September 3, 2011; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt (left) and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham react to the action on the field against the Boise State Broncos during the fourth quarter at the Georgia Dome. Boise State defeated Georgia 35-21. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia Football: Tuesday Press Conference - Defense

Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt shakes hands with defensive back Damian Swann (5) Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia head football coach Mark Richt and a delegation of players met with the media Tuesday during the Bulldogs’ weekly press luncheon. They offered the following comments:

Head Coach Mark Richt

On the defense…

“I’m probably more curious than concerned. It’s just going to be interesting to see how quickly these guys can get their feet under them and start playing with some confidence. I’m not saying they won’t start out that way, but young people tend to be more apt to react to what happens early in the game. If things are going great, they feel great. If things aren’t going well, they start feeling bad. That’s one of the biggest things that they really have to understand. No matter what happens, you have to play the next down, and Coach (Todd) Grantham talks about it all the time. He talks about doing your job and playing the next snap, so whether it’s a good one or a bad one, you have to get back focused on what you’re supposed to do. It’s going to be awhile before we really see how good these guys can be, but they’ll definitely get tested on Saturday.”

On the defensive mentality heading into the season…

“I just don’t know yet. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know how well our front seven will play. When it comes to a passing game, the best way to try to affect a receiver is to affect the quarterback. You want to get him to make a mistake or pressure him, or if you can just get him off his rhythm of standing in the pocket and throwing strikes. I’m just not sure what we’re going to get out of our front. I think we’ve got some potential there, but you just never know how a guy is going to play once he gets in there. We’ve seen all of our guys make plays in practice. These guys have the ability, but will they do it in a game? We’ll just have to find out.”

On Connor Norman…

“Connor really understands the system well. He understands what’s going on in the back end, and he understands the checks that we make against certain looks. He has the ability to communicate it to guys that don’t know it as well, and that’s huge. Christian Robinson was that kind of guy for us at linebacker during his career. He added a lot of value to our defense just from a knowledge standpoint, and that’s where Connor is right now.

“He’s done a very good job for us. Guys are always trying to gain the confidence of their coaching staff, and our coaches have a very good comfort level with him in the game and his ability to know where to be. Half the battle for safeties, especially when you’re trying to tackle people, is being where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there. If you’re late getting down into the box, the farther you are away from the back, which creates space. Space is the enemy of anyone trying to make a tackle. If you get where you’re supposed to be, the guy doesn’t have as much room to maneuver on you and that helps you make the tackle or make the play. Connor is just one of those guys that has that advantage, and he really has it based upon all of the knowledge that he has.”

On the depth at safety if Corey Moore cannot play on Saturday…

“You’ve got guys that are going to end up playing safety for us, like Connor Norman and Tray Matthews, if he has no more setbacks. You have Quincy Mauger that will be able to play, and Shaquille Fluker has been practicing again, so I think those guys will be available. We’ll figure out where we’ll set them up when they snap the ball.”

Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Amarlo Herrera (52) Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Linebacker Amarlo Herrera

On playing with several new faces on defense this year…

“It’s just a different feeling. We just have to know that the older people have to step up and take charge and lead. I’m not really that curious about how everyone will play this year. I know everyone is prepared and that we’ve been working hard and are ready to play.”

On his biggest question about the defense going into Clemson …

“How we’re going to react. How it’s going to feel out there for everyone that has never played in a college football game before. You never know what to expect. [Clemson] has a lot of athletic, good players and a lot of returners that are ready to play so we just have to step up and be ready for the challenge. We really want to slow down their pace because they’re fast paced, so if we slow them down we’ll be good.”

Jordan Jenkins, photo by Sonny Kennedy, http://www.sonnykennedyphotography.com/

Linebacker Jordan Jenkins

On what he thinks this defense is capable of Saturday night…

“I feel like the country is going to have a lot of questions about whether we can play or not. Mentally, for me, I guess some of the stuff that we’re telling the younger guys is ‘don’t worry about what other people are saying, just show up and listen to what the coaches say and do what you’re taught, do what you’re told, and that’s how we’re going to win the game.’”

On the differences between this year’s defense and last year’s…

“I guess the biggest difference is the size of the defense, and we’re a lot smaller on the line this year but we have a lot more guys that can rotate in than last year. Last year we had the 11 guys and one or two subs, this year we’ve got two or three subs per position just about. I just feel like with all that depth that we have greater competition. I know I’ve been saying that a lot but that’s just a big factor in what we’re going to do this year.”

On being able to substitute players against Clemson’s fast-paced offense…

“That’s another thing that we actually thought about for the past week or two. Monday and Saturday’s practice we were just doing stuff having to sub-in and sub-out and if you didn’t run off the field in time then that’s an extra sprint that you have to do after practice. At first we started off with like six sprints and now we might have had one yesterday. It’s down to the lower counts. I think we can be ready for that.”

Jordan Jenkins photo is copyrighted property of Sonny Kennedy,
 http://www.sonnykennedyphotography.com/

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