tackler, he's been a sure tackler, and he's had very few missed assignments. He's doing a pretty good job of learning to communicate back there. That's one of the things we all know that Christian Robinson had to his advantage was his ability to know what was going on, and not only to get himself lined up, but get other people lined up and make quick adjustments to motions and formations and shifts. Coach (Todd) Grantham told the guys that with injuries comes depth. You tend to gain more depth because guys get opportunities. If you have injuries where you lose guys for the entire season, that's different. Christian is already back and (Alec) Ogeltree is looking really good. I don't think there is any question at all that he'll be ready for the Florida game. In the meantime, Amarlo has grown up some and Gilliard has grown up a bunch."

On Amarlo Herrera....
"When we were recruiting him we felt like he could play inside or outside linebacker. Sometimes you'll say a linebacker is a three-for-three, meaning he could play inside or outside, basically he could play sam, mike or will. Some guys are only a middle linebacker, but we felt like he was athletic enough to play inside or out. We feel Ramik Wilson is athletic enough to play inside or out. It just turned out that we weren't real deep at outside linebacker either and we put Ramik outside and Armarlo inside. What happened to Amarlo was there were injuries to his position. If there were injuries outside, we'd probably be talking about Ramik right now and what a great job he's done. We think both of those kids can play inside or out." 

On Georgia's defense affecting its offense...
"If you feel like your defense is taking care of business you do tend to want to put it in their hands. You do tend to want to help them by chewing as much clock as possible. If the other team is having trouble scoring, you don't want to take a whole lot of risks offensively that would allow them to score defensively like we did in the Mississippi State game when we threw that pick six. That certainly is not what you want to do when your defense is playing that well. In regard to this last ballgame around the middle of the fourth quarter, we pretty much shut down the offense as far as doing everything that we do. We have to be better at being able to get one first down. If we can't do it by running the football exclusively, then we still might have to be willing to chunk it, and move the chains once or twice and the game is over.  Because when we did go three and out the one time, by the time they got the ball back there was plenty of time to score and actually kickoff, get the ball back and score again or onside kick and get the ball and score twice. The shame of the game was when we got to the 23-yard line within (Blair) Walsh's range with a chance to go up 17 at worst. Then we had all those penalties that forced that game into going down to the wire, quite frankly. We just have to do a better job of finishing offensively when we need to."

On Malcolm Mitchell's hamstring injury...
"I don't know what grade it is, I just know that he won't play this week. We are very hopeful that he'll play in the next one. We're confident that he'll be able to play in the game against Florida." 

On Rantavious Wooten's status...
"We keep waiting for all the symptoms of the concussion to go away where we can start to exert him physically and see how he responds to that before he even gets to practice. We're still in stage one trying to get to where he's asymptomatic, and he's not there right now." 

On John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers...
"It's good competition, that's the main thing. Both of those guys are playing well, both of those guys are going to play. I'm not even so sure that Kwame didn't get more reps in the game. I didn't ask Rodney (Garner) the count, but it's very close to being equal or Kwame may have even had more. I think Rodney is going to watch them during the week. The first thing he is going to do is grade the last game and he might reward a guy who played better to move him into that number one spot. By the end of the week he might change his mind according to how they practiced. Then as the game goes on, he is going to see how those guys are playing and see their energy level and their production and go from there. The good news is we have two guys who can play and two guys who know that you have to compete for that starting job on a weekly basis. That when you really have something going on."

On Kosta Vavlas...
"Kosta has really come in and done a great job for us. He did get four tackles on special teams, which is hard to do in just one game. If we had defensive guys who would have that that type of tackle per play ratio that would be pretty astronomical. He loves to play. He runs hard and avoids the block as he's taught to do. He's very disciplined in how he goes about his business. He's been a real sure tackler. You have to have athletic ability and strength and all that kind of thing, but you really have to want to be good at that. You have to have some nerve because you are flying down the field and you never know who is going to be trying to knock you sideways. You have to keep your head on the swivel a little bit, and if you hesitate you won't make the play. He doesn't hesitate. He goes and I think the fact that Blake Sailors has been the marked man in our special teams because a year ago he was the one making all the tackles and the first guy down there. Now they are trying to get a plan for Blake, it's freeing up some opportunities for other guys and Kosta is one of the guys doing a great job of it."

On Isaiah Crowell...
"When Isaiah has some space he is hard to get a good hit on. Sometimes you are going to run into a situation where there is not a lot of space and you just have to stick it in there and run your feet and get as much out of it as you can. I think he's learning to do that better than he did in the beginning of the season. I think he's learning that not every single play there's going to be a lot of space. It's SEC football. You watch SEC games and you watch NFL games, and sometimes there is some good space and sometimes there is not. The times there is not, you have to stick it in the softest spot you can find and grind your feet, and you may get two yards after contact. In the meantime you have to wrap up the ball. He's done a very good job of the ball security for the first six ballgames. The first one I can remember spitting out of there happened in this game, and thankfully it went out of bounds. I've been pleased with his progress, and I think he's learning every week. He's getting better every week. I think if he keeps growing he's really going to be something special."

On Georgia's freshman class...
"I would say that we are extremely pleased with the class. There is no question that we signed a bunch of great players. I really believe that. Before their careers are over, they are going to make tremendous contributions to this football team. I think we all understand that some guys will play as true freshmen and some guys won't. The guys that do, sometimes it's just a matter of a guy who is just so highly productive in camp that you have to play them. Sometimes it's a guy who is at a position we are thin at. At our linebacker situation, Amarlo was second team pretty much by default. Then we got some injuries and all of a sudden he's playing. If we were loaded at linebacker, he might have been a guy who redshirted. You love it when the guys do get to play because those experiences make them so much better year two. The guys who redshirt we think are still very talented. They guys who redshirt have a much better chance of graduating before their four years of eligibility is over. Like a Michael Bennett, he is having a tremendous redshirt freshman year. Would he have been this productive a year ago? I don't think there was any chance of that because of the depth at that position. Even Knowshon Moreno, he wouldn't have hit the scene as true freshman like he did as a redshirt freshman in my opinion. A lot of it had to do with the depth we had at that position. We had three guys who made it to the NFL rosters, and I think two are still there. I'm extremely pleased with the class we signed."

On deciding how much to use Brandon Boykin on offense...
"A lot of it has to do with the look in his eyes. Sometime at the moment of truth, there might be a play that Coach (Mike) Bobo wants to run and at that moment in time he may like tired or just took a shot where he needs a few minutes to let that thing ease up a little bit after a kick return or something like that. That's part of it, and we are also training Branden Smith to do most everything that Brandon Boykin is doing on a weekly basis. Smith is also a guy who could be available. Earlier in the year that was the plan, but Branden Smith had the foot injury. He was doing all he could just to play defense when he came back. We didn't want to stress him offensively too. Now that he's healthy and Boykin's healthy, it could be either one of those two guys now in that role."

On Brandon Boykin's skill set...
"He's good enough to be an outstanding corner in the Southeastern Conference. He's good enough to be one of the best kick returners and punt returners in the conference and in the country. Offensively I don't even know how good he could have been if that's where he started. I think he would have been highly productive. I'm not sure if he would have been a tailback or a receiver, but he has the skill sets to do either one of those and absolutely would make plays. I think the question would have been what the durability would have been if he would have been a tailback. But he's strong, he's smart, got great hands and a great competitor." 

On the health of Georgia's offensive line...
"It's good. (Kenarious) Gates came out of it pretty good. He did spend some time when it got sore and bothered him a little bit. We were kind of wondering if he had set himself back, but he was fine. He lined up yesterday. Ron (Courson) really felt like he didn't do anything to set him back and that he's going to probably be even more healthy this week if we can get through today and tomorrow without anything happening. Right now I think it would be Burnette and Dallas Lee with Gates ready to be the first guy in."

Chris Conley
On starting to feel comfortable on the field...
"Yes, I think it's something that is really a testament to how we practice and the way we take care of things on the field. It really translates to game day; you're supposed to put yourself in that situation before you're actually there, so it makes things easier when you're actually on the field."

On getting playing time early in the year...
"It was sort of up in the air; I talked to my coaches about it and they didn't really give me an answer. They said it was still an evaluation, they wanted to see how I keep developing and ultimately they said that decision would be made around game five. It was made a little earlier than that, though."

On playing early...
"Playing early, for me, was something that I definitely wanted to do, but it was not so much of a goal as it was a milestone to some of my other goals. Being on the field isn't really doing anything yet; there are a lot of things that I want to accomplish."

Aron White
On the tight ends getting more play against Vanderbilt...
"I feel like any given week, there's an opportunity, depending on the defensive schemes that they run for the tight ends to have a break-out game. We saw that a couple of weeks ago when we played Ole Miss, the tight ends really stood out. Definitely, the less playmakers we have at wide receiver, the more chances are that the coaches are going to call a play in my favor. By no means do I think that the tight ends are going to make or break this game. I feel like we have the ability to win the game either way. I feel like we've been very balanced across the board this year, using a lot of different players, a lot of different receivers have caught balls for us and three or four back have had carries. We definitely spread the ball around and with the balanced running game, it's going to open things up for the tight ends, and the wide receivers for that matter. Anytime that you have an established running game, the play-action becomes huge, they have to respect it. Vanderbilt is a team that has a very good secondary, they are definitely going to be a challenge because their defense has been playing very well."

On what the offense is doing well six games into the season...
"I think we've moved the ball very well. We've been able to change field position no matter what throughout this season. We haven't had many 3-and-outs, and I feel like that's something we struggled with at times last year. One thing we have struggled with is finishing drives late in the game. I don't think it's something that's going to hurt our season, but it's definitely something that we've noticed that we need to get better at." 

Mike Gilliard
On being a role model...
"It means a lot to me to have young people look up to me. I want to have a positive impact on other people lives, especially young kids." 

On the defense...
"We have gotten a lot of confidence in the last few weeks. Week in and week out Coach Grantham emphasizes being one of the best defenses in the country. Each week, our main goal is to practice and to get better and on Saturday's it shows."

On being like past Georgia defenses...
"I think we are getting back to the days of some of the great Georgia defenses. We try to emphasize how important it is to get back to being one of the old junkyard dog defenses of the past. I feel like week in and week out we are making strides to being a great defense."

Chase Vasser
On how the defense has improved...
"We have grown up and matured a lot since the beginning of the season. We are a lot more comfortable lining up on the field and making changes if we see something the offense is doing. Coach Grantham goes over the ways our opponent will line up, so we can know what to expect. If we see something, we can make the necessary adjustments."

On Vanderbilt...
"Vanderbilt is a hard-nosed team that will hit you in the mouth on every play if you aren't expecting it. We have to make sure that we are ready to play. The game is at their place and they have had a lot of success at home this year. We have to make sure to remember that they are not the teams from the past. They have improved a lot, have won some games and will have a lot of momentum going into the game this weekend. We have to be ready to play.

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