Richt, Bulldogs Preview The Auburn Game

Nov. 12, 2013

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

Head Coach Mark Richt
Opening Statement...
"We're getting ready to play Auburn. We're going back there twice in a row. The quirk in the schedule didn't really work to our favor, but that's what happens when you add two new teams and you are trying to make the scheduling work, so we are going back and looking forward to that opportunity. We are playing a top-10 team. They are the team with the greatest turnaround of anybody from last year to this year. It's super impressive what Coach (Gus) Malzahn has done. Everywhere he has gone he's won. If you look at his track record it's amazing, especially as a head coach and what his teams have done. He's turned it around very quickly - quicker than maybe I would hope - but you have to give him credit. They are doing a great job.

"Our series - as everyone knows - is 54-54-8. It's a tie and there is actually a 0.9 point per game differential in all those games. That's pretty amazing how close this series has been. It's kind of legendary in how tightly contested most of these games have been and how close the series has been." 

"I'm very impressed with Auburn and what they're doing. I can't imagine how excited their team is and their fans are with what's been happening. We're walking into a situation with a team that is very confident and has a lot of momentum and is already used to winning. Going into the season you wouldn't have said that, but by game ten they are used to winning. Teams like that are very difficult to beat. It's a great challenge for us and we are looking forward to it."

On the challenges of defending Auburn...
"It's not really triple option football, but fundamentally, if a team's quarterback can run the football, that is one less free defender who can try to make a tackle. So let's say that if you have 10 blockers and a quarterback that runs, there's a blocker for 10 guys obviously, and a runner, so there's only one unblocked guy that can make a play. So you have to stay in your gap, you have to defeat blocks and you have to come off of a block and make a tackle, and that's very similar to trying to defend what happens with Georgia Tech. They're accounting for just about every single guy on your team. For us, when (Aaron) Murray hands the ball off, Murray's not a threat to run. So now they really have two unblocked defenders. We have nine blockers, in essence, because Murray's not blocking. So we have nine blockers and a runner, so now they have two free guys. One of those guys can roll right down in the box and be a free hitter right in the box in the run area. Whereas with a team like (Auburn), if you're going to tackle a guy in the box, somebody's got to defeat a block. There are no unblocked guys. There may actually be two unblocked guys, but one of them has to be responsible for the quarterback on a zone read. He runs that zone read, and if that guy decides to tackle the back, the only guy left is the free safety a mile deep to tackle the quarterback. So there's someone that has to be responsible for him every single play, and that's true of when we play Georgia Tech. The main similarity is that they're dedicated to running the ball and they have a quarterback who is a dangerous runner. You have to account for him."

On comparisons between former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and current Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall...
"Cam was a much bigger man, obviously, but Nick's just as dangerous as a runner because of his speed and agility and those types of things. He can be just as effective as a runner. I think they'd be throwing more if they had to throw more. From the film I see, they don't have to throw much, so they're just running it. They are throwing some, but there are not many games where he threw over 10 passes in a game because he hasn't had to. We know he's a very capable passer, and the times he does throw, he's very impressive."

On continued improvements to the Georgia defense...
"We've been pretty good at slowing down the run. We haven't really stopped anybody's run, but we've done a pretty good job against the run. We've done a pretty good job, like I've said before, of getting people into third-and-mediums and third-and-longs. We were having a lot of issues on third down situations. This is the kind of game that even if you're having success slowing down the run, they're still going to move the ball, they're still going to get first downs and they're still going to have a lot of third-and-mediums and third-and-short situations. It's just by virtue of the way they do it, and it's going to be hard to keep them from reducing the yardage on third down and having that run-pass threat on third down. That's part of the reason why they're so successful - they have very few third-and-long situations unless there's a penalty. Every once in awhile, there will be a sack on a first or second down, but that just doesn't happen very often. It really doesn't matter what we did in the past. It matters what we do Saturday, and hopefully we'll get them on the ground."

On Nick Marshall at Georgia...
"When we first started recruiting Nick, it was as a quarterback, but somewhere along the way he had a revelation that he might be better suited to play defensive back, and we were fine with that. You'd have to ask Nick as to why that happened somewhere along the way."

On the Georgia defense...
"I just think everybody is playing their responsibilities better. I think we're tackling better, and I think we're starting to come together and make improvements as a whole. We'll continue to do that."

On junior center David Andrews...
"He's done very well. He's gotten better all the way around. I see him playing harder and longer, and I see him being very confident in directing his teammates into different blocking schemes that the center has to make a lot of calls on. He's just finished more blocks, in my opinion. He's running his feet longer and varied guys more. He's gotten a little more movement at the point - just all of those things. If you just keep getting a little better as you go, it's pretty impressive. David, as we know, is not the biggest guy, but he's strong, athletic and smart. He's a good player. He's been very good for us this year."

On facing former Georgia defensive ends coach Rodney Garner...
"I don't really think much about it. I've got a high level of respect for Rodney, but all week long I'm not thinking about him. I hope to see him before the game and shake his hand and do all that and hopefully afterwards, as well. Rodney did great for us, and he's a great coach, great recruiter and great husband, father and person. I have a very high regard for Rodney."

On Coach Garner's decision to leave Georgia and return to his alma mater at Auburn...
"That was one of those where it wasn't about money, it wasn't about whatever, but it was just about whether he wanted to go home to his college team. I kind of got the feeling from the very beginning that this was going to be it. He may not have said it right away, but I had a pretty strong suspicion that he was very attracted to them this time around. He's had some other opportunities to go back home or back to Auburn, but this time I think just had a different overall tone to it. I thought that the first time I spoke to him, there was a pretty good chance that he was going to take it."

On Georgia defensive ends coach Chris Wilson...
"Chris is a hard-nosed ball coach, which we're kind of used to around here, and at that position you have to be. He's a great communicator, and I think he really shows our guys that he cares about them as a person. He just relates well to them. I think you've got to gain their respect by letting them know that you mean business and whatever you say and ask them to do, you hold them accountable to do it. Chris is really good at that. Obviously he's been a coordinator before and he knows football, so I think they have a lot of respect for his knowledge. When I first started coaching, I was really worried about the guys listening to me. I was a young coach, and what I learned was that I had learned enough in college from (my coaches) and running a pro system and being in a couple of NFL camps. I learned that if I had some knowledge that I could give them that would help them be a better player, they liked that and they respected that. They were gravitated towards that, and Coach Wilson has all of those things."

On the injury updates of Chris Conley and Arthur Lynch...
"If Chris was able to practice full speed the whole week, I'd feel a lot better about trying to predict his impact. He may not even play, but I don't even know that yet. My guess is that if he does, he won't practice a bunch going into it. Right now, he's not ready to practice. Artie is okay to practice full speed. I think Artie will be as ready to go as possible, but it will be hard to predict Chris' (impact). I could get into hypotheticals, but the fact that he knows the system and the fact that he stays on top of everything and the fact that he has been in these types of games, I could see him rolling in and feeling good on Friday and then going into pre-game warm-up and having an impact. But with not practicing a lot, it will be hard to predict. He would have a lot better chance than most guys though."

On Thanksgiving meals for the team...
"I've been thinking about it. It's always been a big deal, and Coach Garner and his family have always had a bunch of guys over to the house for Thanksgiving. I'm not exactly sure what Plan B is, but I've been thinking about it."

On the recruiting process of Auburn freshmen Montravius Adams and Carl Lawson...
"I think Carl was kind of in the house by the time Coach Garner made the decision, but Montravius had not decided. So I think Montravius' (decision) probably had a lot to do with Coach Garner being there. I think Carl was probably already going."

On Keith Marshall's surgery...
"He had surgery (today), and Ron thought it went well, from what he told us. He'll probably be in the hospital for a day or two and then just start rehabbing."

On Gus Malzahn's impact in his first year as head coach at Auburn...
"Gus' situation is a lot different than I think mine was. Number one, he's been a head coach for a lot longer than I was when I cam in. He actually was at Auburn before, so he knew the culture, and he actually recruited a lot of those guys that run his system while he was there. It's a little bit different than maybe what it was with my situation. I think he's very ingrained in what he wants to do and how he wants to do it, especially offensively. Nonetheless, it's been very, very impressive."

On whether or not he's paying attention to bowl predictions at this point...
"Not yet. We'll know more after the next two weeks where we sit, as far as at least record. If we're able to win, it'll take another week after that possibly to decide our situation, so we're still working towards trying to win the Eastern Division right now."

On the team's mentality this week...
"Every time you go to somebody else's house, you feel like an underdog. You are outnumbered. You are the team that they don't want to win. The other team's getting cheered, and you're getting booed. Every time something good happens for them, they go crazy. Every time something good happens for us, they get quiet or whatever they do. I think you feel like an underdog every time you go to somebody's house. You get that sensation."

On Georgia's national coverage following the back-to-back losses several weeks ago...
"When you drop out of the top 25, you drop out of the national conscience to a certain degree. It's even something as simple as the top 25 scores getting shown over and over throughout all these games across America, no matter what channel you're looking at, and then you don't see Georgia's score. Of course, playing in this game on CBS at 3:30 against a top 10 team and now with two top-25 teams playing against each other, it changes the dynamic of things, which is what we want."

SE Michael Bennett
On the possible return of injured FLK Chris Conley...
"It would be huge. He's a really good receiver and had been having a breakout year this year before that unfortunate ankle injury, but hopefully he will get back to game form."

On Auburn's improvements from last season...
"They're just more confident. On defense they don't really do a whole lot, they just kind of let the players play. They have a few coverages and blitzes they do, but they are just letting their players beat up players. It's going to be a lot like Florida in that they are going to man up on the outside and it's going to be up to us as receivers to get open and for Murray to put it on us."

ILB Amarlo Herrera
On defending Auburn's rushing attack...
"We just have to play football like we've been playing the whole time. We can't allow people to run the ball on us. That's what we've been doing well so we just have to stick to doing that."

On playing assignment defense to prevent big plays...
"That's with anything. It's like that with people running the power [rushing]. If you don't do the right thing then they get a big play. We just need to play football. We need to know what we have to do and just play physical."

On if facing teams like Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern in the past can help prepare for Auburn's rushing attack...
"I think so. All of it centers around the same concept because you have to be disciplined. So in that sense it helps because you have to be disciplined. It will be fun because I won't have to run around a lot. I get to play football and hit somebody every play and not have to cover as much as I do in other weeks because you know they're going to run the ball."

On how he feels physically with the amount of snaps that he has played...
"I feel good, man. I feel good. I love football. This is the only time I get to play and I've waited all year for this. So now I feel good."

SE Rhett McGowan
On whether or not the offense feels any added pressure to score points...
"I don't think we feel pressure. That's what we want to do each and every week if it comes to that. If it came to a high scoring game we're ready for that. That's actually pretty fun for an offense, but no pressure right now. We know we're capable of going out there and scoring a lot of points but they also trust their defense to go out there and get stops."

On teammate Jonathan Rumph...
"He's made a lot of strides. He's finally getting the grasp of our offense. He's made some plays this week, too, so it's exciting to see him out there making some plays. Hopefully he will continue to learn and continue to make plays for us."

QB Aaron Murray
On having to play at Auburn for the second season in a row...
"I definitely wish we could have had them at home, but we've got to be ready to go and we've to be ready for the noise. It's going to be crazy. 3:30, CBS, they're a top-10 team, I know that it's going to be packed out, lively, and we're going to have our challenges."

On his past success against Auburn...
"I don't know what it is, but hopefully it continues this Saturday, for sure. We've got to go out there and execute on offense, we've got to keep control of the ball, and we've got to keep their offense off the field and do our part."

On whether or not confidence from last year's win will carry over to this year...
"They've assembled a couple new parts here and there, but we just have to execute. We know if we do our thing offensively, if we prepare hard Monday through Friday, if we understand the game plan and we go out there and do our thing on Saturday then we can put points up."

S Connor NormanOn stopping Auburn's return unit...
"I feel like special teams' biggest thing is always effort. If everybody on the field is out there putting in a lot of effort then the spaces will go away. With kickoff if you're single blocking we just have to get off the block and we can't get taken up by just one guy. Other than that we just have to run and contain the guy. They're obviously talented returners. They hit it hard on kickoff and punt. They make quick decisions too. They're fast and that's the biggest thing. Most of the returners in the SEC are all fast and if you give them space then they're going to make something happen."

On if the special teams unit has turned a corner mentally...
"I think so. Obviously you never know but we try and stay focused and eliminate those mistakes, especially in a game like this. We can't have anything happen, so it's going to be a challenge and we'll have to focus on executing. We had a good game last week and our defense stepped up big with one blocked [field goal] and one missed [field goal], so that was big. I think the defense has come a long way too. Everyone sees it every week that we keep getting better and better. We just have to keep making strides and not taking any steps back."

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