Richt, Bulldogs Preview Kentucky

More Video: Coach Richt Press Conference

Nov. 15, 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...
"Kentucky has an awful lot of Georgia boys on their team. I know they've had tremendous success recruiting our state. They have gotten a lot of great players out of our state. I'm certain that will be a big motivation for those guys. You wish you could sign all the guys in your state, but there's just not enough room with the current rules.

"Coach (Joker) Phillips is a guy we have a lot of respect for. When we watch their offense, we really like what they do. Schematically they have tremendous concepts and do great things and have great balance. So we know we have our work cut out for us. We're excited about the possibility of winning the SEC Eastern Division championship. That's the goal: win the game and if we win that game we're in. We know what's at stake. I think our guys are going to continue to stay focused throughout the week. I can't imagine them going backwards now. We're in a good place right now. I just hope we continue to prepare well and play well."

On Georgia's seniors...
"They sit in the front row of this team meeting room every time we meet. Our seniors always sit in the front row. Sometimes they can't believe how fast they got to the front row. When you're in the front row you have to lead, and you know it's on your watch. You know it's basically your team and it will be the memory that you'll have for the rest of your life. Right now they are very optimistic about how their senior season can finish. We all know it wasn't a tremendous start, but through their leadership and their play and perseverance, we've found a way to battle back in this thing and turn this thing into a season that might be one that everybody will remember real fondly. I'm proud of them. They've been through a lot. They've been through some rough moments, but they're here and they're in a good place right now."

On Georgia's offensive line...
"I really like what (offensive line coach) Will (Friend) has done. We knew Will was a good coach. I think the greatest compliment you can give a guy is you'll say, `He's a ball coach.' He loves football. He loves his family, he loves those linemen, and he loves the game of football. He's kind of a low-maintenance guy. The guys know he loves them and he cares about them. They also know he knows what he's talking about, and he's a joy to work with really. He has a lot of good suggestions. Some line coaches only see their picture. They don't really see the big picture. Will sees the big picture. I think some line coaches want to do nothing but hammer the run no matter what. It's kind of a macho thing. I think Will knows it takes a little bit of everything to be good up front. You can't just run the power every down and win. He understands those things. He's done a good job.

"There wasn't a lot of depth. Especially in the spring and fall when you are working two units and you're shaking your head saying we don't have much depth and we don't have much experience. Thankfully we've only had the one injury. We're not glad Dallas Lee got hurt, don't get me wrong, but we haven't had a rash of injuries up front with the veteran players or at least the players we felt like were ready to play SEC football. That's been helpful. Certainly it took a little while to mix and match a little bit before we settles in, but the guys are playing well. Cordy (Glenn) is playing left tackle when before he was playing guard. It takes a little time to get used to being out there on that island and being out there in space. Justin (Anderson) didn't even play offensive line last year. He didn't even play football last year. Ben Jones of course has been real solid. Dallas Lee came out of nowhere because in the spring he hadn't done anything for a year either. We weren't mad at him; we were just hopeful for the guy. Chris (Burnette) all last year had a knee issue. There were a lot of question marks coming into the season, and I think they've answered most of them pretty good."

On Trinton Sturdivant's plans after this year...
"I've talked to him over the course of the season and they've kind of bounced around a little bit like a lot of guy his age trying to decide what's best. It's been anything from continuing school to maybe getting out and geting some work experience as he tries and prepares to get into law school. I know he has a tremendous interest in athletic administration also. He's kind of bounced around a little bit. He's just a real smart guy who has a bright future, and we are going to help him realize whatever goals and dreams he has. He was talking about playing tight end too, so who knows?

On DeAngelo Tyson...
"I would consider him an unsung hero. He plays a position that sometimes doesn't get a whole lot of credit, but he's just been very efficient. He's been a really good football player for us, but he's done it in quiet fashion. He's a quiet guy. He's a man of few words. He's really come a long way as a player and even more so as a person. He's a grown up now. He's a man now. I'm really proud of him."

On becoming a fourth quarter team...
"The goal is always in your offseason to build stamina and strength and a physical and mental toughness that will help you win games in the fourth quarter. Sometimes you can't really go by the statistics. If you look at our fourth quarters right now, you might say they aren't doing a lot in the fourth quarter. We've had a couple of games where we've had the game in hand and you don't really need to do a lot in the fourth quarter sometimes. We did have a great fourth quarter victory in the Florida game, which was huge. That's the biggest emphasis. I think the fourth quarter itself was a big deal. In our weight room we have all the fourth quarter comebacks in the history of Georgia football. That was definitely a big point of emphasis. More than saying winning the fourth quarter, are you physically and mentally tough enough, and do you have enough stamina to play hard for the full 60 minutes? I think we have. Sometimes I sound like the weatherman, but we've had good weather this year. Sometimes you'll have a summer that's mild and you'll play the first three games and it's scorching. All of a sudden it looks like your strength and conditioning program isn't very good because they are so used to playing in a certain amount of weather, and then they start playing in something they didn't prepare in. Sometimes it might be the other way around. It will be hot all summer and it's a relatively mild fall. Weather does make a difference, I can tell you. I played at the University of Miami, I coached at Florida State...you invite some teams from up north to come play in September, it gets them. I think we were blessed with pretty good weather when it came to that type of thing. It's definitely more than the weather, don't get me wrong. We've prepared well and we've had very few injuries that have cost anybody the season. Sometimes it's luck and sometimes it's how you prepare. I think we've done a very good job in the offseason."

On Cordy Glenn and Brandon Boykin returning this year after they considered entering the NFL Draft...
"I mentioned the little moment with Cordy after the Florida game. Cordy is a little but like DeAngelo (Tyson) in that he doesn't say a whole lot. That moment might have been worth it for him. That's just my guess. I think with Boykin, we probably had that same conversation somewhere along the line in the celebration after that game, but I think they both have grown as people and they have become better football players and learned what it's like to be a leader. I think it's an important phase of college life. If you leave without having that opportunity to be the leader and be the senior, I think you do miss something. I'm not saying that should be the factor for staying all the time, but you do miss an opportunity to grow as a man." 

On the path of being on the brink of the SEC Championship game...
"We have this game here that we know is a very crucial game. We have to focus on the game more than anything else. Usually the loser of that Georgia-South Carolina game, historically you've been done. We have a chance to get back in it and control our own destiny. I don't know if there is a time that that team controlled its own destiny until this season. If we can finish strong, that'll be a first, so it would be unusual in that way."

On speaking confidently to the team after the South Carolina game...
"I go back to the locker room after the game and I basically said, 'Men, just don't put your heads down. Don't lose heart. We've got a chance to be good team.' I said, 'I left the field feeling encourage that we have the right stuff. Now, what are we going to do with it? Are we going to keep grinding and keep believing, or are we going to fall apart and start feeling sorry for ourselves and start pointing fingers? We can't do that. The only chance we got is to stay together, keep fighting and keep grinding.' I was encouraged. I've said before sometimes you got to think quick and try and make something up to make guys feel better after the game or to try and help the moral of your team. It was very heartfelt. I really believed that we had a special group of guys and a special chemistry that was built through the offseason, especially in camp. I left camp feeling like we got a chance to be really good."

On if Georgia can win the SEC Eastern Division, if it would be as satisfying as the other three SEC Eastern Division titles the Bulldogs have won under Richt...
"In 2002, that was pretty special and miraculous winning that Auburn game. The thing I remember most about 2005 has got to be D.J. Shockley and how he persevered. That was a special year without question. Of course, I skipped the one [overall SEC Championship] we lost. I don't know why. I don't even remember that year. Let's try to win this week."

On the team doing well overall this year in securing the football and not having a lot of fumble despite two from Isaiah Crowell last week...
"The first time I saw him carry the ball in a live drill for us my first thought was that the guy has good fundamentals in securing the ball. Once it's secured, it might have come out once this year. Our problem with him has been the exchange. Not saying that the QB was wrong or that he was wrong, but once he got it tucked it might have come out once. So we just go to make sure we are doing a good job. A lot of times when you guys [the media] watch us practice all you see us do is practice handing the ball off and you're like 'What are these guys doing? Every day they do it.' You can lose a game, and we have lost a game if you look at Colorado, if you have the ball on the ground. I think they have good ball security. (Brandon) Harton got one knocked out, but Harton had a little trouble with that in the spring. That was my biggest fear with him because I think he's a good runner and I think he's a tough kid. But would he secure the ball? After that he did a very good job."

On if at any point this season he sensed a weight being lifted off of everyone from the players to the coaches...
"I don't know. I've been so focused. I knew the best shot we got was for everybody to just do your job. You focus on doing your job. Don't focus on anything swirling around - good or bad. Just do your job. So I kind of have been in that mindset and I'm still in that mindset right now. I'm not sitting her saying that there's been any moment in time that I've had some kind of weight lifted. I'm just trying to finish the drill. I'm trying to do my job."

On if there is any statistic that he looks at in regard to Georgia getting back on track...
"The turnover ratio for sure. That's number one. We've not lost the turnover ratio in our win streak. We certainly lost it against South Carolina. If we had won the turnover battle that day we might have won that game too. I think we did win or it was tied - there was not many turnovers in game one. That wasn't the deciding factor in game one. We just got beat. But that's the number one thing is the turnovers. The funny thing is you spend hours on schemes - offensive, defense, special teams - you're grinding, but the most important thing you can do is secure the ball or disrupt the ball on defense. It's not some type of rocket science. It's the most important thing, so why don't you spend 50-percent of your time on it? Well, there's not much to coach once you teach the fundamentals. You've just got to do it. Sometimes it's funny we spend so much time on all these things and really the most important thing is are you going to secure that ball? You guys [the media] have been out there a lot of times when we are doing ball disruption and ball security as soon as kicking is over, and we do it every day we are wearing pads. It's hard to do those drills when you're not in pads. But that's every single day. Every single day in camp we do it. The goal is to keep it from being such a mundane thing or such a boring thing - you don't want it to become a boring thing - you got to make sure the drills are still meaningful and they are really working hard on it. What will happen is things throughout the season will happen where you are like 'look at that, that's the difference between winning and losing.' So what I'm saying is that if there is a crowd of people get on the thing and don't try scoop it up in a crowd it's because of what happened right there. It's the most important stat."

On the UGA-UK series being marked by turnovers... 
"Certainly, two years ago we were up by 14 I think at half and turned it over at least four times in the second half. It didn't help us at all."

If Drew Butler is in a slump this season...
"I don't think so. He only punted one time last game and that was not a good hit."

On Georgia's net punting being ranked high nationally last year but lower this year...
"That's a team thing. The punt itself is part of the net, but net punting is when you tackle people when you get there. You don't let them return it for touchdowns and big plays like we did this year. Is that the punter's issue? He has some responsibility. But (Drew Butler) really hasn't done a whole lot different this year than he has done every year. The difference is that we didn't run down the field and tackle well - the biggest difference." 

On keeping a kicker rotation the rest of the way...
"It's possible. So far it's been good. It's been good for Georgia."

Sanders Commings
On the team's confidence...
"We are very confident right now. We know what we are capable of doing and we know what we are supposed to do. Coming off of last week's game against Auburn, we see what can happen when every part of the team plays like they are capable of and we are team that is tough to beat."

On Kentucky's offense...
"Kentucky has playmakers on offense. All of their skill players have the capability of making big plays. We have to do our part to limit the big plays that they are capable of."

On the team's preparation...
"Our coaches make sure that we know that we have to prepare for this game the same way that we have prepared for every other SEC game this year. That's what we're going to go out and do."

On this senior class...
"This senior class came in at a time when Georgia was on top. The guys have done their part to get us back to the way things were back in 2007 and 2008. They have taken over this team and have held everyone accountable, which are two big things that you have to do to be a good leader."

Abry Jones
On Kentucky...
"Kentucky has a really good offensive line that plays well together. They also have two good running backs that can run the ball well. One thing that we have to do is to not let them get into a rhythm because when they do, they can be really dangerous."

On the fans...
"We want to go out and show the fans that we are grateful for their support, even through the slow start. We're happy that we got things turned around and the fans were a big part of that. We want to go out and have a good game so that the fans can send the seniors out in a blaze of glory."

On creating turnovers...
"We have a better understanding of the defense. We come ready to play at every phase. The DBs are doing a great job of getting interceptions because the line as done a better job of rushing the passer. When the ball is out or loose we really go after it instead of hoping that it will bounce in our direction."

On the team after the 0-2 start...
"It was tough after the 0-2 start but as a team we knew what we could do. The difference this year is that after both losses, we didn't feel like we got beat, more like we beat ourselves. That is something that has turned around for us. We aren't beating ourselves anymore and I think that the defense is doing a great job of getting the offense the ball close to the end zone. The offense has gotten better at putting together long drives that run the clock out. We have done a lot to make sure that both sides have come together."

Aron White
On playing in Sanford Stadium for the last time...
"Hopefully it's a situation where we can come out and get a good lead and ensure victory as early as we can. I'm sure as soon as my mind shifts to `This game is winding down and it's almost over,' it's going to be very emotional. Coming out for my senior day game and meeting my family on the field is something that I'm going to cherish forever. At the same time, it's bittersweet. Even though I want to cherish my last game between the hedges, it's sad that my time here at Georgia is coming to an end and I'm never going to put the G on my helmet and suit up in Sanford again. I'm just going to try and make the most of it and make as many memories as I can on Saturday."

On Kentucky's defense...
"Their defense has something like eight or nine returning starters. They're definitely a team that has played well and beaten us before; the starters on that team have beaten my teams in the past. Definitely, we have a healthy amount of respect for them. They're in a position where they've gotten left out on the field for a lot of snaps, and I feel that maybe that's contributed to some of their statistics not being as impressive as other teams. We know that they're a team that has a good defense, can stop people and can play very well. We definitely don't want to take it for granted how good of a team they can be, because we're 2-2 against them since I've been here. We know that they can beat us on any given Saturday and we want to respect them. We're going to prepare for them just like we prepare for Florida, Tennessee, Auburn or anybody else; and that's with a healthy amount of respect, but without any fear in our hearts because we know that with our abilities, if we play the game that we know how to play and if we prepare like we should this week, nobody should be able to stop us."

On the chance of going to the SEC Championship...
"It's really good for our program, as a whole. It's been too long since we've been back to the SEC Championship. You know, 2007 was a year I think we definitely should have been playing for the championship. We dropped the ball against two SC East opponents early, and it put us out of the running. That was tough to see that happen and since then, we seem to put ourselves out of contention early. That weighs on your season a little bit, not being able to stay in that hunt. On the positive side, it means a great deal to me because I haven't had the chance to play in the SEC Championship, nobody on this team has. If we can go out and handle business like we should this Saturday, we'll be afforded that opportunity. What we need to do right now is focus in on Kentucky, because they're what's standing in between us and going back to the Dome."

Aaron Murray
On the opportunity to play for the SEC Championship...
"It's a great opportunity. It's something we've been working for ever since January, we took a little hit after the second game of the year, but we never lost confidence in ourselves, our teammates or our coaches. We've just been chipping away, chipping away, chipping away, and we had confidence that South Carolina might lose a couple of games and we wanted to be in the position that if they did, we'd have a chance to make it back to Atlanta. Our guys have stayed extremely focused, we've played extremely hard and we've put ourselves in that situation. We're one game away from getting back there and it's pretty exciting. I know our guys are pumped up and ready to go."

On the Kentucky defense...
"Very athletic defense. They're like any SEC defense you're going face, and they probably have two of the best linebackers in the country on their team. One guy has about 118 tackles and the other guy has about 108 tackles. They're very athletic, right up the middle. They're athletics all around, but definitely the heart and soul of their defense is in that linebacking corps. We're going to have to work hard; we're going to have to prepare hard like we've been doing all season and I think we'll do fine."

On the pressure going away this year...
"I think we put the pressure on ourselves. I know we feel like we're a great team. I think we're a young team and we have a lot of potential. I think we saw that, especially after the South Carolina game, we have the potential to be something special and we just had to continue working. Like I said, we put the pressure on ourselves to continue working hard and get better. I think that's why we've done so well and why you've seen the improvements week in and week out. We are pushing ourselves to be the best team we can 

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