Richt, Bulldogs Preview Outback Bowl

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Dec. 16, 2011

ATHENS-----Georgia head coach Mark Richt and a delegation of players met with the media Friday during the Bulldogs' Outback Bowl Media Day. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt
Opening Statement...
"It is a great day for the University of Georgia in that it's graduation day. We had a lot of student-athletes graduate today. We had 10 today from football. A couple of them had been playing pro football for a few years and came back and finished up. We've been averaging about 19 football players a year graduating over the last 11 seasons. We're just so proud of them, and it's fun to see those guys at the tail ends of their careers and seeing their families and the young men themselves be so excited about getting that sheepskin. Congratulations to all of those guys. Everybody else got to practice today. It was a great day, beautiful. It felt like the first day of spring ball. There was a lot of lively competition. I think we had a little scrap here and there. There was just a great spirit about everybody. I thought the effort was great. I thought we got better today fundamentally and at a competitive level. You definitely either get better or get worse, and I think we got better today. That was nice. 

"We know we're in for a tremendous challenge. I'm aware that they are pretty hungry for a bowl victory right now, but they have a lot of maturity and a lot of winners to go get after it. So we have to make sure we are ready to get after it too."

On whether motivation is different for a bowl game...
"This game has a bigger feel, having a dual purpose and a dual motivation. We want to win this game for a lot of reasons. We'd like to finish with 11 wins. We've had seven other teams do that and we'd like to be the eighth team. We would absolutely love for our seniors to walk out of that locker room with a smile on their face. It's hard to get all excited at the end of your career if the last game you played was a loss. It's tough. You're sitting there hugging everybody's neck and wishing them the best. It's going to be the last time that team is going to be together, and we want that to be a great victory. It's also the first game of 2012, and the way everything is set up in the BCS system, I think how you finish has something to do with how people see you when the season begins the next year. I think it's important for the future too to play well and try to get the victory. There are a lot of reasons why we want to win, and they have the same motivation. They have a great football team and a great group of players and coaches. You turn that film on, and you immediately see that you are playing a well-coached bunch of guys who get after it. We better be ready."

On how last year's bowl experience might help this year...
"It was just so different a year ago, just the overall spirit of the team by the time we got to that one. We were all professional and we all wanted to do our best. It was hard to have a lot of life. It was a battle. Out there today if you saw those guys, they were fired up about playing football. They were enjoying each other and had a great day. I think we've learned to understand that we get to play in a bowl game; we don't have to play in a bowl game. I think the guys are excited about the opportunity. I think overall this team has taken on a much more positive outlook on things from the very beginning starting last January."

On the relationship between Aaron Murray and Orson Charles...
"They have been friends a long time. I think they truly love each other as friends. I think they've both taken pride that they came to Georgia and had a mission to try to win some championships at Georgia. We've not won the SEC or anything beyond that at this point, but to win the Eastern Division championship was something I think they both enjoyed and got excited about because they both wanted to win some championships before they left here. Just their work ethic, they both are hard workers, they both love the team. They are a lot alike. They play different positions, but they both have been great leaders for us, and enjoy their friendship and camaraderie. I think they're happy with the decisions they made coming out of high school together. It's been a real positive thing. To get to play in Tampa in this bowl game I'm sure is going to be a lot of fun for their families and friends." 

On whether Richt and Orson Charles have discussed Charles' future...
"I've not. I would imagine every junior in the United States of America is kind of wondering when is the time and when is not the time. When the regular season is over and there is a little lull between that and the bowl game, I think some of those guys are thinking about it. If you'd been out there watching practice today, he was just soaking it in and enjoying being at Georgia. He's just kind of an upbeat guy who is just enjoying the experience right now. I'm sure somewhere along the line he's going to sit down and figure out what he wants to do." 

On Orson Charles' place among the tight ends in Georgia history...
"Orson is a very talented guy. He's not like a big giant guy when it comes to blocking, but he blocks bigger than he is. Because he's not this big lumberjack, he's a sleek receiver. He can run routes, he can change direction, he can catch the ball .You can split him out and play receiver. You can keep him at tight end and he's legitimate. Some guys will line up in the tight end position, but they're not tight ends in my opinion because they can't block like they can. Some tight ends will flex out as a third receiver, but they're not really a third receiver. This guy is a legitimate third receiver and a legitimate blocker. We try to take advantage of those guys best we can and hope to continue to do that." 

On Richard Samuel's status...
"We expect him to play in the game. He got some run polish, I guess it was today. We weren't ready to go full bore with him yet, but we expect him to play. I would imagine when we get to the bowl site he would do everything would be my guess from what I've heard from Ron (Courson). He may go full speed tomorrow. I haven't talked to Ron yet." 

On whether he would consider moving Samuel or another tailback to fullback next year...
"No, of the bunch of tailbacks right now, we would not put anybody at fullback. Richard I would definitely not put at fullback, none of those kids. If they came and asked me and begged me, I don't know. I don't see those guys as being the fullback type." 

On how much Richard Samuel has been missed while injured...
"Richard has been around the program a while. This is his fourth year. He's got some maturity about him, and that group had a lot of inexperience. When he was in there they were just a little more grown up. There was more stability there and more maturity there, so we definitely missed him. Just as a player he's a powerful back. He had a couple of great moments before when he played tailback, but as far as a game his last game he played when he got hurt, I think that was his best performance. I think he thought it was his best performance. Sometimes you need one of those games to give you the confidence to do it every single game. I think he was just hitting his stride and he got slowed up. I would say by the time we play the game he will have run the ball enough and changed direction enough. Hopefully he doesn't have much rust on him at all." 

On having an open competition at running back...
"Do you guys think anybody established themselves as a solid starter at the tailback position? I'm not seeing that. Competition is a good thing, so I'm looking forward to it." 

An Update on Mike Gilliard's progress towards returning to action from injury...
"I just saw him walking on the field here towards the end of practice. He did have a boot on, but he was not on crutches, he wasn't very ginger. His gait was good, and if you didn't look down below his knees you would say he was just walking normal. So I thought that was a good sign, but I have no idea for what that means for practicing in the next couple of days. Richard (Samuel) we expect to play unless there is some kind of set back. Michael we are hoping he can play." 

On player's he has coached throughout his career, if there has been a more scrutinized player than Isaiah Crowell...
"I won't talk specifically to Isaiah's notoriety, but nowadays the way the recruiting process is guys become bigger than life before they even walk on the campus. That's a tough responsibility for anybody to try to live up and to feel like you are just a regular guy when all of a sudden every move you do make somebody has got a comment on it or an opinion about it. That's got to be tough. I've talked to Isaiah. I've talked to other guys like (Matthew) Stafford, (Knowshon) Moreno and A.J. (Green) about learning to deal with the notoriety, the celebrity of it. I get to live with certain things, but you have to know that when you walk out the door to grab a bite to eat or something more than likely someone is going to come up to you and speak to you and maybe want an autograph, a picture or something like that. It's just kind of part of the thing, and you just kind of used to the fact that people watch you and are interested in what you say and do. That's tough on a kid that young. I'm pretty much of a full grown man I think most of the time. That's kind of hard to get used to myself, but I don't want to start a speech." 

With exams wrapping up this week is everyone going to be eligible...
"I have not talked to our academic people yet. I asked a bunch of kids today how they are doing and everybody seemed to be thinking things went well. I know going into it there weren't any major concerns but there's always a chance somebody blows up. Going into these rounds of exams it wasn't like we were holding our breath on anything." 

On if grades will be posted at a certain time that he knows of...
"I'm sure they will, but I don't know when the deadline is and I have not asked. Two days ago I started at 6 a.m. and got in at midnight. Yesterday, we practiced, went straight to the airplane, recruited and got in after midnight, got up went to graduation, did practice and came here, so really I haven't had much time to do anything other than recruit and coach." 

If it is gratifying to be having contract extension talks...
"Oh yeah. I know I had a comment that went out, but I love Georgia. It's a great place. It's our home. I want it to remain our home for a long time. I'm thankful that Georgia wants me to be here, and I certainly want to be at Georgia and now we just got to talk about terms and all that kind of thing. All the talks we've had have been very positive and upbeat. It is about the head coach sometimes because if the coach's contract is long enough everybody has a little bit of peace and has a sense that there is stability within the program. All that is going to happen, but there are other things that we talk about too. Student-athlete welfare stuff or maybe we can do this or that. He might see something that he would like me to improve and I might say we want to work on some kind of facility issue. What I'm saying is we've just had some great talks, not only about extending my contract, but what can we do to be the 'Best in America' type talks too, which is exciting. There are no great details to talk about, but it's an atmosphere of sensing the excitement of what the future is holding for Georgia. I feel like we've created a lot of really positive momentum and just want to keep it going. We want to do everything it takes to keep it going." 

On if his future has been something he's had to address in recruiting...
"There's been some that have just come out and said 'I'd like my son to go to Georgia, but I'm not sure what is going on' maybe in the summer or after the second game of the year. So there were some people that would just come out and say that, and there were others that maybe through the high school coach would say 'coach, if everything was set he would have done it a month ago.' You hear some of that type of conversation going on. Now that everything is real solid in that way I got a feeling there will be a few guys that were kind of holding back or maybe deciding on another school or rethinking what they are doing because they feel really good about what is happening at Georgia right now." 

If UGA has been playing catch up in the recruiting process because of that...
"Yes. I guess that's a good way to say it. We really felt like we were going to have a really good class or had the makings of a really good class. We knew the more we won the better chance we would have to nail a great one. I think we still have the potential for a really great class." 

If midseason enrollees can participate in bowl practice...
"They can but we are not going to do that. What happens is if the underclassmen participate in a bowl practice they can't play in these all-star games, so that's kind of stopped that a little bit. The other thing is that it used to be that they not only could practice on your site they could go to the bowl with you. They used to be able to get bowl gifts. Now it's a little different story. Those guys might have taken the bowl trip rather than playing in an all-star game and they had to weight that out. I think it's good. I don't think they can gain much by practicing once or twice. It's awkward. They don't know what they are doing. They're not going to be confident. I don't think it's a good idea."

On injury updates for Derrick Lott and Drew Butler...
"Derrick sprained he ankle in practice yesterday. Drew, he sprained his ankle out and about I guess. What happened was he had those shoes you get for tuxedo nights and they are kind of slick and slippery. He slipped, but I don't know exactly how it happened. You can ask him, but something happened where he slipped because the shoes were kind of slick and it tweaked it." 

On what he is doing to turn special teams around...
"First of all, we know we have got to get better. It's two things in my opinion that it could be - either what we are doing schematically or its who do we have on those teams. I guess it could be a third thing - are they actually doing what we are asking them to do. In all those areas we must improve. I think there's going to be a high sense of urgency on our special teams to become more than just decent. We need to become really good. That's one of the biggest things is that we try to become one of the top teams in the league and the country in special teams play. There will be some very heavy discussions about it. We'll probably do more special teams work in the spring than we've done in the past. We knew we had a great punter, great kicker, holder, snapper and all that kind of thing, but we also knew we had some youth on some of those teams. We lost (Akeem) Dent, (Darryl) Gamble, (Demarcus) Dobbs - I'm trying to think of some of the other guys that were on some of these guys that were on that punt team - they were guys that could protect, escape and run and tackle a guy in the open field. We lost a batch of those guys and we were a little shy on linebacker depth and all that kind of thing, so we just have to keep recruiting those kinds of guys. If we got to put a bunch of starters on defense on some specials or starters at wide receiver or whatever you got to do - tailback. I don't care what position, we got to get the best guys out there and understand how crucial it is." 

On his thoughts on his name being connected to other jobs...
"(Texas) A&M got bigger than life...I had not been contacted personally. Anybody who could have possibly represented me in any way, shape or form, never said to me A&M is interested. I don't know where all that came from. That was interesting to me to have that much smoke and no one that I know of got contacted on it. I have not heard a thing or word from Penn State. I've never been a guy to try and leverage a situation because the first day I got it here I said I want to be at Georgia. I said I wanted it to be the last coaching job I have. I'm very interested in winning, doing things the right way and stability for my family. I got to see at Florida State the benefits of stability in a coaching staff. I got to see the benefits of guys playing five years ago, six years ago, seven years ago, eight years ago, and coming back and seeing coach (Bobby Bowden). Seeing people he knows, loves and trusts it's great. I've coached with a couple guys along the way that have never seen a class go from freshman to senior in their whole career. They never stayed four or five years anywhere long enough to see a guy through to the end. You see guys like Ben Harden and Justin Anderson and all these guys like Bruce Figgins. You see them in their house when they are 17-year-old kids and then you see them all grown up ready for life. I enjoy that a lot. That's a big part of why I coach. You don't get that if you are always looking for something better. There's always going to be something that might look better, but for me, there is no place that is better." 

On if it gets irritating to have his named come up over the years in regards to other coaching jobs...
"I personally don't think it's become that big of an issue. I'll answer this. Have teams contacted me? Yes. Have people contacted my agents in the past? Yes. But I've always behind closed doors, behind the scene said you know what I appreciate your interest but I like it where I'm at and I don't have any interest. So a lot of things haven't become a big deal. I haven't said let me go fly there and take a look. I've never done that. I've never really wanted to do that because I care about our recruiting class currently. If I know in my heart this is where I want to be then I don't want to play a game for any reason. All I'm asking is for everything to be as fair as we can. I want to give Georgia my best, and I want Georgia to give us its best." 

On reflecting back to his playing days and the bowl game selection process being more open compared to now bowl games being more structured and which way he likes better...
"All I know is when I was a player we went to one bowl when I was at Miami. It was the Peach Bowl. That was a big deal. We froze our rear ends off. We got a Peach Bowl watch. I gave it to my dad. But I don't know. I think one that I would be for - and I might get in trouble for this but I hope not - I think it would be interesting to rotate some of the BCS games. Where the SEC may go to the Sugar Bowl this year, go the Fiesta next year and whatever and have people do that. But there is such tradition in the SEC with the Sugar Bowl and the Pac-10 and Big Ten or 12 or whatever they are called now going to the Rose and all that kind of thing. I don't know if that will ever happen, but I think that would be interesting for fans, players and coaches to have a different destination, a kind of built in rotating destination."

If there are any concerns with the defense from the second half of the LSU game...
"A lot of the issues were special teams related and turnover related. There's some times we just got gapped out on a run and it went to the house. I don't think we left there with problems we can't solve at all." 

Ben Jones
On playing Michigan State...
"It's going to be a great challenge. Michigan State has one of the top defenses in the, so from an offensive standpoint, we are looking forward to the challenge." 

On playing in a bowl game...
"It's been nice weather all week and we're looking forward to going to Tampa. We are really excited to go down there and experience everything that the Outback Bowl has planned for us. I think it's going to be a great bowl game for me. It's been a rollercoaster during my time at Georgia and I'm really excited about finishing off my career here with a bowl game." 

Bacarri Rambo
On getting back to practice...
"It feels good to be back on the practice field. Everyone had a good break and had a chance to give their bodies a rest after a long season. We're excited to be back out there and continue to get better and work on fundamentals." 

On stopping Michigan State's offense...
"We have to get in the film room and learn their offense. When we watch film, we have to pick up on some of the key things about their offense. Once we get out on the field, we just have to continue to play our best. We have to run to the ball and continue to do things that we have done all season. Everyone needs to focus on doing their job and not trying to do too much. Michigan State has good receivers and a really good quarterback. He is a guy that shows a lot of leadership and makes good decisions with the ball." 

On playing the last game of the season...
"We have to go out there and leave it all on the field. This is the last game of the season for us so we don't have anything else to look forward to. We have to go out there and give our all for this team and the fans." 

Christian Robinson...
On playing Michigan State...
"I'm really excited to play Michigan State. I was a freshman the last time that we played them and I didn't get to play. I think this game is going to be a great matchup because of the style of offense that they run and the defense that we have. There is a lot of motivation for both sides. We are both playing for respect and to end our seasons on a high note. These two teams match up really well on paper and I am excited to see how that translates on the field." 

On getting back to practice...
"We have had a lot of free times to finish up exams and wrap up the semester. Now, we are getting in the groove of bowl practices. We've had great weather this week, so practice hasn't been as rough."

On playing in a bowl game...
"The biggest difference in playing in a bowl game and regular season game is that there is a lot of stuff going on. We don't have school, so it's about playing football and enjoying the experience. This is a big trip for us. I love going to bowl games because we get to be with the seniors for one more trip and one more game. I'm ready to go out there and make some memories." 

Brandon Boykin
On bowl preparation...
"You have a lot more time to prepare for a bowl game than you do for a regular-season game. The environment is a little more laid back because we have some time to enjoy ourselves before the game. Once the game starts though, we have o handle business. We are going to treat this like any other game but still enjoy the experience." 

On Michigan State...
"Michigan State is a great team that is evenly matched on paper. They have a great defense and a lot of explosive players on offense. They have a great group of wide receivers and an experienced quarterback, so we have our work cut out for us. We're excited to get the chance to play them."

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