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Richt and Team Moving On Past the Gators and “Just Trying to Win Games”

by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer

ATHENS—The day after primarily receiving questions on his Monday night radio call-in show regarding Georgia’s embarrassing 38-20 loss to Florida, head coach Mark Richt immediately fielded more of the same this afternoon at his weekly press conference.

“There were two things that got us the most,” Richt said of his defense’s poor performance against the Gators. “At times when we were supposed to set the edge, and when I say ‘set the edge’ I’m talking somebody’s responsible for keeping a play from bouncing out the back. … There were times where we just got too far inside and we just allowed [the play] to bounce. … A couple of times, not as many times, but a couple of times we had issues with guys not staying in the right gap.”

Richt concluded that some of his defenders were “trying to make a play” against Florida’s ground game instead of simply “doing their job.” However, the coach stressed there were no cases of “anybody moping or giving out or giving up,” but more of an “execution issue” than anything else.

The fact that both of the Bulldogs’ two losses this season have resulted following bye weeks was brought up, prompting Richt to declare “I know,” as if this had been pointed out to him many times before the last few days. “In hind sight, yes, what can you say [on whether or not the bye weeks had negative effects],” Richt asked. “Do you revisit what we do in open dates? We’ve been doing this a certain way for quite some time now and haven’t necessarily had those [negative] results, but this year we did.”

Actually, “those results” have been happening for several years. Since the beginning of the 2008 season, Georgia is now 6-4 following a bye week; and, of the six victories, five were by a winning margin much closer than what was forecasted, so to speak (i.e., against the point spread).

During the individual player interviews, a couple of Bulldog defensive linemen—Toby Johnson and Sterling Bailey—were asked if their preparation, or at least their mindset, for the Kentucky game is altered in anyway because of the 18-point loss to the Gators: are they being coached to not let one bad loss turn into two?

“Not really,” Johnson replied. “The coaches do a really good job of keeping us humble and ready to work. It’s not going to be any different this week against Kentucky [than Florida]; just do the little things a lot better.”

Notably, in the last 10 years, Georgia has just a 9-5 record in games immediately following double-digit losses; and, of the nine victories, eight were by a winning margin much closer than what was forecasted, again, so to speak.

“No, we’ve moved past it,” Bailey said in regards to the sizable loss to Florida actually assisting the team in preparation for this Saturday. “It doesn’t weigh in moving forward towards Kentucky.”

A recent weekly press conference wouldn’t be complete without a question, or two, about Todd Gurley and his current suspension. Regarding the additional two-game suspension, Richt speculated that his star tailback wasn’t expecting to be reinstated right away. “I think he had a wait-and-see kind of attitude,” Richt said. “I’m sure it hurt when he heard that news [of his additional suspension] because I’m sure there was some hope [of being reinstated prior to the Florida game].”

Richt was then asked if he had communicated with Gurley about finishing this season “strong” upon his return for the Auburn game on November 15th: “I don’t know why we keep bringing that up. [Gurley’s] there and he’s [currently] practicing. He can’t wait to play.”

Although apparently Gurley can’t wait to play, he must wait one more game until he does so. As for his one-time backup, freshman Sony Michel, who has missed the last four games due to an injury, Richt is hopeful for his return against the Wildcats.

“[Michel] is getting there; he’s practicing,” Richt said. “We’ll know more in a couple of days, and again, we’re hopeful he can play.”

However, as for junior Keith Marshall’s status, and the chances of him being redshirted since the junior tailback has appeared in just three games in an injury-filled season, Richt had evidently been asked about this before, as well.

“I’m not even going to talk about that right now,” Richt said of Marshall possibly being redshirted. “We’re just trying to win games.”

Georgia-Florida Will Result In A Couple of “Firsts,” But Still No Gurley (For Now)

by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer

ATHENS—Less than 24 hours following a Monday practice considered “outstanding” by Mark Richt, the Bulldog head coach was asked about his team’s practice sessions leading up to this Saturday’s meeting with Florida, particularly that of tailback Todd Gurley, who remained suspended as of the noon press conference.

“We’re giving him a good bit of reps,” Richt said of Gurley. “We want to rep him to the point where if he’s able to play, he’ll be able to play well.”

Later, during the individual player interviews, Hutson Mason mentioned Georgia’s outstanding preparation, in which he contributed to what the team has been able to accomplish thus far this season.

“There’s a high maturity level on this team, and there’s a high focus level,” the senior quarterback declared. “The one thing about this team, and the difference I’ve seen over the last couple years is that we practice really well, and I think that’s why we’ve had some success so far this season.”

The Bulldogs’ defense is preparing for quarterback Treon Harris. Harris is a true freshman who came off the bench to lead the Gators to a 10-9 win over Tennessee and was responsible for both of his team’s touchdowns in Florida’s last game against Missouri.

“He hasn’t thrown the ball a lot but when he has thrown the ball, he’s hit 67 percent of his passes,” Richt said of Harris. “When he has played and when he has thrown the ball, he’s done it very well.”

This Saturday, for what it’s worth, Harris will become the first freshman quarterback in the modern era (since World War II) whose first collegiate start comes in a Georgia-Florida game. I informed Bulldog linebacker Amarlo Herrera of this historical fact, and asked if the quarterback’s inexperience alters the defense’s mindset—even the slightest.

“We’re just going to go out there and play the same way we’ve been playing,” Herrera said. “None of [Florida’s] plays are going to change because [Harris] is playing. We’re just going to go out there and try to execute our [defensive] game plan.”

Another first for this Saturday—or, at least, the first time in a long time—is the fact both teams will be wearing their home, colored jerseys. The last time a Georgia-Florida game featured both teams donning solid jerseys was 1970. That same season was the last time a Georgia game against any opponent featured opposing solid jerseys (vs. Georgia Tech). Richt was asked if facing colored jerseys, while wearing them, could possibly be an issue.

“We all felt [Georgia wearing red jerseys; Florida in blue] was enough of a contrast,” Richt said. “I just think it’s enough of a contrast where we don’t need to practice it. I’m hoping our guys don’t think blue is red and the quarterback starts throwing to their guys,” the head coach added with a smile.

While some believed red versus blue jerseys wouldn’t be an issue, there were others who were not even aware of the looming change in uniform.

“Really?” Herrera asked when informed about both teams wearing solid jerseys. “I didn’t know that. That’s going to be a little weird though.”

Notwithstanding, the main question does not concern both teams wearing their home jerseys, but if a certain jersey—namely No. 3, Todd Gurley—will be seen in Jacksonville running against the Gators. As of Tuesday evening, there was still no word on Gurley; he remained suspended. However, from what we hear, don’t be surprised if there is news regarding the star tailback as early as tomorrow.

What Bulldog Back Does Yoga, and NCAA to Make Ruling on Gurley This Week?

by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer

ATHENS—Coming off one of the greatest road victories of the Mark Richt era at Missouri and with a tough game at Arkansas looming, the Bulldogs’ head coach and his players were still fielding questions at Tuesday’s press conference/interviews—and not surprisingly—about the status of the best Bulldog player of them all, Todd Gurley.

“I’ll answer that like I’ve been answering any Gurley questions, and that’s to say, I really don’t know,” said Richt when asked if he thought Gurley would ever play again at Georgia.

Richt admitted that Gurley “got some reps yesterday” in practice after serving what has thus far been a one-game “indefinite suspension” as UGA investigates whether or not the star tailback was paid to sign memorabilia.

Gurley was seemingly not even needed in Saturday’s 34-0 thrashing over the 23rd-ranked Tigers, while his suspension—one every Bulldog hopes is lifted very soon—might have actually helped Georgia in a way.

“We couldn’t think about [Todd’s suspension], we just needed to bond together as a team and I’m really proud of how everybody bonded together,” tight end Jay Rome said. “We are not a one-man team, so we had a chip on our shoulder.”

Proving Georgia wasn’t a one-man team in Columbia, Mo., was Gurley’s backup, freshman Nick Chubb. Against Missouri, Chubb rushed for 143 yards on a whopping 38 carries; only legendary Herschel Walker (four times) and Verron Haynes (once) carried the ball more times in a single game in UGA history. Besides the status of Gurley, a better question might be if Chubb could carry the running load against Arkansas as he did only a few days ago.

“I asked [running backs coach] Bryan McClendon about [Chubb’s health/fitness after Missouri game] and he said that Sunday he came in and lifted, and ran, and did a little bit of yoga,” Richt said. “When he was done, he felt good. Yesterday at practice, he looked good.”

On the other side of the ball for this Saturday, the Bulldog defenders will be facing a massive offensive line—one which averages more than 328 pounds per starter, or even larger than the heaviest starting offensive line in the NFL (San Diego Chargers, 324.0 pounds per starter). The Razorbacks’ “Hogs” up front have paved the way for Arkansas to average an SEC-best 278.7 rushing yards per game, while allowing an SEC-low five sacks all season.

“We know they’re going to run the ball,” said defensive end Sterling Bailey. “It’s going to be a good test for us, a good challenge, to see how far we have come and how much we can improve.”

If the victory over Missouri is any evidence, Georgia’s defense has come a long way and has improved significantly since earlier this season. Still, on this day interviewing Richt and his players, the line of questioning seemed to primarily focus on the player who didn’t even play against the Tigers, while little else is apparently known about the player’s status going forward.

“I just don’t have any answer for that,” said Richt when asked if he anticipated hearing any news on Gurley’s situation. “If there’s something worthy of reporting, we’ll report it.”

Later, Hutson Mason was asked if he had any news on the Gurley situation. Mason, who claimed he doesn’t use social media, said everything he hears is from other players, who see it on social media. However, the quarterback curiously added, “The only thing I know is that the NCAA said that they are going to make a ruling this week on [Gurley’s] eligibility.”

When a member of the media said to Mason that the NCAA making a ruling this week was certainly news—it was the first time any of us had heard that before—and then asked if another player had informed him of that, Mason agreed, but then added, “I may be wrong… I don’t know.”

Who Else Will Wear No. 19, and Gurley Has A Girlfriend?

by PATRICK GARBIN, DawgTime Beat Writer

ATHENS—Shortly after breaking down this Saturday’s opponent—the Missouri Tigers—during his Tuesday press conference, Coach Mark Richt fielded questions regarding the most recent defensive back to no longer be a member of the Georgia Bulldogs, cornerback Shaquille Jones.

Jones, a true freshman from Merritt Island, Florida, was arrested Sunday afternoon and charged with misdemeanor theft after having allegedly stolen $43 worth of auto supplies from an Athens Wal-Mart. He was immediately dismissed from the team following the arrest.

“I would say there is accumulation of things,” stated Richt when asked if Jones was dismissed for the single incident, or had he gotten in trouble before. “All of these things (like player dismissals) are based on a lot of factors. So would I say it was just that one factor? No, it was not.”

During the individual player interviews, another defensive back no longer playing for Georgia was discussed. However, this particular ex-Bulldog, freshman Rico Johnson, was declared medically disqualified last week due to a neurological condition. In his honor, cornerback Devin Bowman wore Johnson’s jersey No. 19 against Vanderbilt.

“Rico’s actually my cousin, and I’m probably going to wear [No. 19] a few times [this season],” said senior safety Corey Moore when asked if any other member of the secondary will wear Johnson’s number. “Rico’s a great kid on and off the field. … I don’t know when, but I’m going to wear [No. 19].”

Also against the Commodores, Georgia featured three quarterbacks—Hutson Mason, Brice Ramsey, and Faton Bauta—for the second time in three games. All three signal callers played in the first half; backup Ramsey appeared in a few series. Despite the recent shuffling of quarterbacks—each with their own unique playing style—the Bulldog offense has apparently found it not difficult to adjust each passer.

“There are certain plays scripted for certain [quarterbacks],” said receiver Michael Bennett when asked about handling the quarterback rotation. “You know the strengths and weaknesses of all the quarterbacks, so your mindset changes for each—cut a route short [for one], run a little deeper [for another], or something similar.”

Of course, according to Richt, the Bulldogs’ shuffling of quarterbacks is far from a “rotation.” “I wouldn’t call it a rotation,” Richt declared. “I would say that even last week we were committed to let Brice play a series in the first half. That was kind of it. … [Instead of a rotation] it was just more of an opportunity to get Brice’s feet wet.”

Finally, one of the three quarterbacks—starter Mason—was asked about playing alongside perhaps the current favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, Todd Gurley.

“I’m trying to help [Gurley] figure out the best gift to get his girlfriend for her birthday, let alone he’s the frontrunner for the Heisman,” Mason said.

So, Hutson, you’re saying Todd has a girlfriend?

“I may have gotten him in trouble, I don’t know,” Mason responded with a laugh.