Georgia Football: Tuesday Press Conference - Defense

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Ramik Wilson & Amarlo Herrera

Ramik Wilson & Amarlo Herrera

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

Coach Mark Richt

On frustrations with the defense…

“Everyone is frustrated. Everyone takes pride in what they do, but we have to keep believing in each other. We have to keep banging away. We can’t lose any kind of hope or faith, and there’s enough progress going on that I still feel very comfortable that we’re moving in the right direction with a lot of pups. There are a lot of good things happening. People can say what they want about what happened last year, but the bottom line is that nine of our guys on defense made NFL teams, so there was a loss of experience and a talent base and new positions that had to be filled. Sometimes things take time, but you see the signs of good things to come in the future. First of all, I think Garrison Smith is the only senior we’ve got in the starting lineup, and Connor Norman has been playing some. As far as how we’re progressing now and how the future looks, I think we’re exceptionally bright. We’re at game seven now, so we’ve played enough games to where some of these guys that were inexperienced when they got started aren’t anymore. They have half of a season under their belt, so we’ve got to keep making plays. Even last game, I thought in the second half the defense really did a good job of giving the offense a chance to dig back in that game. We’re a two-point conversion away from tying with a lot of clock left. We’re sitting there with 4:12 to go and a drive away from tying the game and putting it into overtime, so there were some good things that happened, without a doubt. We just have to keep getting better.”

On the play of the Georgia secondary against Missouri…

“The thing about Missouri receivers being big is that the big receivers have an advantage on the jump ball, obviously. You can throw the ball high up in the air and you have a corner that just doesn’t match up, height-wise, so it’s very difficult for those corners to make a play. We got hurt with that. The other thing that big receivers do is block well. They’re big guys and strong guys. Now Shaq Wiggins had the most success by using his quickness. He wasn’t to physically whip them, but I think I mentioned this before that it’s a little bit similar to an offensive tackle trying to block the really quick defensive end. The smaller speed rushers are tough on those guys, and I think Shaq’s creating a little problem for a big receiver to try to get his hands on it. Shaq really did pretty good in that area, but when it came to the jump balls, it was tough on him. It’s tough on most any cornerback in that type of matchup. Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews is definitely a high draft pick. He’s going to play, if he stays healthy, a lot of years in the NFL. He’s not super big, but he’s strong and fast with great hands. He’s just a great player. Jonathan Krause is not quite as big, he’s more of a slot receiver, but he’s a very talented guy, as well. As far as how our defensive backs did, I think when it got down to the jump ball situation, we got out-manned. When it came to handling some of those quick screens out there, I thought we actually played a pretty good game. You saw Josh Harvey-Clemons make some nice plays where he either powered through a guy or made a guy miss. The one penalty we had might have been one of the bigger plays of the game. If we don’t get that roughing the passer call, it would have been third and long at a time that was very crucial. It really doesn’t take away from what Josh Harvey-Clemons did. The penalty did, but physically we can see what he did, which is pretty good.”

On the defense’s ability to adjust to various offenses this season…

“I think most offenses are forcing defenses to react. Obviously, you have to react to how people line up. You have to react fast. The defense has to react to the offense, and that’s just part of defense. When the defense should take advantage is when you win first and second down, and now you get them in a position where they’re kind of one-dimensional. We’ve probably had more third and mediums or third and longs than we’ve had in a long time, but we’re not getting off the field enough. We’re getting off some, but not enough. With the third and super longs, we’ve played kind of a little three-man defense and they’ve gotten eight or nine or ten yards and had to punt. When it’s been third and anywhere from six to eleven, we should win a high percentage of those, but we just haven’t won enough of them. I think we’re getting a little better at it, and I think we’re doing the right things, but we just have to execute better. Part of it is the learning curve of the young defensive backs. Let’s face it – we’re playing a bunch of rookies back there. It’s tough to be great at it when you’re just learning as you go.”

On Ray Drew…

“Ray’s been a little bit of a surprise. When you sign Ray, everybody thought we had this five-star guy who was going to come in and do this and that, and it’s taken Ray a little while to get going. Now that the light came on, or however you want to say it, he’s really playing well. I like his attitude. I read a little bit about what he was saying, as far as trying to forget everything that happened last week and starting from scratch trying to prove himself each week. He’s becoming a little bit of a force. The stat you see with defensive linemen is the tackles or the sacks, but he’s been pretty disruptive. He’s been pretty stout in the run, as much as he has in the pass. He’s a guy that’s not only a situational guy – he’s an every-down guy. He’s played well. I think the fact that we’ve done pretty well subbing at that position across the board has been good because it’s kept guys pretty fresh, but I’m really pleased with what Ray’s been doing.”

On the overall pressure created by the defense this season…

“I think they’re doing good. I think we’re really, as far as run defense, we’re playing pretty good and that’s where you start. Again, you have to stop the run or at least slow down the run to where you can get it to third and long or third and medium at worst, so I think we’ve done a good job. I think guys have pushed the pocket pretty good, and we’ve gotten some sacks by the interior defensive linemen. We may have as many sacks from the D-line as the edge rushers, so that’s pretty good.”

On the play of Damian Swann and Jordan Jenkins this season…

“I talked a little bit about Damian last time that he was struggling. I think he played a really good second half. He started out maybe a little rugged in the first. With Jordan, I think it’s easy to say that if a guy doesn’t have ‘X’ amount of sacks that he’s not having a good year at the end position, but I think he’s playing very physical against the run. I think he’s pressuring the quarterback. He’s getting some edge pressure and forcing guys in the pocket. We’ve had a good many sacks, and rarely is it just one guy getting the sack. A lot of times, it’s a team effort. A guy’s in the pocket and makes the guy begin to scramble and other guys clean up. I think Jordan would like to have more sacks than he’s got right now, obviously, but I think he’s playing pretty good.”

On whether or not Jordan Jenkins is trying to replace the talent of Jarvis Jones…

“You’d have to ask him if he feels that or not, but all I see is a guy working extremely hard in practice. He plays hard. I don’t know if you ever see him loaf. I can’t even think of one image where I thought he wasn’t playing hard. That’s all you can ask for from a guy.”

On the status of junior college transfer Shaquille Fluker…

“You get to the point where you decide who you’re going with, so to speak, and he just wasn’t ready at that time. I know he had some injury issues somewhere along the way, and by the time we settled on who was in there making the plays and getting the reps, he wasn’t one of them. We’re going to redshirt him.”

Garrison Smith, photo by Sonny Kennedy, http://www.sonnykennedyphotography.com/

Garrison Smith, photo by Sonny Kennedy, http://www.sonnykennedyphotography.com/

Defensive Lineman Garrison Smith

On if he is pleased with the play of the defensive front thus far…

“I’m definitely happy. I’m glad that we’re doing pretty decent considering that this is a very young defense, but I’m not satisfied. I think there is plenty of room for improvement and we have to keep getting better.”

On the defensive front coming together and being the strength of the defense…

“We’re just executing and doing what the coaches tell us to do. Everybody is doing their job and we’re working together to create opportunities for each other, and for players to get sacks and things like that. It’s just teamwork and working together and communicating.”

On the play of DE Ray Drew this year…

“He’s just getting after it. He’s trying to get sacks and it’s working. He’s pretty good. I’m happy for him and I’m glad that he’s finally doing well and playing well. I’m just happy for the guy.”

On improving on their third down defense…

“We just have to get more pressure on the quarterback. We need to get back there faster and take some of the pressure off of the DBs. Like I say, the whole defense has to work together to make each other better. We have to do a lot to help the secondary. It’s that sort of thing. We all just have to do our job.”

Connor Norman, photo by Danny Bishop

Connor Norman, photo by Danny Bishop

Safety Connor Norman

On what the defense needs to key in on against Vanderbilt…

“We obviously all know about Jordan Matthews who is a great receiver, but they also have a couple of other guys on the perimeter who are good receivers, and backs that can come out of the backfield too. Really, it’s going to be all about our assignments and executing what’s called.”

On how matching up against Missouri’s receivers has helped in preparing for Vanderbilt…

“They have some height on the perimeter and I think playing the ball better is going to be a big part of it. Our guys are just going to need to be confident in their ability [to match up with the receivers] because they are good enough to play against them. We just need to be confident in what we can do.”

On creating more turnovers…

“I don’t know if there is a special formula to creating turnovers, but we need more turnovers obviously. I think it’s just, obviously, executing. Then it’s also guys that are second in on the tackle and just being aware of the situation. Turnovers are huge and we need them. They’re game changers so that’s definitely something that’s in the back of our minds.”

All photos are copyrighted property of Sonny Kennedy Photography,
http://www.sonnykennedyphotography.com/

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Tags: Connor Norman Garrison Smith Georgia Bulldog Football Georgia Bulldogs

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