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Georgia coach Mark Richt held his Gator Bowl press conference for local media Monday to preview the Bulldogs' game against Nebraska.
Below is a transcript of what he had to say.
"Normally this is a time where I would talk a lot about our opponent. I haven't gotten their press release yet, and I've been out recruiting a bunch, so I can't really do it justice to do a scouting report today. I do know that Coach (Bo) Pelini's team has the same record that we do in conference and the same record out of conference, and of course we played them a year ago. This is another chance to play them. We've got a lot of video, obviously, from this season and also from a year ago. There are not a lot of changes with either team, quite frankly, so I'm sure last year's game is going to be very valuable for both coaching staffs to try to decide how to attack this year. I do know that they have had some injury issues, as we have. Obviously both quarterbacks are out of this game that were starting the season, and they run the ball extremely well. They've got (Ameer) Abdullah rushing for almost 1,600 yards, so that's very impressive. I think they've got about seven starters back on offense and about four starters back on defense, but that's about as far as I'll go as far as the scouting report goes until I can study them a little bit better and do it some justice.
"We had a little practice on Saturday. Somebody was driving by practice, and I guess asked if I was mad at the team and punishing them out there by practicing in the rain, but we just scheduled it on Saturday and got it done. It was good. We had a great gala Saturday night. Our gala is our senior awards banquet, and we had a chance to honor our seniors and give out a lot of team awards. People might ask why we do it before the season is over, and the main reason is that we want to make sure all of our players are there because if you wait until after the bowl game, a lot of these seniors tend to be moving on. Most of them have graduated already, and they go get ready for the NFL combine or start jobs, and it's just hard to get everybody after the bowl game. We like to have our banquet and senior awards gala before everybody leaves town, so we had a really good event. I thought it was very well done. Coach Tereshinski kind of heads that up, so I want to give him some kudos on that."
What have you seen from Chris Conley?
"Chris has been great for us. Early on we thought about redshirting him, and I don't know how many games it was into the season - maybe five or six games into the season - and we had enough injuries to where we needed help. A lot of guys when they hear that news, they're a little disappointed because they think they've already missed a few games and it's ruining their redshirt year. He was just the opposite. He was excited about the opportunity to play, he was prepared to play and he was the best candidate because he was the guy that was a great student of the game and most able to help us at the time. Sure enough, he made some big catches at Florida, and he just made some big plays as a true freshman. That was indicative of how he goes about his business and continues to go about his business. He's always where he's supposed to be when he's supposed to be there. He's always working hard and doing the very best he can do. Every route he runs is full speed. Even when he comes back from a route, he's jogging at a pace that's faster than most. He just has been a great leader for us. Younger guys look up to his work ethic and understand how that can really bless you in your career. He's done so many things off the field, as far as community service projects and getting involved in student government on campus and nationally. I think he's a world-changer kind of guy. I know when his football days are over - whenever they are - he's going to do something big. He's a great kid."
Did you have to say anything to the team to get them excited about playing Nebraska in a bowl game for the second straight year?
"We had a meeting just trying to get back into the flow of thinking about football again. We gave them a little bit of a break. A lot of academic work was done. I didn't really mention much about the fact that we're playing Nebraska again as much as it's time to start thinking about playing football again. I put together a little bit of a highlight tape of guys making plays, whether it was physical or whether it was effort. It was just excellent plays from the season at all positions at offense, defense and special teams, as well. I wanted them to see that film of themselves doing it the Georgia way and the right way and then get excited about playing that way in this bowl game and preparing to play that way. That's what I talked about the most."
Will J.J. Green remain at running back?
"We've not had any conversation at all about him moving. I'm not saying he never could or that he couldn't' expand his role as having the ability to learn some things out in the slot to have a tailback that has the versatility to learn in the backfield and then get out in the slot a little bit in the future. I'm sure that will be something we talk about in the offseason, but it's not something that we're messing with now."
Talk about the abundance of tailbacks that will be on hand next season
"I don't know if you can ever have enough backs, and certainly injury is an issue. Guys that are talented enough to possibly have a three-year career instead of a four-year career, you've got to plan for all of those things. I don't know what decisions guys will make down the road, but certainly we've got some very talented backs that will have some decisions to make, as well. That's all part of the reason to continue to recruit great players."
Will you be switching players among different positions?
"It's harder than you think to go from one position to another or to try and play two positions at the same time. With the 20-hour rule, and with school and with all of the things that our guys have to do, for them to really be great at one position on offense and also on defense, it's very, very difficult to do. You definitely can't do it in one year. You might over a career. When it comes to game planning week by week, coaches are very reluctant to play a guy that they know doesn't know all of the plays front and back. If Mike Bobo as a play-caller knows that he's got a guy splitting time, even if he knows 80 percent of the plays, it's hard for him to process that he knows this play but he doesn't know this other play. You want a guy that knows all the plays and you can call anything you want. There are certain times where you'll grab a guy for a certain situation, but when you're calling the game, you don't want to sit there and wonder what he knows or doesn't know. It's the same thing on defense. If a guy isn't just 100 percent locked in on what he's supposed to do, it's hard to put him in there and have a lot of faith that he's going to be able to perform. One little thing, as we know, can be there difference in winning and losing on any given play. It's hard to do."
Do you think Todd Gurley, providing he stays healthy, be one of the best backs in the country next year?
"I think he's one of the best backs in America. I don't think there's any doubt about that. I think most people that have seen him play would say that as well, and I'm going to leave it at that because I'm really not going to be interested in talking too much about next year."
What are your thoughts on the play of the offensive line?
"I think our offensive line in general over the past few years has played extremely well. We were really concerned going into last year's season, we thought we were in trouble, but they found a way to rally and become a part of an offense that did some really special things the season before this. This year they really just continued to play well. There were some moments where we got whipped individually, but game in and game out they came to play and fought hard. They knew what to do, and they created the space and the time that the quarterback needed. They created the space and the time that the backs needed to get started, and I'm proud of the job that they've done."
On Amarlo Herrera being named the Defensive Team MVP
"There are a lot of guys that you could give it to. Like Ramik (Wilson) obviously had more tackles, and Ramik statistically had a better year. Not by a lot, but I think that's part of the reason why Ramik was First Team All-SEC. Amarlo is the signal caller, and he has a lot of responsibility to get guys lined up and communicate a lot of things. He led well, so that's part of it, too. Because of Amarlo's extra responsibilities and the way he played and the way he led in the summer, that was a big part of it, as well."
Were you surprised to see Marshall Morgan enjoy the success he has?
"To me, when I saw Marshall's high school tape, I was convinced that he was one of the best in the Southeast. Of all the film I gathered and all the film from our recruiting crew in the Southeast and around the country, I looked at it all. I wanted to make the call on that one, and from what I saw on film, he was the best one. He's the guy we offered first, and thankfully he decided to come. The timing was great, obviously, with Blair (Walsh) getting ready to go and we were able to get him. So I was kind of hoping that he would do for us what I had seen him do on some of his high school tape. We know he started rough banging it off the goal post and missing extra points, but it's not easy to do it in front of that many people and have the weight of that responsibility. He had a tremendous offseason, and I saw in the spring the things that I was seeing in his high school film on a consistent basis. It carried through the summer and the fall, and he's been really good. I'm happy that he got to show everybody how good he can be."
Did everybody make it through finals OK?
"I've got no fear of anything happening. That's not to say there couldn't be a surprise. All of the reports are not in yet, so maybe tomorrow we can finalize that."
Did you get what you expected from Ramik Wilson?
"We saw his high school tape, and he was a middle linebacker in high school. We thought maybe he'd have a better chance to play outside and then we could move him inside once we had some depth go. Going into this year, my gut was that we weren't seeing the best of Ramik. I, quite frankly, thought that he was a little bored. He wasn't playing as much as he would have liked to play, and he played some special teams here and there, but I had the feeling that once he got into the starting role, he was going to really perk up and start playing and practicing with more of a purpose. He wasn't bad, but it's no fun playing your whole life since you're little and then all of a sudden you're sitting there watching. He was never negative in any way, shape or form, but I had a feeling he was really going to blossom once he had the chance to play a lot of downs and snaps."