Richt, Bulldogs Preview the Georgia Tech Game

Nov. 26, 2013

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ATHENS, Ga. - 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...
"Coach (Paul) Johnson has done an outstanding job there over the years. One of the things that stands out to me is that they are not only one of the best rushing teams in America, but they have one of the best rush defenses in America. They are No. 4 in rushing and No. 10 against the run. They are also top-15 on offense and on defense in the red zone. Those are tremendous statistics. Overall, 21 out of their 22 starters are at least third-year players. There are a lot of redshirt seniors, redshirt juniors and redshirt sophomores. The lone two-year guy is a true sophomore. They are a very veteran team and it shows."

On the AFCA Academic Achievement Award...
"It's really great news. The University of Georgia, Rice, Stanford and Tulane will all share the American Football Coaches Association 2013 Academic Achievement Award. We recorded 100 percent graduation rate for the members of our freshman class of 2006. We're pretty excited about that and proud of what is going on in the classroom, as well."

On his experience in the series against Georgia Tech...
"Well we've won most of the games, but I don't know if I'd say that we've taken it over. There have been so many close games, and we've been able to win the close games - most of them. I think our guys understand how important this game is. I don't know if we've had a game where I'd say that we came out flat. I think we're playing our best football when we play Georgia Tech. A lot has to do with wanting to honor our seniors with the way that we finish as a team, and I think a lot of it is that most of our guys grew up in Georgia and understand it."

On Hutson Mason...
"I think Hutson is ready. Hutson has worked extremely hard. I say this a lot, and it's true - your second team quarterback has to be just as prepared as your first team guy, but going into the game, you never really know if you're going to get into the game. It's a hard thing to do. I spent a lot of time being a backup quarterback, so I know. I can promise you that he is a lot more prepared than I was back in my day. I wasn't as mature as he is. In the spring, he's with the second team offensive line and second team offense vs. the number one defense, and you've got to try to have some success in that situation. That's not always easy to do, but he's been able to do that. He's been a guy that's been able to make plays and get drives going when maybe other people just kind of folded up. That's been great experience for him, and now he's the guy. That's a new experience for him. He probably had a pretty good idea in the middle of the Kentucky game that he may be playing for the rest of the year, but this is the first time that he's had a whole week to prepare. One thing that will change is that he'll get all the reps in practice. Let's say we have a five-minute drill and there are so many plays that we're going to execute where the ones will run them all until everyone is satisfied, and then whatever time is left, the twos get to get as many reps as possible. The twos rarely get all the reps of all the plays in the game plan, so this will be a first for him to make sure he gets all the reps."

On previous conversations with Hutson Mason...
"He wasn't sure what to do. He asked me to treat him as I would my own son. If he were my son, what would I tell him? One of the things I told him was that first of all, there's really no guarantee that wherever you go is going to be any better of a situation. With having to sit out, you might transfer, sit out, and then while you're sitting out, some other guy may take off and play his tail off, and then all of the sudden you're stuck. The other thing I thought was important is that he was still learning and he was still getting better. We run a system that a guy who really loves quarterback plays - learning the game of football and learning everything from defenses to the run game, all of the blocking schemes and protections and route concepts. Everything that you have to learn in this system - it's a lot, and he's really learning football. I thought he was getting better as he went. The other thing was that no one was really sure if Aaron was going to leave after last year or not, so by redshirting Hutson last year, it could have been that he was a two-year starter if Aaron decided to go. He knew there was a risk that Aaron would stay, but at least he knew that he'd have his senior year as an opportunity. He even said that nothing is guaranteed to him. I read a little comment of his a week or two ago where he said, `There's no guarantee I'll be the starter next year' and he said `No one owes me anything.' He's not sitting there thinking that. He's a great guy, I believe in him and I think our players do, too."

On the team's level of respect for Hutson...
"I think the guys rally around him and play their best. I think everybody knows that he knows what to do. Nobody knows how he's going to respond to being a starter for the first time and all that kind of thing, but when you practice a certain way week after week for three or four years, everybody has a sense that this guy is on the ball. He knows what to do. He's capable. People ask me what I look for in a quarterback: Is he an accurate passer? Is he a good decision maker? Can he handle the pressure of the job? Well, we're about to find out if he can handle the pressure of the job."

On Sheldon Dawson...
"First of all, I was really happy to see him have success on that return (against Kentucky). I think his teammate was about to tell him to stay back in there, and he just got tired of taking a knee back there and just came out of there and thankfully broke a couple of tackles and had a big return. You want a guy back there that has that type of faith and confidence in himself to really hit it up in there. Just watching him in practice in that role, I was just waiting for an opportunity for this guy to return a kick or two because I think he really has the potential to break kick returns for us. As a defender, I think I mentioned earlier that he's very good in man coverage. I think he's probably better when he's pressing up tight rather than giving space, but there are a lot of guys that go into that category. He's earned playing time with the defense as well as the special teams reps, but he's a very valuable part of our team."

On how today's weather affects practice...
"We're going to go out to Flowery Branch and get a practice in over there."

On the team's mentality heading into the Georgia Tech game...
"I'm glad we played well last week, obviously. It was a tough loss. It was an unusual way to lose a game. It could have been the highest of highs, and I don't know if it was the lowest of lows, but from where we were to how the game ended, it was tough to take. I think everybody was feeling it, but like I said before, once we started practicing, I think work is a good antidote to being bummed out. If anybody is out there bummed out, get up and go to work. Get up and do something active. It helps. I'm not saying it's going to solve your problem, but it helps. In sports, you get a chance to play again most of the time if it's not the last game of the year. Of course in basketball and baseball, those guys rebound a whole lot faster because they go play the next day. In football you have to wait a little bit longer, but it was good to see how we came out of it. I'm glad we had a good victory and we're in good spirits right now, at least, because you better bring your best. We've got to bring our best to have a chance in this game. I'm just very impressed with what I'm seeing from Georgia Tech."

On punters Collin Barber and Adam Erickson...
"By the end of the week, we'll decide. It's just how they've been performing at practice. It's been more of a competitive thing, and we felt like (Adam) deserved the start (against Kentucky), and he did a good job."

On how former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden would prepare his teams for rivalry games...
"When I was at Florida State, it was Florida and Miami, and that was about it twice a year. I just think everybody's blood was pumping in those games. I don't think there was much to be done in those games. It's not like there's a lot that has to be done in this game for us, but I will say that we have more rivals maybe than anybody. It just seems like everybody is a rival for us. There's just something about a rival game or a big game. I think a certain amount of adrenaline kicks in throughout the week, and then it just spikes. It spikes right before that opening kickoff."

On having to go to Flowery Branch to practice today...
"It'd be much nicer to have something like that closer. You do spend a lot of time on the logistics of it. It's not like we just say, `Let's go there or let's start practice and then if it gets bad, we'll go over there.' It's just not that way, so when you have days like this and you're trying to figure out what to do, you spend a lot of time trying to work out all of the details. It's not only me as a coach, but our director of football operations, our managers and trainers - everybody. It changes everybody's life."

On the possibility of having an indoor training facility in Athens...
"It would be wonderful. I think that would be a great thing...If you look at our grass right now, it's too soft. Our field turf fields are about to get redone, and that will be really helpful for us. I'll say this, too - when I looked at the weather forecast for the game, it's supposed to be mid-40s and sunny. If it was going to be rainy and nasty on Saturday, I probably would have practiced here in the rain and the nasty, but I didn't feel like it was that important to do if we weren't going to play in it."

On incoming freshman and early enrollee Jacob Park...
"He did sign that he's coming in at mid-year, and he had his official visit this weekend. One of the days early in December we'll make a home visit. He's got a couple of All-Star games to go to, and then he's coming right to campus and getting ready to go. We want guys that are really good passers, and he's an outstanding passer. I think he's very sharp and a very good decision-maker. We'll find out about how he handles pressure once he gets here, but he's got the things that we've looked for over the years to have a guy that we think will be successful. We've been blessed with good quarterbacks over the years."

On recruit Josh Malone...
"I think the guy is a dynamic player. I really do. I think he's a guy that could come in as a freshman and make a difference, especially if he comes in at the mid-year, which I think is his plan for wherever he goes. With the knowledge that he'd gain in the spring and the summer, and to have a guy like Chris Conley to mentor him, he could take advantage of his skillsets, which I think are outstanding. He has great speed and great height. He's a very sharp kid, and comes from a great family. We'd love to have him."

On the future of the financial aid agreements between universities and recruits...
"I don't know what has to happen for everybody to say, `Ok, he's a mid-year guy.' But if you sign it and then he doesn't go mid-year, what does that mean? I don't know. So my guess is that everybody is going to try to get those guys to sign them, whether they're mid-year or not so that they can have more communication with them. They can text them, they can talk about them and they can do all of these things. So I think what's going to be the important thing is that everybody that's signing these things is legitimately attempting and has a very good chance of being a mid-year enrollee. A year ago, when we had all of those mid-year guys, I think it would have been a zoo. The amount of freedom that we would have had, including going to see them, I don't know if we could have managed all of that. I don't know if we could have gotten to that many guys and still coached during the season without it getting chaotic, so I think there's a limit to everything."

On recruits being able to sign multiple financial aid agreements...
"If you can only sign one, it'd be an early signing date, I guess. I don't know if doing this is wise or not. I think time will tell. I don't know if I'd call it abuse, but there will be some people taking full advantage of it, and we'll see if it's enough to say, `Hey, maybe this wasn't a good idea.' I think the jury is still out on this one."

On whether or not the Auburn game was a good preparation for playing Georgia Tech...
"It's really different. Philosophically it's the same as far as wanting to run it and having a QB runner and that type of thing, but the types of plays that they run are just so different."

QB Hutson Mason
On handling the expectations of now being a starter...
"I'm just taking the same approach, and my preparation steps are the same way. What (Aaron) Murray has taught me over the four years that I've been here and showing me how to prepare and the steps that it takes to prepare as a champion and prepare to win. It's a lot of long hours, but it's something that I know how to do. What I'm going to do to prepare hasn't changed, so that's good. You just get a few more text messages and a few more phone calls from everybody, so that's what's changed pretty much."

On who all he has heard from...
"I've heard from D.J. Shockley and David Pollack calling to encourage me. I really can't think of anybody else. I talked to (Aaron) yesterday. He was in really good spirits. I was really encouraged by his attitude, and I know he's having surgery this morning, so we're going to pray for him."

On advice he's received from Aaron Murray...
"We just briefly talked last night at supper when I saw him. I gave him a hug and we just kind of laughed it out. He said, `Did you miss me at practice getting all the reps?' He was just joking around, and we just laughed for a few seconds and then he was distracted by someone else talking to him, so that was it."

On moving into the starting position following Aaron Murray's ACL injury...
"It's unfortunate the way it happened. Sports are cruel, but they can also teach a lot of life lessons, and that's what I've learned over my four years. It is just part of being a back-up. You have to be ready at all times. There were many times in my four years here where I was just tired of being in the same position - mentally, physically and emotionally. I can tell you that every day that I walked in here, I wanted to prepare. I was always wondering if my preparations would ever pay off, and the thing about it is that you never know when it will. You can look really stupid if you just kind of go about your business and don't ever prepare. So that was one thing I just challenged myself to do is to always prepare because you never know when your opportunity is going to come. I wanted to make the most of it because I knew my opportunity was short and that window was short."

On his personality on and off the field...
"I'm pretty laid back until I step on the field for game day. It's just something about stepping on there when the lights are on and the moment is bright. It just kind of fires my passion just to compete and go out there. We put so many hours and so much effort and so much work in during the week that you want to go out there and you want to play well and succeed, and you want to win. I'm definitely passionate."

On his style of play...
"(The offensive line) knows that I like to keep things going a little quick. It's not like Oregon, but I just have a tendency from playing at Lassiter (High) where we were up-tempo and no-huddle offense, so just by my nature I'm a little faster than Aaron."

On his decision to come to Georgia...
"I think when I first got here and I realized that Aaron was going to be the man and I was going to have to play seconds, so to speak, for quite a while. Thoughts like that did come to my head. When I met with Coach Richt twice after two seasons, I tried to figure out where was the best fit for me. I told Coach Richt this, and especially again at the end of the season, but my heart was telling me one thing and my pride was telling me another thing. My heart wanted to be a Georgia Bulldog, but I knew I just wanted to play, and I knew time was running out. It was a very, very tough decision. I don't think I even knew what the right decision was, but I just had to trust the Lord and go with it. It's just funny how things work out. Still, I only get 16 games in my career, so it's not a lot of time to leave a legacy and leave a mark, but I'm very thankful for the opportunity that I have now to get some experience. I'm thankful for the opportunity that I had against Kentucky, and I think that will go a long way going into this week. I always say that through my preparation and through my hard work that I've been consistent with up to this point, I think it will pay off."

On his conversations with former Georgia quarterback D.J. Shockley...
"D.J. was a real help for me going through these times. It was just a lot of text messages and a lot of calling. I can definitely say that he's been the most influential person in my time here - him and Coach Richt."

On his mentality at this point...
"I feel as prepared as I ever could be. Not one step of the process has changed."

WR Chris Conley
On Hutson Mason...
"It's hard to explain the fact that we're not really fretting at all about this game coming up. Everyone is actually extremely calm, and there's no difference in the way that the offense is being run. There are no differences in the plays that we're running. Hutson is executing at the same level that Murray did, just because he's been in the system for so long. We're comfortable with him, and there's a lot of emphasis that falls on other people this week because (Georgia) Tech has a very good defense. We're not really worried about Hutson because there are so many other things that we as an offense have to get better at and prepared for this weekend to have success."

On Hutson's demeanor...
"He's just so ready to play. He's a very ambitious guy, and he has that kind of energy where when he comes into a huddle, it's fearlessness. It's really a go-getter attitude that he has. He doesn't beat himself up about mistakes. He wants to move forward, and I think that fact makes him the kind of quarterback who won't have those jitters. He may feel them, but I think that his ambition overrides that."

On backup quarterback Faton Bauta...
"I feel great about him. We joke around and call him Faton Tebow. He's not that big, but that's the kind of body he's got. He has a big body and arm that he can sling it with, too. He's built different than the other quarterbacks that we have, but he also brings a different dimension to the game because he's a fearless runner and also can zip the balls in there. You have to watch out for both of those things."

On handling the adversity through injury...
"It's really a process of patience. It's a huge process of patience, and it's great having guys like this around. When Michael (Bennett) had his injury, all the guys in the receiving group and on the offense, the whole team really, was at the hospital talking to him and being supportive. When I had mine, it was the same way. Regardless of the fact that mine was a four and a half week injury, it was still the same with guys giving me encouragement and telling me to stay patient. It really helped me transition. Even if you're off the field, it helps you realize that you're still part of the team."

FS Connor Norman
On preparing for Georgia Tech's offense...
"It's a little bit of a mindset change, but at the same time it's still assignment football like we play every week. It's a little bit different of a scheme than you normally play against. I don't think there's that much of a difference. I really think you just have to continue to focus on your fundamentals and play through your assignments."

On the cut blocking that Georgia Tech employs...
"I think the coaches have been talking about it more than [the defensive linemen]. I've been hearing about it for four years now so we definitely hear a good deal about that during this week. It's tough to deal with, but it is just football and we're preparing for it."

DE Garrison Smith
On preparing for Georgia Tech's offense...
"We just have to be disciplined. This is the game that's most important, and we just have to be disciplined and just do our job over and over and over again. No matter how boring it gets, you just have to do your job. It's assignment football."

On getting advice from his brother, who played for Georgia Tech...
"No, he never told me anything. He just told me good luck and to do the best I can."

On Georgia Tech's cut blocking...
"I don't think any linemen look forward to that, but it's football. We have to play against it so we have to deal with it. It's tough but we have to deal with it and fight through it."

On this being the final game vs. Georgia Tech in his career...
"Oh yeah [I take pride in trying to win this game]. Your goal is to try and win every game so I approach them all the same. I just want to win, especially with this being one of my last games as a Bulldog before my career is over. It's big. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a great game."

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