ATHENS -- With the season opener against Louisiana-Lafayette just four days away, Georgia head coach Mark Richt and several football players -- including Seminole County's Bacarri Rambo, who will be starting on defense this year for the Bulldogs -- addressed the media Tuesday during the team's first weekly press luncheon of the 2010 season.
What took place was a question-and-answer session that helped shed light on the 2010 season.
Georgia head coach
Q: How excited are you for Saturday?
A: It's great to be undefeated and in a great mood. This is awesome. Now we have to play. Louisiana-Lafayette, the Ragin Cajuns. Rickey Bustle, I've known Rickey a long time. I knew Rickey when he was coaching at Virginia Tech for years and kind of exchanged a lot of ideas offensively over the years. Not a lot lately, but back in the day. I have a very high respect for Rickey and what he is doing. He's entering his ninth season there, which is great. I didn't realize it until today, he coached Todd Grantham back in his day. So I probably should have been reading the newspapers and I would have known that by now. I just caught wind of that, so that's pretty interesting. I know coach Grantham will be excited about hooking up with coach Bustle.
Q: How's the health of the team heading into the opener?
A: Richard Samuel for us maybe would not be able to go, who would normally go. Chris Burnette, he's iffy right now, but everybody else looks like they will be ready to play, which is great. Everybody is going to be able to practice this entire week who will probably play, so that's good too.
Q: Are you nervous about -- or for -- first-year starter Aaron Murray?
A: I hope it's friendly for him. Aaron -- he's human. He's a freshman and he's going to have nerves just like everybody else. I'm a 50-year-old man, and I'll be nervous too, which is a good thing. Louisiana-Lafayette, you look at them last year. They played Kansas State and beat them. Kansas State plays Texas A&M and beats the heck out of A&M. They are a very capable team and a very veteran defense, as I mentioned, with a fourth-year coordinator, juniors and seniors and guys who know what they are doing, guys who will be very confident from a defensive standpoint. I don't know how friendly they'll be to him. Hopefully, our fans will be friendly to him and hopefully our fans will realize he's a freshman, he's a rookie. He's going to make mistakes. He probably won't just be lights out as far as his accuracy and his decisions and all those things. He's going to be finding his way, and hopefully his teammates will help him out ... I feel good about the guys around him."
Q: How do you feel about starting a freshman?
A: What I've learned is that you are better off starting slow, and you are better off starting with a smaller package and repping him over and over and over with this smaller package. And then hopefully he'll have success and you can kind of grow as you go. That's what I've learned and tried to help him understand. Most of these guys were pretty good playmakers in high school. They are used to being the guy making plays. Sometimes they feel like every time the ball is snapped they have to make a play, you have to do something spectacular. Aaron is a pretty mobile kid, and who knows how many times he created and scrambled and made plays? That's kind of what he's used to. He has to understand that you have to trust your feet. When I say trust your feet, when we drop in the pocket, when you hit that back foot in the ground you are looking at a first progression. When you hitch once you are looking at your second, and when you hitch third you are checking it down or you are starting in scramble mode or you are throwing it away. It's not going to be like every play I'm going to ad lib and do all these great things. You just have to understand, you don't have to be the hero. You just have to run this system, and what we have to understand is that no matter how much he knows, he's going to be going through some things for the first time and we have to help him.
Q: What's your team's mental outlook heading into the opener?
A: I know Louisiana-Lafayette is coming in to beat a Top-25 team and make their reputation at the expense of us. Our guys understand that. It's been rare that we weren't pretty jacked up and excited to play an opening game, so I think that helps a lot. I think our players have a very healthy respect for who we are playing, mainly because when you watch the film you see guys who can make plays. They are sending guys to the NFL, too. They don't have a talent base problem. When you are in the Deep South, you are going to find players and athletes. They are very well coached, so I don't think our guys are falling into that trap at all.
Q: Talk about the guy you expect to make a major impact on defense this year in (former Seminole County star) Bacarri Rambo.
A: He's excited about starting. He's earned the right to start obviously. He's pretty much earned it because he picked it up the quickest. He learned what to do pretty quickly. He was able to help other guys get lined up properly. And he's a good player. He has very good ball skills, and he's not afraid to hit you. He's got good speed, and he's got just a knack for football. He'd be a heck of a quarterback, I think, too. He's got some ability to do those things. I think he'll do well.
Q: How do you feel about the second team this year? Are they solid?
A: You have to have depth and quality depth, guys who can come in and play well. A year ago when we had a lot of injuries or even during camp a little bit when guys were out for a week or a few days, it just gives the next guy a chance to get more reps and get better. I think that's crucial. Most teams, as the season wears on, if you don't have enough depth, you're in trouble. Anybody that you play in the first game of the year, everybody is healthy, everybody is undefeated, everybody is excited, and they might not be the same team game eight, nine or 10 that they are game one.
Q: What's your take on Trinton Sturdivant? Is he going to make an impact?
A: Trinton is doing well. Trinton has been practicing. The last practice game, he got maybe 12 or 13 snaps. Trinton has been hooking it up in our inside running drills, which for a lineman, that is live basically. When you go thud with linemen, they are banging heads every play. They are in the middle of a bunch of bodies trying to block a scheme and can get rolled up, so he has gotten those reps and he's gaining more confidence and he'll play.
Q: Can you address all the offseason issues your team has had? What's being done to quell those?
A: The flaw is if a guy does something that deserves to be disciplined and you don't discipline him. That's where the flaw is. The flaw is in us as humans. We're flawed, we're human, we make mistakes. When we make a mistake, then we get disciplined for it. As long as we have 18-22-year old guys who are human beings, they are going to make mistakes. That's just all there is to it. If you don't discipline it, you have a problem. If they don't learn from it, then they have a problem. If it's severe enough that they don't belong on the team, then they go -- that's just the way it is. I think a lot of times, you guys cover us over and over and over and you're not everyday watching what's going on next door. If you lived in that neighborhood and you watched what happened everyday, you would probably say they have problems, too. The problem is we are human, the problem is the culture of the college kids around the country and the things that they think are fun and what they do and just sometimes flat immaturity and that kind of thing.
Q: Talk about RB Caleb King and his suddenly increased role with Washaun Ealey being suspended.
A: He's ready and he's in great condition. He'll get more carries I'm sure than he would have if Washaun was there. Carlton will have to step up, and Fred Munzenmaier might get a few totes at tailback, too, so I'm sure he'll be excited about that.
Georgia starting QB
Q: Aaron, talk about your offensive line. Are you confident they'll be able to protect you?
A: I think that they're a great group of guys. They've worked together, at least some of them, for three years now. I've said it 100 times, but I think that they're probably the best offensive line in the SEC and probably one of the best groups in the country. Those guys, all of them could play on Sundays. They all enjoy each other. They're a great group of guys and they really like to hang out with each other. They work well together, which is huge. There's no risk between those guys. There's great communication out there, which is really reassuring when you get to the line of scrimmage and they're all saying the same thing and are all on the same page. It's great to have those five guys in front of me.
Q: Are you more nervous, anxious or excited? Or a little of all of the above?
A: I wouldn't say that I get nervous. I would say that I get more juiced up. I get really excited, and I need to take that down a notch. I get extremely pumped up. It'd be a great thing if I was on defense and I was trying to take someone's head off, but offensivewise, you want to be a little more mellow. I think that I'll be fine once I get calmed down a bit. I'm just excited about the opportunity to come out and play.
Q: How do you feel coming off shoulder surgery?
A: It's not starting over, because I kind of understand the concept of everything out there. It's hard to put into words, but it's exciting. It's nerve-wracking. I'm just excited and antsy. I even have a little bit of anxiety because I'm so ready to be out there on Saturday.
Q: How confident are you in your quarterback, Aaron Murray?
A: I didn't realize, because I didn't get to throw with him a lot last year because I was injured, just how good of a player Aaron really was. He's intelligent. He's a student of the game, and it's almost like he's a veteran already. He really is something special.
Q: How glad are you guys to have Trinton back?
A: Trinton is really excited about going back again. He's being smart and making sure that he's not doing anything that will hurt him during his return. In my opinion, Trinton looks great. He's almost back to his old form. He's ready. It's all he's been talking about every day at practice.
Q: What about the play of the line as a whole? Is it a strong bunch?
A: We feel good as a whole. We know that we have to get comfortable out there as a whole, and we know what we have to do out on the field. We're ready for Saturday.
Q: How do you feel coming off the injury that kept you sidelined for most of fall practice?
A: It was frustrating in the beginning when I had some adversity, but now I'm in a position to be well and be ready to play football.
Q: Do you feel OK about starting even though you missed so much preseason practice?
A: It's an honor. The guys in there while I was out did fantastic and really took on a leadership role and did a nice job. To have missed camp was unfortunate, but now I feel like I'm ready to go and I'm glad to be back in there.
Q: Akeem, this is your senior season. Will it be emotional all year for you?
A: You get to that point where you start to feel like it's your last season. You always think you'll play football all your life, but you don't know that. When your senior season rolls around you have to take advantage.
Q: Bacarri, what are the defense's keys to success?
A: I think we have to win the turnover ratio. When you are able to create turnovers it really sets the tone for the defense. In the past, we've been ranked low in that category, so we have to go out there and focus on getting turnovers and getting our great offensive players back on the field because they'll make plays. Our coaches have stressed that to us. Coach Grantham is aggressive on play-calling, and we'll do things and force the quarterback to throw bad balls and help us do what we need to do.
Q: How eager is the defense to actually play someone other than the offense? You guys ready to hit someone?
A: It's been a very long time since we got a chance to hit an opponent, so we're all ready to go out there. It's different when you're playing your own guys. We all want to go out there and do it, but at the same time you don't want to hurt your teammates. We're excited to face an actual opponent.
Q: Excited about your first start?
A: It feels great to get out there and start and to know I'll have everybody screaming. It's exciting to start my first college game -- it's a dream come true. I've been dreaming about that since I was a little boy. My dad always told me I'd get where I need to be if I worked hard, and I've been working hard to get to this point. I'm going to continue to do that to achieve my dreams of succeeding here and playing at the next level.
Q: What's the biggest difference between starting and coming off the bench?
A: Being on the sideline and watching guys play and having an idea of what to do when my turn is called is helpful. But now that I'm starting, I really have started to focus and pay much more attention to my playbook because I'll be out on the field all the time. On one hand it's very difficult being on the sideline, but in some ways it helps too. I want to be a starter and have my name called at the beginning of the game.
Q: You guys like the job Grantham is doing?
A: We're going to play whatever coach Grantham calls. We are comfortable with the things we've worked on in practice; we've gone over everything a lot of
times, so we're just going out and having fun. That's what we'll do each and every Saturday."