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Mark Richt held his weekly press conference Tuesday with reporters.
Below is a transcript of what he had to say.
"We are going to Vanderbilt coming off a loss and one that stung, but we know in our league you have to shake it off and get ready to go again, because no one is going to feel sorry for you. So that's what we've been doing. Vanderbilt is a very good team. Coach (James) Franklin has done a superb job with that program. Of course the last time we were there it was a very heated game and a very close game. Thankfully we came out of there with the victory."
"They are an outstanding football team. Playing there is always tough. Historically for whatever reason it's been a really tough venue for us to go in and not have a battle royale to the very end. The fact that that's all we've had this year I assume we are going to have another one like that. So Georgia fans, get ready. It's going to be a tough game."
Assess the play of the Georgia secondary against Missouri
"The thing about Missouri receivers being big is that the big receivers have an advantage on the jump ball, obviously. You can throw the ball high up in the air and you have a corner that just doesn't match up, height-wise, so it's very difficult for those corners to make a play. We got hurt with that. The other thing that big receivers do is block well. They're big guys and strong guys. Now Shaq (Wiggins) had the most success by using his quickness. He wasn't to physically whip them, but I think I mentioned this before that it's a little bit similar to an offensive tackle trying to block the really quick defensive end. The smaller speed rushers are tough on those guys, and I think Shaq's creating a little problem for a big receiver to try to get his hands on it. Shaq really did pretty good in that area, but when it came to the jump balls, it was tough on him. It's tough on most any cornerback in that type of matchup. (Vanderbilt's Jordan) Matthews is definitely a high draft pick. He's going to play, if he stays healthy, a lot of years in the NFL. He's not super big, but he's strong and fast with great hands. He's just a great player. (Jonathan) Krause is not quite as big, he's more of a slot receiver, but he's a very talented guy, as well.
"As far as how our defensive backs did, I think when it got down to the jump ball situation, we got out-manned. When it came to handling some of those quick screens out there, I thought we actually played a pretty good game. You saw Josh Harvey-Clemons make some nice plays where he either powered through a guy or made a guy miss. The one penalty we had might have been one of the bigger plays of the game. If we don't get that roughing the passer call, it would have been third and long at a time that was very crucial. It really doesn't take away from what Josh Harvey-Clemons did. The penalty did, but physically we can see what he did, which is pretty good."
Talk about the defenses ability to adjust to various offenses this season
"I think most offenses are forcing defenses to react. Obviously, you have to react to how people line up. You have to react fast. The defense has to react to the offense, and that's just part of defense. When the defense should take advantage is when you win first and second down, and now you get them in a position where they're kind of one-dimensional. We've probably had more third and mediums or third and longs than we've had in a long time, but we're not getting off the field enough. We're getting off some, but not enough. With the third and super longs, we've played kind of a little three-man defense and they've gotten eight or nine or ten yards and had to punt. When it's been third and anywhere from six to eleven, we should win a high percentage of those, but we just haven't won enough of them. I think we're getting a little better at it, and I think we're doing the right things, but we just have to execute better. Part of it is the learning curve of the young defensive backs. Let's face it - we're playing a bunch of rookies back there. It's tough to be great at it when you're just learning as you go."
What can you say about the improvement of Ray Drew?
"Ray's been a little bit of a surprise. When you sign Ray, everybody thought we had this five-star guy who was going to come in and do this and that, and it's taken Ray a little while to get going. Now that the light came on, or however you want to say it, he's really playing well. I like his attitude. I read a little bit about what he was saying, as far as trying to forget everything that happened last week and starting from scratch trying to prove himself each week. He's becoming a little bit of a force. The stat you see with defensive linemen is the tackles or the sacks, but he's been pretty disruptive. He's been pretty stout in the run, as much as he has in the pass. He's a guy that's not only a situational guy - he's an every-down guy. He's played well. I think the fact that we've done pretty well subbing at that position across the board has been good because it's kept guys pretty fresh, but I'm really pleased with what Ray's been doing."
Are you happy with the overall pressure created by the defense this year?
"I think they're doing good. I think we're really, as far as run defense, we're playing pretty good and that's where you start. Again, you have to stop the run or at least slow down the run to where you can get it to third and long or third and medium at worst, so I think we've done a good job. I think guys have pushed the pocket pretty good, and we've gotten some sacks by the interior defensive linemen. We may have as many sacks from the D-line as the edge rushers, so that's pretty good."
Will Jonathon Rumph play this weekend?
"Jonathon Rumph is practicing. I don't think there's much doubt he'll play, but he's really not played for us yet. By the end of the week, we'll see how comfortable he is and how comfortable we are with what he knows and if we think he can execute. He was here in the spring, which is great that he's been here all this time, but he doesn't have a lot of reps early in his career. As a junior college guy, he's still young with us, so we're just not sure how many plays he'll play, but we want to get him going, that's for sure. We need him to come through."
How impressed have you been with the play of Brendan Douglas?
"Brendan came to a bunch of camps, and we liked Brendan every time he came to camp. You only have so many scholarships at each position, and we were slow to offer him. At the end of the recruiting process, we had an opening and so we offered him. He decided to come, and we're thankful that he did. It was never an issue if we thought he was good enough, but it was just whether or not we had enough space. As it turned out, we did, and he's been just about what we thought he'd be. He's very tough and very physical. I think I said in the very beginning when we were scrimmaging with him that he's a very legitimate SEC back. He's can finish a game in that four-minute offense where you're trying to grind the clock and you need someone to be fresh at the end of a game, but I always felt like he could be an every-down back one day. I didn't know it'd be this fast for us, but he's done a very good job. J.J. (Green) has as well, so you have to give him credit. He's a guy where we weren't really sure what position he would play when we signed him. Of the two positions that we thought, one was corner and one was receiver, so we weren't even thinking tailback. Last spring we were a little bit short on numbers at tailback and thought he had the best shot at filling in and helping us there, and he's kind of taken off with it."
How frustrated are the members of the defense?
"Everyone is frustrated. Everyone takes pride in what they do, but we have to keep believing in each other. We have to keep banging away. We can't lose any kind of hope or faith, and there's enough progress going on that I still feel very comfortable that we're moving in the right direction with a lot of pups. There are a lot of good things happening. People can say what they want about what happened last year, but the bottom line is that nine of our guys on defense made NFL teams, so there was a loss of experience and a talent base and new positions that had to be filled. Sometimes things take time, but you see the signs of good things to come in the future. First of all, I think Garrison Smith is the only senior we've got in the starting lineup, and Connor (Norman) has been playing some. As far as how we're progressing now and how the future looks, I think we're exceptionally bright. We're at game seven now, so we've played enough games to where some of these guys that were inexperienced when they got started aren't anymore. They have half of a season under their belt, so we've got to keep making plays. Even last game, I thought in the second half the defense really did a good job of giving the offense a chance to dig back in that game. We're a two-point conversion away from tying with a lot of clock left. We're sitting there with 4:12 to go and a drive away from tying the game and putting it into overtime, so there were some good things that happened, without a doubt. We just have to keep getting better."
On Aaron Murray's play against Missouri
"It was a game of patience. You have to be patient with a lot of the zone coverages that they played. They're a predominantly zone-coverage team. They went into the game that way, they stayed true to who they were and they had enough of a lead to where they didn't have to really change their philosophy. As we're trying to get back into the game, you couldn't get a bunch of big chunks. Last year, I think we were number one in the nation in big plays, and we had a bunch of big plays going into this game this year. It was just one of those games where you've got to play methodically and move the ball down the field. Some of the evidence of that was the fact that our tailbacks caught 10 balls between the two of them. There were some other receiver balls that were caught underneath the ball. You just have to catch them and get yards after contact and keep moving the chains. As you're trying to come back, the tendency is to want to get a bigger chunk, and I think a couple of times that's what Aaron did. He tried to get a bigger chunk than he should have, and it cost us."
Have you been pleased with the play of Damian Swann and Jordan Jenkins?
"I talked a little bit about Damian last time that he was struggling. I think he played a really good second half. He started out maybe a little rugged in the first. With Jordan, I think it's easy to say that if a guy doesn't have 'X' amount of sacks that he's not having a good year at the end position, but I think he's playing very physical against the run. I think he's pressuring the quarterback. He's getting some edge pressure and forcing guys in the pocket. We've had a good many sacks, and rarely is it just one guy getting the sack. A lot of times, it's a team effort. A guy's in the pocket and makes the guy begin to scramble and other guys clean up. I think Jordan would like to have more sacks than he's got right now, obviously, but I think he's playing pretty good."
Do you think Jordan is trying too hard to replace Jarvis Jones?
"You'd have to ask him if he feels that or not, but all I see is a guy working extremely hard in practice. He plays hard. I don't know if you ever see him loaf. I can't even think of one image where I thought he wasn't playing hard. That's all you can ask for from a guy."
Will Collin Barber or Adam Erickson serves as the punters this weekend?
"We're competing, and maybe pre-game warm-up we'll decide who punts. We're not sure exactly who will punt. We might even interchange it a little bit."
What are your thoughts on Rhett McGowan?
"Rhett's been here awhile. Rhett found his niche here at Georgia. It's hard to break through as walk-on at any position. You're fighting your way into some playing time on the field, whether it's special teams or offense or defense. A lot of times, you've got to do it well for a long enough time that the coaches finally see that the guy is dependable and talented enough to get it done. Let's let the guy play. It's a great tribute to him and his persistence and his abilities. He's done a good job. Sometimes that opportunity happens in a spring game or in a spring practice when a couple guys may go down, and then all of the sudden you get thrown in there, and when you get in there you're playing well. It's been a combination of all of those things with Rhett."
Are there any preventative measures you could take against the injuries?
"With the ACL, I don't think there's anything to do with conditioning. A lot of ACL injuries are freak injuries and non-contact injuries. Obviously Malcolm Mitchell's was non-contact. Well, I guess there was a (chest) bump when he landed wrong on that celebration. Justin Scott-Wesley was just trying to keep from hitting the punt return man as he made a fair catch as he was trying to cover a kick. Obviously Keith Marshall's was a contact injury, but ACL's I think don't really have a whole lot to do with conditioning. I think most hamstrings go when there's enough fatigue, and guys are bursting when they're tired. The muscle just pulls, but I think we do a good job. Last year, we had very few hamstring injuries. It was one of our better camps for that because a lot of times they happen in camp. You can practice all summer, and you're running routes with your quarterback, but you can hardly simulate that two to two and a half-hour practice or that volume of camp. You're running a lot of routes and there's installation. Guys usually pull their first one then. We have a little bit more than usual, but I think we're doing the right thing when it comes to strength and conditioning and flexibility. Sometimes I think we as coaches have to be wise, and I think the players just have to know if their hamstring is beginning to get tight or fatigued a little bit. It's hard for a guy to go to a coach and say that their hamstring is sore. It's not because the coach is going to yell at them, but the guy is trying to make the team. He's trying to get a starting position and he doesn't want to look soft, or whatever it is. Sometimes the players just have to do a good job. Our older guys are really good at saying if something is tightening up on them and they need to pull back. Our veteran guys will do that, but some of our younger guys don't understand that right away."
What's the status of junior college transfer Shaquille Fluker
"You get to the point where you decide who you're going with, so to speak, and he just wasn't ready at that time. I know he had some injury issues somewhere along the way, and by the time we settled on who was in there making the plays and getting the reps, he wasn't one of them. We're going to redshirt him."
On senior Chris Burnette
"The home visit in his house made it very, very easy to see why he's the person that he is. Mom and dad are awesome, and the whole family is awesome. He had a goal sheet that I actually have a copy of in my office. I kept it in there in case he got off track. I was going to pull it out and show it to him, but I never had a chance to do that because he never got off track. He's just been phenomenal. One of his main goals - and I don't think he'd be mad if I said it - was to be a man after God's own heart. He was very serious about being kind of a modern day knight kind of guy. He's just been tremendous in every aspect of college life. He's been a great representative of his family and his faith and his team."
Will Todd Gurley being able to practice today?
"I wouldn't anticipate that. I wouldn't predict that. He's definitely progressing, but do I think he'll run plays today with even the scout team? I don't know if he will."
On the Coaches Poll and his voting process each week
"I'm fine with it. I'm a voter, and my goal is to do the very best that I can with who I think are the best teams. I think all the coaches do that. I have no idea what other coaches do, but I look at every game that I can, as far as when I'm free to watch games. After we play, I spend the rest of the evening watching games and highlights and things of that nature. I'm always looking at the scores and looking at the standings and win-loss records. Every once in a while when I'm not sure, I try to look at who played who and what the results were. I do the best I can. I don't worry about trying to be perfect every week. I think it's good for me that it's not public every week because I'd probably spend more time on it than I want to. I know that as the year goes on, it all kind of weeds itself out sometimes. If you have one team a little bit higher than the other by a spot or two, and they're going to play each other two weeks down the road, it really doesn't matter what it is today. It matters after the game more, so I don't get too crazy about it, but I think I have a pretty good pulse of what's going on. In the last few weeks when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, I'll look at the overall season and try and do a good job to put everybody where they belong."
On whether Georgia could benefit next year from the four-team playoff
"Well the one thing about us this moment in the polls is that we're the highest-ranked team with two losses, so that's at least a sign of respect for our program. We need to take on the responsibility, in that respect, and try to keep it that way. Hypothetically, if it was next year and you've got two losses but you can win this league, I think you'd have a pretty good argument, but that's what it would be - an argument. You'd be building your case because again, it's going to be people deciding who they think the best four are. I would imagine if a team has a bunch of midseason injuries but at the end of the year they're more full speed again and playing good at the end, you'd probably have a shot, if it was next year."
On the injuries this season
"You can't control injuries, and I don't really try to assess it other than who's left and what they can do and what gives us our best chance of winning. That's what I try to focus on from a pure football and strategy point-of-view. The personal part of it is that you feel for your players. As they're rehabbing, you want them to still feel a part of the team and not feel like just because they're not producing that they're not as important as they used to be. They really are to us, but sometimes it's hard for that guy to feel that way because he's not producing. It's a production business."