Check out what Georgia offensive coordinator Neil Callaway and defensive coordinator Willie Martinez had to say at today UGA football press conference. Head coach Mark Richt is out of town on personal business, and will return Saturday, but the football team starts bowl practices this afternoon.
UGA Sports Communications Release
Offensive Coordinator Neil Callaway
(On the West Virginia defense):
"West Virginia's defense is a little bit different that what we're accustomed to. They run a 3-5-3, which is an eight man front that is more or less designed to stop the run. They can also go to cover 2 look that is more conducive to defending the pass. That can cause some trouble from a recognition standpoint, it's just something different that we haven't seen recently. They have good speed too, so that is something we will have to contend with."
(On the practice time before the Sugar Bowl):
"We've got eight practice opportunities before Christmas, then a normal week's work at the bowl site, so the extra time should help us adjust to what they want to do defensively."
(On offensive lineman Max Jean-Gilles):
"We always try to communicate with the players, we want what's best for them. I think he made wise decision (to stay in college one more year instead of going into the NFL draft as a junior.) It definitely helped our football team. Also, he got the chance to become an All-American and an Outland Trophy finalist, which was good for him and good for the team. Then on top of that, his leadership helped us out. I think overall he helped himself individually in terms of his draft status."
(On the offensive line):
"I think they had a good year but you know you always wish you could do better. Overall they had a pretty productive year. All of guys that are hard working and they care about each other."
(More on the WVU defense):
"Any time they have more linebackers and rover-type personnel, their ability to bring different blitzes is there. It is a different look than what we're used to seeing, usually it's a 4-3 front, the same thing over and over. But a 3-5-3 is a whole new concept, a whole different type of look. It is something we have seen in past, but not in a while. South Carolina did it a few years ago, Florida a few years ago, those are the ones that I remember."
(On new offense looks for the Sugar Bowl):
"Each week we always have some new things, new wrinkles we want to run vs.
the style of defense we are going against. This particular defense will lend itself to doing some different things. Overall no one will probably recognize any major changes. We really just want to get better at what we do, and prepare for what they will do as well. Their best asset on defense is team speed, so that probably lends itself to defending mobile quarterbacks."
(On motivating the players):
I can assure you that we'll do whatever we need to do to get their attention. We will go about practice just like always. We will go live, get after it, go full contact about half the time in practice. There are a couple things that keep us motivated, and number one is that you always want to win. We 'raised' our team to want to win and be competitive. We always keep score in the drills that we compete in at practice and we always teach our guys to have a winning attitude. We want to be sugar bowl champions. No matter how good our season was, losing the final game leaves a bad taste in your mouth. If we come out with a win we will feel good. If we lose, we'll have that bad taste for a while.
(On the coaching staff's record of 52-12 since coming to UGA):
"That is an awfully good record, one that we're proud of. Georgia is one of best jobs in country I think. The direction that Mark (Richt) has given the program is great. He directed everyone and we've recruited good people. It surprised me a little bit that we've won so many games, but at the same time it doesn't, because it is one of top jobs in the country. Off the top of my head there are probably only 10-15 other jobs in the country that would equal this one.
Defensive Coordinator Willie Martinez
(On defending the West Virginia offense):
"Obviously they have a very good offense from the of trying to defend it.
When the quarterback is a really good player, it is alarming because you don't necessarily account for him when planning to defend the running game.
As talented as Pat White is, you have to account for defending him. There are enough hats to put a man on the linemen and the backs, but not necessarily the quarterback. Pat White is a heck of an athlete there could be a player to defend him in option but then he still is unable to make the tackle. Then you have Slaton the freshman, who is very talented and gets more confident week after week. Also, Owen Schmidt does great job. He is the fullback but he has played tailback and he is a tough guy to bring down.
Obviously they have a very potent rushing offense. It is misleading that they are ranked low in the passing attack; they are completing high percentage pass plays that compliment their running game. They take chances once in a while, but mostly they just compliment their running game well with a controlled passing game. This will be a challenge for us, they've got the fifth-ranked rushing offense in country, and the quarterback and running back have a lot to do with that. When you commit to putting eight in the box you make sure you commit an extra defender to the run but open yourself up to play action stuff. It's kind of a cat and mouse game. You have to pick your spots, that's our challenge. They've seen it all, it isn't like we'll give them something they haven't seen before. We will have to change it up, our players know what they need to do. At the same time, when they pass, we have to commit extra players to coverage. It is a good offense, it's not complicated, and they know how to stress a defense."
(More on defending West Virginia):
"A lot of their success has to do with the quarterback. Not to take away from anyone but since Pat White became the starter, their offense has picked up production wise and point wise. He is very similar to a Matt Jones. You could have him defended well, there's a guy there to make the play, but White makes him miss. The defense knows but still can't get him. It's the guy running the offense, it's the athlete. He can cause you to get frustrated and impatient, then you get gashed going the other way. Any time you play an option team have to play assignment football. With a guy that can make you miss like Pat White, that's what makes spread offense go. It's really a chess match, you have to try to make more plays than them. We always have our perimeter plays that we'll work on them like we have throughout the season."
(On the success of Greg Blue):
"I think that you have to give Greg credit. He has made tremendous strides since he came here 5 years ago. It was always a question mark as to whether he could do it, he's a big tall lanky kid. I knew from the beginning that he likes to run and hit. Any coach in America would love to coach a kid like that. There are some growing pains. One of the proudest moments for me is he'll graduate tomorrow. That says a lot about a young man. He came as a partial qualifier and he took his last class this semester. He had to graduate in four years and he has, which is pretty impressive, especially at UGA, which has such a good reputation as an academic institution. To balance academics and be the kind of player he is, coming from the background he did, is impressive. I think I had the easy part because I had a motivated player in him. Whether he is the best or not, he thinks he is, you always love coaching an individual like that."
(On the current senior class):
"This has been fun for me because it is the first time I have gotten to see through a recruiting class. They played as freshman in the SEC championship and have developed into outstanding leaders that have been through good and bad and persevered through some tough ball games. DeMario (Minter) and Tim (Jennings) have really come on this year. We always ask the guys if they can go out and top their previous game or year and I think DeMario and Tim have done that. They have improved greatly. We said from the beginning that we felt the guys who were returning have been a part of a lot of victories, a lot of big ball games, and we were excited about the leadership. For example, a guy like Kedric Golston, I haven't been around a better leader than him. When you throw him in with Anderson, Thompson, Taylor, Moses, Jennings and Minter, there is a lot of experience and a lot of guys who know what it takes to have success in this tough league."
(On Jennings' interceptions in the last two games):
"I allways try to get the players to envision themselves making plays, visualize making a play on a certain call. The funny thing about the Tech game is that back in 2001, Tim Wansley and I were talking about the same thing. He said if they run this play, he said he'd take it. The play came and he did. One of the great things about our guys is that they recognize past players and history. Jennings knew all about that story and he made a point to me that he was going to make a play too. He is very instinctive, very smart, and has always been a tough, hard-nosed player. Size is probably his only weakness. He almost had an interception eight minutes prior to one he had. He read the play and had if not for the pressure that Danny Verdun Wheeler put on Reggie Ball. He would have been able to pick it off and go for the TD. One of main strengths Timmy has is the ability to play off, which is a major strength to have as a corner.
Obviously the LSU game was an outstanding game for him. He made a lot of plays. On the interception in that game it was different call but he was prepared, saw the set, recognized the call, then sat on the route. Matt Flynn underthrew the ball a little bit, Timmy broke on it and made an outstanding play. He really wanted to be here. He was the kind of guy that even though we didn't make an offer until pretty late, he stuck with us."
Georgia Player Press Conference Quotes
UGA Sports Communications Release
Russ Tanner (center), on the West Virginia game - "This game is huge. It's our senior year for some of us and we realize the importance of going out with a bang. We want to have that sweet taste in our mouths and that's how we want to go out - with a win."
On having the Sugar Bowl in Atlanta – "It's definitely great to have our fans there and we feel comfortable and at home in the Georgia Dome. Hopefully we'll have a lot of support there on Jan. 2."
Kregg Lumpkin (tailback), on playing this year after being injured last season – "Right now, the opportunity to produce is a great feeling after sitting out with an injury. Being out there and playing, it's a feeling you can't describe. It was tough the first couple of games because I was thinking about preventing something like that from happening again. But now I'm able to go out there and just play and not worry about it."
Thomas Brown (tailback), on the Sugar Bowl being a couple weeks after the SEC Championship – "Being able to take a couple weeks off and getting everything straight academically has been nice. Now we're focusing completely on the Sugar Bowl."
On D.J. Shockley this season – "He's done a great job. He's brought us together and made some plays that have helped keep us in games all season and stay focused."
DeMario Minter (cornerback), on West Virginia – "I watched some of their Thursday night games and they have a very good running back and quarterback. They are an awesome combination and have a knack for running the ball."
On getting prepared for the Sugar Bowl – "A lot of times, Coach (Mark) Richt says this is the first game of the season and then asks us if we want to start off good and get our momentum going and that usually gets us focused."
Max Jean-Gilles (offensive guard), on finishing this season on a positive note – "Our senior class wants to go out with a bang. I think this group has the most camaraderie as well as the most wins of almost any team here ever and we owe this to our fans and to the whole 'DawgNation'."
D.J. Shockley (quarterback), on the Sugar Bowl feeling much like the SEC Championship because of its location – "It does feel a little bit like part two of the SEC Championship, but once we get there, it will be nothing but Sugar Bowl talk."
On playing against the defenses in the SEC – "Playing those defenses gives us a lot of confidence. Running, throwing and scoring some points on those defenses is good for us when we prepare to take on a team like West Virginia."
On this game being particularly meaningful – "This game is up there in my top two or three games of all-time. It's an exciting time since I'm graduating on Saturday, which is what you come to college for, so it comes at an important time in my life."