Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday Press Conference–Part 1


Coach Mark Richt

Opening Statement…

I want to talk to our crowd and our fans and want to educate our fans just a little bit. We need a lot of crowd noise. I know the fans know that part, but when teams no-huddle some times you are cheering and you might not be cheering at the right time. You might get exhausted, so I want to talk a little bit about what we hope will happen in the game. Chris Relf, their quarterback, gets into his cadence and then he looks for the ball and it doesn’t come and then he looks to the sideline. When he looks to the sideline, that’s when we need the fans to go berserk, because that’s when they are going to try to communicate to the line what they’re going to do. So we don’t want them to be able to communicate well. We want them to have trouble hearing each other. We want offensive linemen to jump offsides. So UGA fan base, that’s the time to go crazy. When the quarterback looks to the sideline after he starts his cadence, he’ll look to the sideline and that’s when you go crazy and make all kind of noise. Of course if they are down on the goal line, do that every play every moment.

Mississippi State, they are an extremely talented and physical football team. Of course they beat us a year ago. They did a great job against us. They really haven’t lost a lot of people. They have eight starters back on both sides of the ball.

Offensively, they do spread the field, but they spread the field to run it maybe as much as they spread it to throw it. They are very balanced. Chris Relf actually has more rushing attempts than anyone on their team. Ballard has the most yards, but Relf is definitely a dual threat quarterback, a guy who can run well and a guy who can throw well. He’s an outstanding player, big guy, really a good player. We caught him last year just when he was getting going and now he’s really become a dangerous player.

Vick Ballard, their running back, is a very physical runner. We think he has a lot of ability to run downhill and run through people and break tackles. He does have good speed, but we think his greatest attribute is his balance and his power. Perkins has had 30 rushing attempts, and he has some speed to get on the edge.

At receiver, their No. 1 guy is Chad Bumphis. He’s mostly a slot receiver, and he’s leading their team with receptions right now. The other outside receiver is Arceto Clark, an extremely physical guy. He’s not huge but he will come and crack linebackers and does a very good job with that. Their receivers are a very integral part of their running game too because of how they block.

Offensive line-wise they have had some issues with injuries. They’ve been mixing and matching a little bit. We think Quentin Saulsberry is they guy who is most solid up there right now, but they’re all talented and have ability. I’m not sure how they are going to line up. I’m not even sure if they know how they’re going to line up on Saturday. From what I understand they are going to try some things out today in practice and try to make a determination on what to do there.

Defensively they are still a pretty heavy-blitz team. They’ll probably blitz at least half the time. They have two interior defensive linemen, Josh Boyd and Fletcher Cox. We think they are really special players. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge for our guards to handle these guys. They normally don’t line up head-up on the center much. They’ll do that from time-to-time, but it’s going to be a challenge for our inside three to handle those guys. They are really outstanding in that area.

Their linebacking corps, Cameron Lawrence and Brandon Wilson have 33 and 32 tackles. They are the second and third leading tacklers on the team. I think Brandon Maye started out the season as a starter ahead of Wilson, but Wilson, as of late, has come in and played a lot and has played extremely well in our opinion. Their entire defensive backfield is back from a year ago. They have two outstanding corners in Johnthan Banks and Corey Broomfield. Banks is a guy who already has three interceptions and is the big playmaker for them. He has range and he does a good job. Their leading tackler is Charles Mitchell, a safety. He’s a very physical guy. The corners get involved a lot in their run game too. They like to blitz their corners, they like to let their corners support the run at times. They’ll roll their coverage where safeties get down in the running game, but they’ll roll the perimeters where the corners will become the main support for the run, so a very physical bunch of guys there.

As far as their specialists, their placekicker who has the most reps from what we’re seeing is Brian Egan. Most of his kicks are returnable. He is left-footed so we have to be aware of where that ball is going to end up coming off the left side. Their punter, Baker Swedenburg, is averaging 41 yards per punt and 38 net, which I think is around fifth or sixth in the league. People are only averaging 2.3 in return so they are doing a great job of covering those kicks. They do have twin safeties back there on the kickoff return. We think both of them are dangerous and both of them are capable. Their punt returner is Banks, the corner I mentioned earlier. I believe either he or Bumphis in the last ballgame kind of bobbled one, picked it up and ended up scoring their first touchdown of the game. As we all know, we’ve had our issues with the punt return, so we have a challenge there too.

We know it’s going to be a heck of a ballgame. We’re glad to be home between the hedges, and we’re looking forward to everybody being there early.

On Georgia’s strategy at the end of the first half against Ole Miss…

We were very aware of what was going on. We knew how much time was left. We knew that we were pretty much having our way with them offensively. We had momentum. Our defense got a stop and we were trying to score. We wanted more points, and we felt like we could move the ball against them. The first pass was a screen, which is usually a pretty high percentage play. Their linebacker actually tackled the back, which I’ve never seen an official call that one yet, but really they’re not supposed to do that. That’s what happened on the first one. The second one we actually took a shot downfield and we had the coverage we wanted, but we just didn’t place the ball where it should have been. The third one was a run-pass option.

If they had stayed in the two-deep look, we would have run the ball in that situation. If they came up and played the single safety look, which they did, we checked to the slant in this case, which was wide open for a first down and probably 15 or 20 yards. Then we dropped the ball. When you are trying to score at the end of the half, if you run it three times you run out of time. You are not going to score. If you throw it you have a chance to save the clock and get a first down. If we had caught that ball and gotten a first down, we would have all been excited about it. After we end up punting and they scored, I slammed my headset. I wasn’t happy about it and we certainly could have said we are going to get the ball afterwards and have a good lead. I can’t tell you what I would do next time around because I don’t know. It just depends on how the game is going and what I think we might need to win the game or if I think we can effectively move the ball. They are good decisions when we execute, that’s the reality of it.

On in the involvement of tight ends in Georgia’s offense…

You saw it this past week. Like I’ve said over and over again, there are very few passing plays that we have that will be directed to any one guy. If you throw a screen it’s going to that guy, quick screens and things of that nature. There are some plays where the tight end is the primary receiver but the coverage a lot of times will dictate who is going to get the ball. Sometimes an accurate pass or an inaccurate pass makes the difference. Sometimes the protection might break down when you have a tight end wide open on that particular play and that might be the reason why the tight ends don’t get it.

We have a system that our tight ends play a lot and our tight ends catch a lot of balls. I think Orson Charles is either second or third in the nation of all tight ends in the country as far as the amount of catches and yards. We are using our tight ends pretty well compared to everybody else in the country. They are a big part of what we do. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a set this year where we didn’t have at least one tight end in the game. A lot of people go three receivers and two backs and not even have a tight end in the game. We hardly ever snap the ball without a tight end or two in the game.

On whether Georgia is spending extra time this week on special teams…

We’re taking some extra time, meeting and field time, yesterday and today and maybe even Thursday we’ll do a little bit of that too. We just have to make sure we have the right people on it and we are doing things the way we need to be doing them.

On opponents using the rugby style punt…

You can’t tell them how to punt it. If they want to rugby style kick it, they can do it. It’s one of the biggest changes in college football over the last five or 10 years. It’s very difficult to field those punts. There are two things that are difficult. One is it’s usually low and hot. It’s going fast, and once it hits the ground you don’t know how it might bounce. That’s a little dangerous. The other thing is the way they protect. They’ll have two or three guys in front of the punter. They’ll have a front line of guys who might line up in all kinds of different ways, but mostly they’ll have a shield of three guys right at the punt. As he’s punting right behind it, they’re the last line of defense, but if you go around it, he’s up in the pocket and he punts it. If you try to go through them, they are usually big men so it’s a good scheme.

What it allows the front line guys to do is not sit there all day and protect. They will try to redirect a guy or knock him off his track to make it a little bit tougher to get to the punter, but then they are gone. They don’t sit there and block until the guy is punted and then release. So they have two, three, four, five, maybe six guys running down there full speed covering these kicks. Not only is that punt a hot ball to catch and field, but you are also dealing with a lot of guys running down the field at you instead of maybe just two gunners running down there. It’s an outstanding scheme, do doubt.

Even last year’s Ole Miss team, their punter is one of the finest traditional punters in the country, and most of his punting was in a traditional manner coming into this ballgame. If they were at midfield he might do some rugby kicks, but really hadn’t shown it with a lot of grass; he was just booming them. This game, he did a little bit more of the rugby style, which was a little bit of a surprise to us. They did a good job of that. Of course Mississippi State is mostly a traditional punter, not to say he couldn’t start rugbying either, so we’ll have to be more prepared for that.

On the play where Bruce Figgins catches the ball out of the backfield…

That play that Bruce has been catching is called 344 fullback. He's the fullback, and the fullback is the primary guy. We actually called the play – I don’t know if you remember but Orson Charles caught a ball – You got the fullback out in the flat and then you got Orson running a deeper route and then you got a receiver that's clearing it out if there is a receiver there. Sometimes we do it the backside of a twins to the left. Sometimes we just run it to the open side. But the number one guy is the fullback and the number two guy is the tight end. Both those guys get the ball quite often.

What happens is that people are in man coverage you might be in I-formation and your tight end is being covered man-to-man, and usually an inside linebacker is covering your fullback. When you come downhill as we do running the power play where Bruce takes an angle to block the defensive end, that linebacker isn't 100-percent sure if it’s a run or pass right away by the track of the fullback. When he ends up splitting out into the flats that guy is a little bit behind normally.

Also, when the release of the tight end goes vertical and he tries to get through sometimes he just gets picked off, gets knocked around or has to redirect to chase. So he's in a chasing position. Sometimes they just flat out miss him. The other day he was wide open and no one was even covering him, but Aaron Murray didn't quite drop it in to him on a blitz. It's a pretty effective play, and it's one that is so simple sometimes that you don’t call it enough. I'm glad that Mike Bobo has called it a good bit and we've had a lot of success with it. We hit the tight end on the very same play when Orson caught the touchdown pass. That was the very same play with the fullback in the flat and him in the back corner of the end zone.

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