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Richt, Bulldogs preview Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl

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Updated: 12/16/2013 2:58 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--Mark Richt and a select group of Georgia Bulldogs players met with the media today to discuss the upcoming Gator Bowl game. 

Georgia head coach Mark Richt and a delegation of players met with the media Monday to preview the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl against Nebraska on Jan. 1. Kickoff for the game is set for noon ET and will be televised nationally by ESPN2.  Coach Richt and the Bulldogs offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt
Opening Statement…
“Normally this is a time where I would talk a lot about our opponent. I haven’t gotten their press release yet, and I’ve been out recruiting a bunch, so I can’t really do it justice to do a scouting report today. I do know that Coach (Bo) Pelini’s team has the same record that we do in conference and the same record out of conference, and of course we played them a year ago. This is another chance to play them. We’ve got a lot of video, obviously, from this season and also from a year ago. There are not a lot of changes with either team, quite frankly, so I’m sure last year’s game is going to be very valuable for both coaching staffs to try to decide how to attack this year. I do know that they have had some injury issues, as we have. Obviously both quarterbacks are out of this game that were starting the season, and they run the ball extremely well. They’ve got (Ameer) Abdullah rushing for almost 1,600 yards, so that’s very impressive. I think they’ve got about seven starters back on offense and about four starters back on defense, but that’s about as far as I’ll go as far as the scouting report goes until I can study them a little bit better and do it some justice.”

“We had a little practice on Saturday. Somebody was driving by practice, and I guess asked if I was mad at the team and punishing them out there by practicing in the rain, but we just scheduled it on Saturday and got it done. It was good. We had a great gala Saturday night. Our gala is our senior awards banquet, and we had a chance to honor our seniors and give out a lot of team awards. People might ask why we do it before the season is over, and the main reason is that we want to make sure all of our players are there because if you wait until after the bowl game, a lot of these seniors tend to be moving on. Most of them have graduated already, and they go get ready for the NFL combine or start jobs, and it’s just hard to get everybody after the bowl game. We like to have our banquet and senior awards gala before everybody leaves town, so we had a really good event. I thought it was very well done. Coach Tereshinski kind of heads that up, so I want to give him some kudos on that.”

On Chris Conley…
“Chris has been great for us. Early on we thought about redshirting him, and I don’t know how many games it was into the season – maybe five or six games into the season – and we had enough injuries to where we needed help. A lot of guys when they hear that news, they’re a little disappointed because they think they’ve already missed a few games and it’s ruining their redshirt year. He was just the opposite. He was excited about the opportunity to play, he was prepared to play and he was the best candidate because he was the guy that was a great student of the game and most able to help us at the time. Sure enough, he made some big catches at Florida, and he just made some big plays as a true freshman. That was indicative of how he goes about his business and continues to go about his business. He’s always where he’s supposed to be when he’s supposed to be there. He’s always working hard and doing the very best he can do. Every route he runs is full speed. Even when he comes back from a route, he’s jogging at a pace that’s faster than most. He just has been a great leader for us. Younger guys look up to his work ethic and understand how that can really bless you in your career. He’s done so many things off the field, as far as community service projects and getting involved in student government on campus and nationally. I think he’s a world-changer kind of guy. I know when his football days are over – whenever they are – he’s going to do something big. He’s a great kid.”

On facing Nebraska in a bowl game for the second consecutive year…
“We had a meeting just trying to get back into the flow of thinking about football again. We gave them a little bit of a break. A lot of academic work was done. I didn’t really mention much about the fact that we’re playing Nebraska again as much as it’s time to start thinking about playing football again. I put together a little bit of a highlight tape of guys making plays, whether it was physical or whether it was effort. It was just excellent plays from the season at all positions at offense, defense and special teams, as well. I wanted them to see that film of themselves doing it the Georgia way and the right way and then get excited about playing that way in this bowl game and preparing to play that way. That’s what I talked about the most.”

On J.J. Green…
“J.J. has done very well, considering that he was a guy we weren’t quite sure what position we wanted him to play. We knew we just wanted him at Georgia, and last year in the spring we really needed some help at the running back position. We knew he could do it. We didn’t know if it would be a full-time gig for him or not, but it turns out that he’s quite a back. I guess the first game where we were dealing with this issue with depth was the Missouri game, knowing that Keith (Marshall) and (Todd) Gurley were out. We were relying on Brendan Douglas and J.J. to carry the load, to be starters and to be the difference-makers. For them to step in like they did is pretty impressive. J.J. is not a huge man, but I think people realize after the first time that they try to just knock him down that they have more than they reckoned for. They start respecting him with wrapping up on tackles and maybe going low on the guy because he really does finish his runs well and he has good hands.”

On J.J. Green remaining at tailback…
“We’ve not had any conversation at all about him moving. I’m not saying he never could or that he couldn’t’ expand his role as having the ability to learn some things out in the slot to have a tailback that has the versatility to learn in the backfield and then get out in the slot a little bit in the future. I’m sure that will be something we talk about in the offseason, but it’s not something that we’re messing with now.”

On the abundance of tailbacks that will be on the team next season…
“I don’t know if you can ever have enough backs, and certainly injury is an issue. Guys that are talented enough to possibly have a three-year career instead of a four-year career, you’ve got to plan for all of those things. I don’t know what decisions guys will make down the road, but certainly we’ve got some very talented backs that will have some decisions to make, as well. That’s all part of the reason to continue to recruit great players.”

On switching players among different positions…
“It’s harder than you think to go from one position to another or to try and play two positions at the same time. With the 20-hour rule, and with school and with all of the things that our guys have to do, for them to really be great at one position on offense and also on defense, it’s very, very difficult to do. You definitely can’t do it in one year. You might over a career. When it comes to game planning week by week, coaches are very reluctant to play a guy that they know doesn’t know all of the plays front and back. If Mike Bobo as a play-caller knows that he’s got a guy splitting time, even if he knows 80 percent of the plays, it’s hard for him to process that he knows this play but he doesn’t know this other play. You want a guy that knows all the plays and you can call anything you want. There are certain times where you’ll grab a guy for a certain situation, but when you’re calling the game, you don’t want to sit there and wonder what he knows or doesn’t know. It’s the same thing on defense. If a guy isn’t just 100 percent locked in on what he’s supposed to do, it’s hard to put him in there and have a lot of faith that he’s going to be able to perform. One little thing, as we know, can be there difference in winning and losing on any given play. It’s hard to do.”

On Todd Gurley…
“I think he’s one of the best backs in America. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I think most people that have seen him play would say that as well, and I’m going to leave it at that because I’m really not going to be interested in talking too much about next year.”

On the offensive line…
“I think our offensive line in general over the past few years has played extremely well. We were really concerned going into last year’s season, we thought we were in trouble, but they found a way to rally and become a part of an offense that did some really special things the season before this. This year they really just continued to play well. There were some moments where we got whipped individually, but game in and game out they came to play and fought hard. They knew what to do, and they created the space and the time that the quarterback needed. They created the space and the time that the backs needed to get started, and I’m proud of the job that they’ve done.”

On Amarlo Herrera being named Defensive Team MVP…
“There are a lot of guys that you could give it to. Like Ramik (Wilson) obviously had more tackles, and Ramik statistically had a better year. Not by a lot, but I think that’s part of the reason why Ramik was First Team All-SEC. Amarlo is the signal caller, and he has a lot of responsibility to get guys lined up and communicate a lot of things. He led well, so that’s part of it, too. Because of Amarlo’s extra responsibilities and the way he played and the way he led in the summer, that was a big part of it, as well.”

On Marshall Morgan…
“To me, when I saw Marshall’s high school tape, I was convinced that he was one of the best in the Southeast. Of all the film I gathered and all the film from our recruiting crew in the Southeast and around the country, I looked at it all. I wanted to make the call on that one, and from what I saw on film, he was the best one. He’s the guy we offered first, and thankfully he decided to come. The timing was great, obviously, with Blair (Walsh) getting ready to go and we were able to get him. So I was kind of hoping that he would do for us what I had seen him do on some of his high school tape. We know he started rough banging it off the goal post and missing extra points, but it’s not easy to do it in front of that many people and have the weight of that responsibility. He had a tremendous offseason, and I saw in the spring the things that I was seeing in his high school film on a consistent basis. It carried through the summer and the fall, and he’s been really good. I’m happy that he got to show everybody how good he can be.”

On the academic standing of players…
“I’ve got no fear of anything happening. That’s not to say there couldn’t be a surprise. All of the reports are not in yet, so maybe tomorrow we can finalize that.”

On Ramik Wilson…
“We saw his high school tape, and he was a middle linebacker in high school. We thought maybe he’d have a better chance to play outside and then we could move him inside once we had some depth go. Going into this year, my gut was that we weren’t seeing the best of Ramik. I, quite frankly, thought that he was a little bored. He wasn’t playing as much as he would have liked to play, and he played some special teams here and there, but I had the feeling that once he got into the starting role, he was going to really perk up and start playing and practicing with more of a purpose. He wasn’t bad, but it’s no fun playing your whole life since you’re little and then all of a sudden you’re sitting there watching. He was never negative in any way, shape or form, but I had a feeling he was really going to blossom once he had the chance to play a lot of downs and snaps.”

On the potential that UGA could have faced Miami in a bowl game…
“I was kind of hoping we would play the U. I heard there was a chance we could play my alma mater, but this will be great because Nebraska was the team I grew up admiring. That was my team as a kid, so it worked out.”

On Chris Conley’s Star Wars movie…
“I know about Star Wars pretty good. I like movies and watch most all of them. I didn’t really realize he was making a movie, but I was in Facing the Giants and that thing went worldwide, so I’m afraid that’d blow my reputation as an actor if I did something again. If he’d ask me (to be in it), I’d consider it, but I’m not making any promises right now.”

QB Hutson Mason
On playing against Nebraska in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl…
"I'm very grateful for the opportunity. Nebraska is a very good team. I've already started watching film on them and they returned a lot of guys in the secondary. It's going to be a challenge to be able to throw, complete balls, and move the ball. If you just go back and watch last year's game, it took us a while to get going. They're a team that's a lot like us. They've been hit by the injury bug, they're 8-4, we're 8-4, and if you look at their games, one thing I've noticed is that they were one drive, one play from being 9-3, being in a bigger bowl, or playing in a conference championship just like us. So, I don't think 8-4 describes their record, just like I don't think 8-4 describes our record. They've got a lot of talent and it's going to be a challenge."

On the importance of this bowl game heading into the offseason…
"I think it's big. That last game, no matter how your season is – whether it's bad and you win, or it's good and you lose – can either leave a sour taste in your mouth or it can kind of build momentum going into the offseason. So I know just from my standpoint that I want to keep that momentum rolling because we can have a special team next year, and I want to keep that energy and that excitement moving into the offseason."

SE Michael Bennett
On the matchup with Nebraska…
"I didn't play [Nebraska] last year so it will be interesting to play them. It will be something a little different to go against, so I'm excited about it."

On playing in Jacksonville…
"We play there every year and that's always fun. I love playing against the Gators there every year. The ‘Biggest Cocktail Party’ makes it a great atmosphere so that will be a lot of fun. We don't usually stay in Jacksonville, and I don't even know what there is to do around there, so it will be fun to see what it's all about."

OG Chris Burnette
On preparing for the upcoming matchup with Nebraska…
"I think we will get up for it just because it's another opportunity to represent the Georgia Bulldogs. It's always fun to play the game regardless of who we're playing. We play the same teams in the SEC every year so I think it's just like doing that. I think Nebraska is a good team and there's a lot of good competition there, so we'll definitely have to be ready for it."

On playing Nebraska in a bowl game for the second consecutive season…
"I was kind of like the other guys who wanted to play Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, or another team we don't normally get a shot to play against, but at the same time I wasn't disappointed. I'm just glad we get to play another football game. This is my last go around so I'm not going to sit here and complain about who we're playing because this is my last shot."

LB Amarlo Herrera
On Georgia’s motivation for the bowl game…
“We just want to win. We had a good comeback win in the last game of the season and we’re riding high. We just want to keep the momentum up going into next year. We just want to win and build up momentum.”

On looking back at this year in comparison to the preseason expectations…
“Yeah, you shake your head but some things aren’t meant to be at a certain time. This year was kind of building us and molding us and kind of getting us ready for next year and preparing us for the possibility of getting there next year. I think you have to look at this game as part of next season. It’s our first game of next season really.”

On fellow linebacker Ramik Wilson being named to the All-SEC team…
“It doesn’t surprise me. I know what he’s been doing all season, and I know how hard he worked during the offseason. I was just happy to see him get there. I pretty much knew he could do it; he just had to get a shot. When he got the opportunity, he made the most of it.”

CB Damian Swann
On playing Nebraska in a bowl game for the second year in a row…
“It’s just another game to get better. It doesn’t really matter to me because they are a great opponent that we played last year, and they played us tough. It’s going to be one of those games where we come in and we have to play our best. It’s just another opportunity to put another win in our column, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

On how beneficial the weeks off have been…
“This is a tough league and people get banged up almost every week so I think having those two weeks off was good for the secondary and for the whole team really. It allowed some guys to get over some of those injuries.”

On how the break will affect the secondary…
“We just have to keep playing football. Taking a break doesn’t solve any problems or get rid of anything, we just have to keep playing football and that’s what we’re going to do. I think with these practices we’re going to get better and go out and execute our game plan.”

 

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