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October 8, 2013
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Rich - "It's good to be home again and good to play between the hedges. We only have three more shots this year playing at home. I know our fans are looking forward to it, and our players are. We are looking forward to a great crowd. It's a noon kickoff, and historically those have been a little slow starting as far as getting people in the stands. Even the Dawg Walk sometimes is a little bit different from a 3:30 game or a night game. I know the Bulldog Nation will rally and be there early and be a difference maker for us because we need the help. I'm thankful for our fans and what they've done to this point, and we're looking forward to another great atmosphere at home.
"Missouri is a very, very hot team. They just moved into the top-25 for good reason. They are 5-0 and 1-0 in league play and very dominating against Vanderbilt last week. It was kind of scary actually to watch the tape of it. They were so proficient on offense.
"As I said before, they are a very, very hot team. They are a team that looks very confident and should be. They are very well-coached, and they are looking to win the East just like we are. We are both undefeated in league play. It's a huge game, and we're looking forward to the challenge of it."
What players do you see stepping up this week?
Richt - "At the receiver position, Michael Erdman is already learning and getting more reps. Michael has been in our program for awhile now, and he has a pretty good working knowledge of what we do. He's been working mainly on the scout team, as has Blake Tibbs. Tibbs has also been in the program for a little while, and he has a working knowledge of our system. So it's not like we're going to teach them from scratch, but both of them have mostly spent time on the scout team. I don't see (Jonathon) Rumph playing this week. I think Rumph is still a ways off on his hamstring, unfortunately. He's a guy that was here in the midyear and had a good spring and had a good camp, but he's just been hampered by that injury. Early on in camp, we're thinking that he's probably going to get himself in this rotation at receiver, and by now it'd be nice to have him more ready than he is, but he's just not ready. He's not getting reps, and he's not healthy right now.
"Obviously our two freshman backs will have to be ready to carry the load. (Kyle) Karempelis and Brandon Harton have played well at tailback for us in the past, so we'll expect them to be ready. I don't really know for sure on (Todd) Gurley's situation. I would say that it's doubtful. I don't know if doubtful is the best word, but he's not going to practice today, I know that. Tomorrow, we'll see how he runs just straight ahead. Is he going to play this game? He could. We're not counting him out, but we have to prepare as if he won't play. For the most part, I think that covers our main issues."
How fast is Todd Gurley progressing?
Richt - "He's getting better. He's getting better maybe a little bit more quickly than Ron (Courson) was thinking initially. It didn't really swell all that bad. It's one thing to be able to run straight, and it's one thing to be able to change directions, but it's another thing to be able to run the way he runs the ball when you start getting two and three guys trying to knock you back and you're driving through people. You start adding all the resistance of that weight, and that becomes a problem, so we just want to make sure he's really healthy before coming back."
What is the team's mentality
Richt - "I think we're fine. We're ready to go to battle again. Football is a physical game with injuries, and other teams have injuries. Some guys are very excited about the opportunity to make more contributions, and the rest of the guys are excited about making their phase of the game stronger in order to help the spots that we're wounded at, to a certain degree. I think everybody's excited about the challenge of it all."
What are the challenges now facing offensive coordinator Mike Bobo as a result of player injuries?
Richt - "Basically, in the game of football and the game of life, adversity strikes. Things happen, and you've got to decide what you're going to do about it. You can panic, you can get mad, you can start blaming things or you can assess where you're at and realize what resources you have. You find a way to win, and that's what we do here at Georgia. Mike did a great job of that, I thought, of just knowing who all we've got and getting everybody in the right positions. It wasn't just Mike - it was our assistant coaches who are also doing a great job, in that regard. A lot of the success that we had, say on the last drive, had to do with a lot of preparation all along. Some guys have been preparing for two years or three years or one year. There's everything that goes on in camp with all the reps that we get and all the tests that we take. We're preparing for things that can happen where you have to step up and be ready to go. I think all the prep work on the front end came in handy when we needed it the most. I think Mike did a good job. (Aaron) Murray basically just told Wooten to run this route on this play. If he didn't like what he saw outside, he was going to try to jam it in there, which he did. He had single coverage. Now Wooten had claimed that he was getting outside leverage for most of the day, and he was most of the time on the goal line down there. On that particular play, they were playing a little bit more inside leverage than you'd want on that route, but through his experience and reps, Wooten knew how to get inside position on a throw like that. All of those things came together at that moment, and you had a little protection and a little nerve, and good things happened."
Do you like being part of games that exciting?
Richt - "I wouldn't go that far. I go back and watch the TV copy, but I can't just say I'm being entertained at that time. I'm still evaluating. I'm still looking for things that we might need to correct or looking for things that I might can build on, as far as motivation or whatever it may be. I can't say I'm sitting there being entertained by it. Even driving away, sitting in the car with my wife on the way to the airport, I think I made the comment that you could see why there were 100,000 people there. You could see why college football is one of the most exciting sports out there. It's very, very dramatic stuff, and we've had the most drama in a two-week period that we've probably had in a long time when it comes to games that were just tightly contested and hard fought. To come out on top has been very gratifying."
Did you anticipate having to depend on so many freshmen on defense?
Richt - "We knew a lot of freshmen would probably play this year, and we have had quite a few start on defense. Shaq (Wiggins) has, Tray (Matthews) has and Leonard Floyd has. You've had (Brendan) Langley, too. Chris Mayes is playing a lot. He's not a freshman, but he's brand new to the program. There are a lot of first-time starters, whether they're new to the program or not. You take lumps. You look at Missouri's defense - six seniors and four juniors. That's a lot of experience, and that makes a difference. I remember the year we played Boise State. I think they said they had something like 16 three-year starters on that team, and it makes a difference, especially early on the year. Those guys are talented, they're getting coached up and they're learning as they go. When you learn, you make mistakes. It's just the way it is. You hope they can learn and make mistakes while they're in practice, as they're getting their chance to start two or three years in, but that's not the way life goes all the time. When guys get thrown into the fire right away, we're watching them mature right before our eyes, and it's painful sometimes. They just have to keep their faith and keep banging away so they can keep getting better."
How do you feel about the progress of J.J. Green?
Richt - "We knew as we put him in the role of playing tailback in the spring that this guy is pretty good. He's got some natural running skills, and he's got some great balance. He is more powerful than you might think. He looked like he could be a legitimate back. To have him play the role that he played in this game, would we have predicted that? Probably not. We're thinking that it's going to be Gurley and it's going to be (Keith) Marshall. He was battling Brendan Douglas for the third spot, and A.J. Turman really would have been in that mix a little bit more if it wasn't for an injury that he had during camp. We knew that the third team spot was going to be highly contested between Green and Brendan Douglas and A.J. Turman. To have him have that kind of game, I wouldn't have predicted it."
How has Damian Swann played so far?
Richt - "Damian, I'd say, is struggling right now. He's missed some tackles in the open field, and he's gotten beat on some coverages that have been tough on him. There have been some things that he has struggled with, but he's also made plays for us, as well. I think if you asked him, he'd tell you that he wants to perform better and he's working towards that."
On Marshall Morgan's progress from last year to this year
Richt - "When I saw his high school film, it was a year where we knew that we better get us a kicker. We tried to look at whom we thought were the best kickers in the country, and of all the film I saw, to me he was the best. From what I saw, he was the best. We went after him, and we got him committed, and we were very excited about it. Of course, last year he did struggle as a freshman. Why those guys struggle, I don't know, but I knew he had it in him. He kicked very well in the spring, and he kicked extremely well in the fall and in camp. Obviously, he couldn't kick the first two games, which was kind of sad. It's like watching Josh Harvey-Clemons practice, and we're thinking, 'Man, I wish he could play in this game' or 'I wish Marshall could kick in these first couple games,' and it's just because they had been practicing so good. But anyways, it's been good to see him kick the extra points and the field goals the way that he has. With the kickoffs, we've given him much more of a leeway to try to knock it out. We were trying to get distance and height, and now we're just saying that if he can knock it out, just knock it out. By giving him that freedom, he's done better. From a coaching point of view, it's on me, right or wrong. Some of his kicks weren't going out because we liked the hang time. The guy was kicking 4.1 or 4.2 hang time, which is a long time to hang a kickoff. If you remember early on, most of our tackles were inside the 20 with that unit. Of course, you get the one that goes to the house and then you start saying let's just trying to knock it out. That's been more on me than anything else, and I think he's been doing a lot better job of that."
Will the tight ends see more involvement in the passing game?
Richt - "In our system, we're going to throw to the guy that's open, and they're one of the receivers that run routes. We have concepts where a lot of times we have five receivers running routes. We'll have two or three receivers, a tight end and a back, or whatever it might be. One of the reasons why I think we're successful is because Murray throws to the open guy. He goes through his progression, and some games it happens to be that the tight end is the one that gets open and gets a bunch of balls, and sometimes it's not. We're not going to sit here and force the ball to a tight end or to any given receiver or any given back. We're going to throw it to where the coverage dictates, and hopefully they'll get a good many catches this week."
How disappointed are you with the defense's play on third down?
Richt - "We're closer than I think everybody believes we are. I haven't done any stats on it to try and back it up, but we've had a lot of third and mediums and third and longs. When you get them to third and long, you should win the down. You should win the down if it's third and long most of the time on offense. That's why you fight so hard to get them in third and long, but we've given up way too many third and longs. We do need to improve in that area, whether it's pressure on the quarterback, or maybe we cover better and force the quarterback to hold the ball that way. We have to find out week by week what's the best strategy. We just have to execute on that down and get our guys off the field. Even if you did it twice more per game, I think it's a huge difference. If they're getting first downs on first downs and second downs, and we're not even getting them to third down or it's always third and short, then I'd really be concerned. But we're getting there."
How about the pass coverage?
Richt - "The better you cover, the more time you have to get a sack. We've probably had more sacks because of good coverage than if we just put a tremendous amount of pressure on the passer and he threw it up for grabs. The times that we have gotten the sacks and we've gotten off the field, it's been when we've covered pretty well."
What's your assessment of the defense through five games?
Richt - "We're obviously a work in progress. We're battling, we're fighting and we're winning as a team right now. We don't care about the stats. We don't even really care what everybody thinks about us right now. We're just every day lining up and trying to get the best plan and trying to execute it to the best of our abilities as coaches and players. I'd much rather have a defense or an offense make the play at the moment of truth. I've been saying it for two years now. It doesn't matter what your stats are if you can't get the stop when you need it. If you can't get the touchdown when you need it or kick the field goal when you need it, you're going to lose. There's going to be a lot of close games because we play in that type of league. We've been playing that type of schedule so far. The goal is to win and move on, and that's kind of what we've been doing after game one, so hopefully we can continue to do that."
What's your comfort level with Green and Douglas?
Richt - "I was pretty comfortable with them. When you watch them practice enough, we see things that the rest of the fans don't get to see. We see guys running the ball with power or guys that have a good vision. We see guys that are learning how to pass protect at a faster rate than most freshman tailbacks do. We see guys that have secured the ball well at this point, so when you get them into the game, unless their nerves get to them, they're probably going to perform about like they did in practice. We've had good confidence in them."
What can you say about Aaron Murray's leadership?
Richt - "Murray's leadership has been fantastic. A lot of people were saying that he couldn't win the big game, and I'd say that it's a team sport. Now they're saying that Murray is winning the big games, and I'm saying that it's a team sport because Murray doesn't win a game by himself and he doesn't lose a game by himself. His leadership has been tremendous. He has given his teammates a lot of confidence that he can get the job done, as far as his role. We know that the quarterback position is a very significant role, and that's why people want to just put it all on him. There's certainly a higher percentage of winning and losing on how the quarterback plays, and how he reacts and leads, and he's probably doing it as good or better than anyone in the nation right now."
Are there any injury updates with Michael Bennett, Tray Matthews and Collin Barber?
Richt - "Michael will have surgery later on today. Barber is questionable, and I think Tray is doubtful. He could possibly come around, but he's not going to practice today."
How has Quincy Mauger progressed?
Richt - "Quincy Mauger has done a great job. He's another true freshman. He was here at the midyear, and that was very helpful for him to be here. He's got a pretty good working knowledge of what we're trying to do. He's not lost back there, he communicates well and he's really a pretty good open-field tackler. He still makes mistakes. You'll get your eyes in the wrong spot and find out that your guy is wide open over there, and you should have been there every once in awhile. That happens to even the best of them. You see that in pro football. Guys get open because somebody doesn't do their job. Pros have that problem, so it's not like he's the only one. But I like what he's doing. For a freshman, he has a very professional attitude towards becoming good at what he does, and he's done well on special teams for us as well."
What is your take on Missouri quarterback James Franklin?
"James is healthy and he's more confident (than last year). He's running well. They run the option, they run the read option, and if nothing is there he'll take off running with confidence. He's standing in the pocket with a lot of confidence, and he's very accurate. He's on target, and he looks like he's in his element."