Lots of news and notes from today's early media session with Mark Richt and players:
-- Richt on starting Joe Cox: "We did think it through. It wasn't like we didn't have the conversation of what should we do. But in the end, the premise was, who gives Georgia the best chance to win this week and for the rest of the season. Quite frankly, it was unanimous that Joe is still the guy who can do that for us. We do think that we need to give Logan (Gray) an opportunity to play and see if he can become very productive."
-- Richt on Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger: "The young guys, we just didn't feel this late in the season it was time to do it and they (hadn't) earned the right to be the starter. My feeling was this: If you're going to put a freshman in there, you start him, and you start him the rest of the way. Well, did anybody really earn that? They didn't. Do you think one day they'll be great players? I think yes. I think both those guys have tremendous potential. We've got extremely high hopes for their careers. But to say one guy earned it over another, that didn't happen. That's kind of the thinking behind that whole thing."
-- Richt on Murray/Mettenberger redshirts: "That's pretty safe to say (that they'll be redshirted). But you could tell it was a discussion. It wasn't just like, 'Well, they're freshmen, it's Game 9, don't do it.' No, we talked about it."
-- Richt said Logan Gray will get at least one full series in this game, not just mop-up duty or spot work.
-- Florida's players said Brandon Spikes eye gouge was retaliation for stuff Georgia had done earlier in the game. I asked Richt if he had noticed anything. Here's his reply, and feel free to read between the lines: "The only thing I noticed that I could think of is there was a time in the game when, his helmet comes off quite often, you know what I mean? And there was one time where his helmet came off in the middle of a play, and he actually got hit with his helmet off. It was totally unintentional. Everybody was just playing ball. And that might have got him bent out of shape. But I don't know. I have no earthly idea about all that."
-- A.J. Green is expected back for Auburn. Joe Cox said he spoke with A.J. right after the game and said Green wasn't feeling bad. My guess is this is precautionary because it's Tennessee Tech.
-- Cox is in favor of a big dose of Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten this week. We'll see if Mike Bobo agrees.
-- Caleb King will start at RB. Richt says Washaun Ealey struggled at pass protection, and it was his missed block that led to Cox's second INT against Florida. Ealey will still play.
-- Richt on fan criticism: "I don't think one fan has brought up something that we haven't thought of. We think about all these things. We're trying to make the best decisions that we can make. It gets down to a couple things: One is your focus, and you must focus on what's important now, and that's what we're doing. We're focused on getting ready for this next ball game. That's what we have to do. That's what we're called to do. That's what we were hired to do. Then we try not to watch or listen or any of that type of thing because the bottom line is, I want to do things that give us the best chance to have success at this particular moment."
-- Richt on the possibility of empty seats on Saturday at Sanford Stadium: "I'm not going to try to control the things I can't control. I don't know what's going to happen. I wouldn't underestimate our fan base. They do love the Dawgs, you can tell by their passion, and I'm sure they want to support our young men. And we want the fans to handle adversity well, too. I can understand their feelings of being upset or being curious or whatever it might be, but we're all still Bulldogs, and we all still want to support these young men. So I think our fan base will do a good job."
-- On whether he'd consult a veteran coach who has more experience going through a bad season: "Coach (Tommy) Tuberville is in town tonight. Maybe I'll grab him and see what he's got to say." (He said it jokingly, I might add.)
-- On whether he's too nice of a guy to make the hard decisions: "Coach Bowden made that comment way back when I got the job. Let's face it, we've had the best winning percentage in the history of Georgia football. We've done pretty well. This year, we have not. So we were averaging 10 wins a year, have won the SEC twice, and we hadn't won one in 20 years. So it's not like we've just been floundering around. This year we have been. Let's face it. And I don't like it. People that know me well or the team or the coaches, they know that I've got another edge to me that maybe I don't show publicly all the time. Maybe that's what the public wants to see. But if you're going to be accused of something, being accused of being a nice guy is not the worst thing to be accused of."
-- There was one question I heard an awful lot the past few days, so I posed it directly to Richt. I'm not sure he really answered it, but I'll let you judge for yourself.
My question: As you review this season from Game 1 until now, would you say that there has been a fundamental flaw in how the coaches have handled this team, or are the players practicing better during the week than they are playing on Saturday?
His reply: "I really believe if we could protect the ball like we should and knock it out -- we've knocked it out, actually. We've forced 10 fumbles, gotten one. We've fumbled it 12 and lost eight. Why is the ball bouncing that way? I don't know. If I thought that fundamentally when the ball was on the ground, we've had a chance for it and were missing it and they're getting it, or if they're doing a better job of getting on the ball, but I've studied that film. For whatever reason, when the ball is on the ground, it ends up closer to one of their guys than one of our guys. Why is that happening? I don't know. It's just happening, but that's football.
"But I do think if we did a better job in that area, who knows what the record would be today? So that's definitely a big issue, but again, I'm not going to sit here and say we could have done that or should have done that. It's just like in the middle of a game for me. If something happens that is not good -- first of all, you know bad things are going to happen in a game. No one plays a perfect game. It never goes exactly the way you want. So if something bad happens, my personality has always been, I'm going to focus on where are we now and what do we have to do to win. I've stated that before. It's served me and Georgia and Florida State pretty well over the years.
"I'm not worried about who am I going to blame for this or blame for that, but just where are we and how can we win from this point forward. It's the same philosophy as the season goes on. I do want to try to correct anything that we can correct, but if you try to do too much, then you may have an avalanche, and you don't want that. You want to continue to believe that success is not that far away. And we're not too far off. We've just got to keep knocking at it until it breaks free and good things happen."
-- You might not love that answer, but I think Richt's response to why he's not looking ahead to next year is a good one:
"I can't do that. We tell our guys to finish the drill. We tell our guys to never quit. If we made that move with a young guy, I'd have the confidence that I could say, in all honestly, that he gives us the best chance to win right now. Because we couldn't come to that conclusion, we went with the guy that gives us the best chance to win right now. If we made a move and said, 'Hey, we're playing for next year,' in my mind, we've given up on the season. We've quit. And we don't quit at Georgia. We don't teach our guys to quit."
I don't know what's right or wrong here, but for all the people who complain about problems with heart and attitude and coaches allowing little things to slip, it's hard to argue with Richt's logic here. As a coach, you can't let your players think it's OK to give up on a job, and if you do, who knows what type of repercussions that creates next year.
I also talked to a number of players -- freshmen through seniors -- and not one said there is any serious problems in the locker room about the playing time being given to veterans at this point in the season.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Lots of news and notes from today's early media session with Mark Richt and players: