"There are 22 Georgia boys that play for Auburn. Auburn tends to recruit really hard in our state, and they get a lot of the really fine players out of the state of Georgia. I think that's one of the reasons why it's such a tremendous rivalry game. This is the 116th time that we're going to play Auburn, and they lead the series 54-53 with 8 ties. That's an awful lot of games to have that even of a series, and it's for good reasons because it's a very heated rivalry. We don't expect anything different. We know that we've been recruiting against Auburn for years. We know they've got great players. We know that they have outstanding coaches, and we have a lot of respect for them. We know that the rival game certainly brings the best out of both teams, so we're expecting quite a challenge and quite a battle.
"Going to Auburn, it's a great atmosphere. It's a great tradition and a great rivalry for us. It's a game that we know we're going to get into another 60-minute war, so we're looking forward to that opportunity."
On the impact of Marlon Brown's injury to the current receivers
"We're going to miss them (Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett). I'm not saying that the other guys aren't physical, but they're not as physical. Marlon was a guy that liked contact. He'd get out there and block, and he was very difficult to cover because of his physicality getting off the jam or separating at the end of a route or whatever it might be. Michael Bennett was very much like that as well, so we're going to miss them. There's no doubt we're going to miss them. Bennett was the leading receiver when he left, and Marlon was tied for the leading receiver when he got injured. So it's not a good thing for us, but Tavarres King is an outstanding player. He's a veteran, and he's a guy that we believe in and trust to play well. Malcolm Mitchell has proved to be a playmaker without any question, and there's been opportunities over the last couple years where Chris Conley has had a chance to make plays and he's done that. He's come through for us most of the time, and he'll bring a little bit of physicality to the game, as well. Rhett McGowan has done well when he's been asked to do so, and the things we've asked him to do, he's done well. I would think Justin Scott-Wesley is going to get a little more opportunity. I failed to mention (Rantavious) Wooten, but he's a guy that when he's been called upon, he's done a good job. So a guy like Wooten will probably get more opportunities. McGowan may get more opportunities, Chris Conley may get more opportunities, and TK (Tavarres King) has been in the mix the whole way and Malcolm has been in the mix the whole way. I think a year ago we weren't really sure what a Bennett could do or a Conley could do, but when you're talking about the Florida game (from last year), they really came through in that game. That was a little bit of their coming out party, as far as making some big plays in big games, so I think they've got some confidence to be able to do that."
On whether Malcolm Mitchell is still practicing with the defense
"It'll be diminished just a little bit more. When I say diminished, it's just that he'll spend less field time with the defense but there are still some things defensively that we want him to be prepared for."
On whether it's a possibility that defensive players move to wide receiver
"Not really. Branden Smith of course has given us some offensive firepower in the past. That's something we haven't done much of this year because we felt like we have some guys who are able to do those types of plays. Wooten is a guy we didn't have last year and we have this year, and Malcolm Mitchell. Those two guys do the types of things that Branden Smith could do. If we had lost those two guys and not the bigger guys, it might have been the time to grab (Smith) and put him in there with some of those things. I think with Wooten and Malcolm we can pretty much do those things."
"Some years you'll lose a guy a game or two, but to have three guys be out for the rest of the year who were prominent players and starters, that's been tough. It's been tough that two (Abry Jones and Marlon Brown) have been seniors and their careers ended early for us. The good news is the injuries they have are very correctable and they'll get to continue their careers playing ball. I think they'll both play in the NFL. (Michael) Bennett certainly was a bad injury, but we do feel like he can at least come back and play for us another couple of years, which will be good for us and hopefully good for him too. I wouldn't sit here and say woe is me or anything like that. I hate it for each individual, but I can't say it's been an awful year in that regard."
On the status of Chris Burnette and the consistency of the offensive line
"Burnette, we're just not sure. I don't think Burnette will go today. It's not out of the question this week for Burnette, but I don't think he'll go today. As far as our consistency of our offensive line play, I guess you could say we've been inconsistent, because we did start out pretty strong in the first five games and ran blocked pretty well and definitely protected well and scored a lot of points. We played a really good South Carolina team and they exposed some things for us as far as some pass protection issues. We just didn't run it quite as well. We were running the ball better early on than I thought we could. Early on I just didn't think we could run the ball that well. We're still running it pretty good now - it's not been awful by any means. I think we're still effective at running the ball, but just not getting the big numbers and the big, long home run plays. I think they're doing a good job overall considering where we started and where we are. I'm very thankful for the job Coach (Will) Friend has done, and I think it will only get better too in time. There's not a senior in the bunch, and I think we're going to end up being pretty good before it's over."
On having two former Georgia assistants on the current Auburn staff
"There aren't many secrets out there in the college football world and the SEC world. First of all, every little bit of film that there is is given to each other freely. It's just how we exchange film. It's not like you can't get film on anybody and study what they do. Are we different offensively today than we were back when (Brian) VanGorder was here? Yeah, we're very different. Maybe not as different as when Coach (Willie) Martinez was here, but for the most part it's changed a good bit, just as far as little things and the fact that Mike (Bobo) is calling the game and not me. There's a difference there too. I think everybody gets enough information to put a good plan together and play good defense."
On whether Brian VanGorder and Willie Martinez have an advantage of knowing Georgia's tendencies and vice versa
"You'd think you do, but Coach VanGorder - he's calling the defense and left Georgia in 2004, so it's been a while. He's been at a few places since then. Obviously being with the Falcons he did some things differently in the NFL than he did at Georgia. As you watch the tape of his defense, it doesn't say that's exactly what he did at Georgia. It doesn't look that way. You just have to learn the new things that he does and likes in certain situations. One thing I know about Brian and Willie Martinez is they are really good at trying to force you to do things you just don't like to do. A lot of coaches preach that, but not many of them can figure out a way to do it. I've always had a lot of respect for their ability - especially as a tandem - to figure out what you like to do best and make you do something that you're a little uncomfortable doing. That's maybe one thing I know about them. I think most people try to do that, but they do a very good job of that."
On Auburn's season
"I think the big thing is just our league itself. There is truly a very, very fine line between winning and losing. There are a lot of good teams in our league in my opinion that still might have a losing record in league play. You lose some close games and sometimes you win the close games. Sometimes you get a break here or there and you grab momentum, and it serves you well for the rest of the year, and sometimes you don't ever find it. Obviously I've been coaching going into 12 years now, and it is a very fine line. Even the year we went 6-7, how much of a different team did we have than some of the teams that might have gone 10-2? Probably not a whole lot different. Not making a play here or making a bad decision there as a coach or the other team just making a play that day. It's not all that mind-boggling to me because it's just a really tough league."
On whether people don't appreciate how quickly things can turn from good to bad or bad to good
"It's a business where there's a lot of people who are very passionate about what we do. Everybody knows football to a certain degree, but not everybody understands exactly what it takes to put a team together and to put a game plan together and try to get players in the right frame of mind to play every single week, and even as players to try to do it themselves. We're all human and there are ups and downs. There are probably more variables in the college game than in the pro game because we are dealing with young people. It's kind of exciting. It is kind of a roller coaster, and sometimes you do go up and down, and you just don't know how close you might be to having a really good football team if you're just patient for one more year. I think a lot of teams go backwards because they make changes when maybe they are on the verge of something good happening and then if you make change and you start over again, it's hard for all the cumulative reps that you've had to all of sudden blossom. I would imagine it's hard to try to figure out as a decision maker if that team is close or if they are not."
On how he views the ups and downs of college football as a coach
"I just think you know it's part of the business. You just understand that's the way it is and that's why you have to keep believing in what you do. You have to keep grinding. You have to keep evaluating what you do, because if you need to make change, you need to make change. If you need to recruit differently or train differently in the offseason or try to do something different schematically, you have to always be looking for ways to get better on a yearly basis. But I think if you just totally abandon what you believe in and try to be something you're not, then you're done."
On what it would mean to get back to the SEC Championship Game
"I look at everything on a year-to-year basis. This is this season, what is our goal, what do I think we can accomplish? What kind of a team can we become? If we make it in 2012, then we accomplish what we set out to do in 2012. Have we reached our full potential as a team yet? I don't know. I think at times we've seen the best of what we can do offensively and defensively and maybe even in kicking. But have we done it all on the same day? Not very often, and that's still a goal for us to try to get to a point where everybody can play their best week in and week out."
On Georgia's defense
"I envisioned a defensive team that was going to get after them like they've been getting after them the last two weeks. That's for sure. Yeah, that's been exciting for me to see it happening during the game, but even more so to go back and watch coaches' tape on Sunday and just go, 'That's more like it."
On the continuity of the Georgia defense at the beginning of the season.
"We never wanted to make excuses, and we still don't want to make any excuses for what happened in the past, but if you have everybody from the very foundation of the spring and the offseason and the fall and the communication, obviously the more they play together, the better they are going to play and the better they'll communicate and the fewer mistakes they'll make. It has been a little bit of a juggling act, and we certainly know that either through injury or suspension, or sometimes something happens to a kid personally and they can't be there, things happen. We know we have to deal with it. It's part of coaching. We can't expect a perfect ride and a perfect season where nothing ever goes wrong. It's been our job to try to overcome it the best we can. I'm just glad that now it looks like everybody is really gaining confidence and everybody is playing with a lot of intensity. There are guys flying to the ball. We're getting more turnovers because of it in my opinion. We're just having more fun."
On Justin Scott-Wesley
"Justin has a great opportunity. He was of course eligible to play this year; he wasn't redshirted or anything, but he hasn't had a lot of snaps. Sometimes guys will say I'm not playing this year so I'm just going to go over here and feel sorry for myself and wait until the spring. Justin has not done that. He's come to work every day to improve. We watch film as coaches and his effort hasn't gone unnoticed. I don't know what's going to happen. I think he's going to play more than he's played, and if you are in the game you could get a ball. We'll call a play and we don't know who it's going to go to a lot of the time. It just depends on the coverage and the protection, so he may get his hands on the ball a couple of times and maybe something good will happen and give him some confidence too and give us more confidence in him."
On Missouri and Texas A&M and the way they have fit in the SEC
"I think they are great additions to the league. I remember as a first time head coach, but also first time in the league, I really didn't know for sure what to think about what was going to happen. I remember getting to know Georgia, but I didn't know how we were going to compare to the rest of the league. If I had that same talent base at Georgia in the SEC I could have had a pretty good idea what we could have done, but I had no clue what could happen in our league. When the first season was over (in 2001), we went 5-3 and there were two games that we could have won. If we had won one or two of those games we might have been in the SEC Championship Game. I'm sure both of those teams are saying we can compete in this league and why not us? I think it helps to live through it one time."
On Jay Rome
"Jay has done well. He has gotten a few balls here and there. Our tight ends in particular I think are doing a good job. We haven't really spent hours planning and figuring out ways to get the ball to our tight ends, but they are part of our progression. Sometimes they get it and sometimes they don't when the ball is thrown to them. I think Jay is becoming a much better blocker as well. He's getting pretty serious about becoming a good player. His production has been pretty good."