Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tuesday Press Conference ~ Defense

FOOTBALL

Coach Mark Richt and a delegation of football players met with the media during the Dawgs’ weekly press luncheon on Tuesday afternoon. They offered the following comments:

Coach Mark Richt

On the importance of emotion for the defense…

“If they get their blood high, I think they play better.”

On the emotion of the defensive players…

“They’re all young and excited, and they say what they want to say sometimes. I don’t think it’s going to matter much what everybody says before the game. I think it’s going to matter when we kick it off, so I’m not too worried about that.”

On Damian Swann…

“Damian is a very talented guy, and he’s really the youngster in our defensive backfield right now. As soon as this class leaves, he’s going to be the veteran. He has ball skills of an offensive player. He’s got good length, and he’s got great coverage skills. He can make acrobatic interceptions, and he made a big jump in his physicality from a year ago. He got very serious about getting in the weight room and getting stronger and about playing more physical. He’s been in the nickel position which is a run-support guy to the field side, more so than your field corner. Of course your boundary corner is a support guy, as well. I think Swann has the cover skills to play in the field, and he’s got the physicality to play the nickel or the boundary corner. I think he could play safety, as well. He’s really a pretty good player.”

On the play of special teams this season…

“My goal this year was for us to be solid on our special teams. My goal wasn’t to try to lead the nation in any one category. I wanted to make sure that every time we force them to punt, I want to make sure we have the ball. If someone makes a fair catch, that’s okay with me. At the end of the kickoff, I want to make sure we have the ball in our hand. Let’s have a good, solid return, secure the football, and do well. Of course when you punt, you have to make sure you protect. My goal is just to kick that sucker high and have the least amount of big plays in that situation. We did have the one returned for a touchdown, but other than that, we’ve given up very few return yards. Now is our net punt quite as high as Alabama’s, which is almost 44 yards? No, but even if it’s 38 or 39 yards and it’s got good hang time and we fair catch it, we can then move the ball for four downs and get a good play out of it. My goal was for a really solid kicking unit this year, and I think we are solid. In the kickoff return, Malcolm Mitchell returns it back to the 50. It’s not like we’re not trying to get a touchdown. We had Todd Gurley return one for a touchdown, and we blocked a couple punts this year. We’ve done some good things in there, but the big thing is to make sure that they don’t become a huge momentum play for the other team.”

Linebacker Amarlo Herrera

On being labeled as one of the best defenses in the nation…

“I feel the same as some of my teammates that have been saying we’re the best, I back those guys up. I haven’t seen anybody play as well as we have in the second half of the season. You can probably say that we were lacking some confidence early in the year because we weren’t playing as well as we should have been, but now we have the swagger back and we’re feeling like the best again.”

On playing with emotion…

“We just have to play with more confidence and keep up the same level of confidence that we’ve been playing with these past couple of weeks. It all goes back to what Shawn [Williams] said earlier this season, and that whole week of practice leading up to the Florida game. It has a lot to do with the way we prepared for that week and how we’ve been preparing from that day on and really playing up to par.”

On playing in the SEC Championship…

“It wouldn’t matter where we’re playing at. It doesn’t matter how big the stage or where we’re playing, we’re just going to go out there and keep playing the way we have been all year, especially the second half. We’re going to play just like that. It’s a big difference having gone through the same experience last year, because now we know what to expect. We know to try and control our emotions and not let them overwhelm us because I think that’s what happened last year. Our emotions ran out and we stopped playing with confidence and with the crowd emotion. I think we’re feeling more confident going into this game because we’ve had a great year and we’ve been playing together for a long time now”

Linebacker Christian Robinson

On turning around the defensive play in the second half of the season…

“It’s kind of a tale of two seasons. The first half of the season we didn’t really live up to anybody’s expectations on defense, and now we’re winning the way people thought we should have been winning all along. Now we have a chance to really do something special, something that hasn’t been done here in a long, long time so now we have to see it all the way out.”

On getting to play in the SEC Championship game…

“When you live around the metro Atlanta area, getting a chance to play in the Georgia Dome is something that you dream about. Especially on this stage, and with what this game means, everybody from around that area knows the significance of this game. This is huge. This is everything that we’ve dreamed of our whole lives and now we’ll have the world watching us. “

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