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Last week, Coach Mark Richt was gracious enough to sit down with me and be interviewed. I asked him a series of questions that I find very pertinent to 2014 including talking about Lorenzo Carter, Hutson Mason, championship aspirations, and much more.
Me: Alright, Coach, talk to us about this exciting offseason especially with the hiring of Coach Pruitt and the staff he brought in and how Georgia was able to haul in another top recruiting class despite coaching uncertainties.
CMR: Well, you know there's almost always going to be some kind of change in your staff at the collegiate level. It is just kind of part of the business. We love it when our coaches stay, but there are times when guys get opportunities, and we're happy that they get those opportunities, and it gives us a chance to hire new folks you know. Bringing in Jeremy Pruitt, Kevin Sherrer, Tracy Rocker, along with a guy named Mike Ekeler, that's the defensive staff for us right now led by Coach Pruitt. It's a great group. It's not very often that you get to bring a whole side of the ball in together at one time, other than when you are a brand new head coach. Bringing in all these coaches together, they're all excited to be at Georgia and ready to get after it.
Me: I know you had a great recruiting class in the class of 2014, and a notable guy among those signees is 5-star defender Lorenzo Carter. He played DE in high school. Will he switch to OLB in the 3-4 system, and what kind of impact can he have now and in the future at Georgia?
CMR: Well, one thing he does naturally is rush the passer, so we need to put him in a position to do so because that is his main strength right now. But in the meantime, we got to continue to get him bigger and stronger and able to play the run at the SEC level, and that does not happen overnight. We understand that as far as his technique and growing in his size, strength, and knowledge of the game. Those are the things we'll be working on, but we think he can make an impact for us as a freshman, and we'll give him that shot.
Me: Although UGA returns a lot of talent particularly on the offensive side of the ball, they do lose veteran players on the O-line, have to transition over from the Murray-era at QB, and have concerns on the defensive side of the ball especially in the secondary. What do you think could be Georgia's biggest weakness in 2014?
CMR: Well, you know it's hard to tell. There are a lot of times when a certain spot is earmarked, so to speak, or everybody points to the certain group as the weak part of the team. A lot of times if they're saying that all offseason, those guys are the guys that are working the hardest to prove they are not the weak link. It's very difficult to say. I remember a couple of years ago when our offensive line was supposed to be awful, and they actually weren't very good in the spring. However, by the time the season rolled around, we (the O-line) were breaking school records and doing some big things on offense because of how they grew. Right now, it's hard to really say what is going to happen.
Me: Similarly to that, what do you think will be Georgia's biggest strength this fall?
CMR: I think the biggest strength is going to be the unity of our staff, the unity of our football team, how hard we are going to work, and how much we are going to believe in each other. I think that's going to be our strength.
Yours Truly With Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt
Me: Coach Richt, Hutson Mason had his highs and lows at the end of last season from the blowout of Kentucky, and the clutch comeback and great win over archrival Georgia Tech, to a somewhat disappointing performance in the Gator Bowl against a kind of mediocre Nebraska squad. Can we believe they're will be no major drop-off at QB after Murray's graduation? Also, does Mason have a strong enough arm to air it out and spread the field, or will we continue to see little dinks and dunks?
CMR: Well, he's a very talented guy. I mean it's hard to replace a 4-year starter obviously. Murray was the most prolific passer in the history of the Southeastern Conference, so it's hard to say there won't be a drop-off, but I think it was a very valuable experience for Hutson to get to play last year and get that first start under his belt. He understands what it feels like to be the #1 guy, so that won't be a first time experience when we play Clemson. I think it's going to only help him. His job is not going to be to try to be the hero every down; he has just got to get the ball to the skill players. He can certainly throw it deep as well as short. We'll continue to air it out down the field a little bit.
Me: Could there be any competition for the starting job (at QB) from Bryce Ramsey, early-enrollee Jacob Park, or even Faton Bauta?
CMR: We're always going to give them the opportunity to get reps, and if one guy stands out above the rest at any position, he'll be the starter. I think it will be very difficult for one of those guys to knock him out of the box, but we certainly are always competing. Those guys are competing not only for this season but for the season after, or if Hutson is the starter, we all know people get banged up and all of a sudden you got to jump in there and be ready to go. These guys got a lot to learn in a short amount of time.
Me: Going back to the defensive side of the ball, how much will the hiring of Jeremy Pruitt impact the defensive performance this fall?
CMR: Well, that's what we're going to find out, isn't it?
Me: What will it take this year for the Dawgs to win an SEC and National Championship?
CMR: Well, I just think we got to win the close ones. We lost 5 games, and we probably had 3 or 4 of them went down to the wire. Actually, some of our victories came down to the wire. I think we had 8 games that came down to the last series or last play of the game. You've got to be prepared to win the close games, and you win those games by doing the little things right in all areas-special teams, offense, and defense obviously. One little assignment on one play can make the difference in the game. We just got to pay attention to every little detail and make sure we are taking care of business on a daily basis as we prepare.
Me: Alright finally, Coach, this is where it gets really serious. What is your favorite pre-game meal on gameday?
CMR: My favorite pre-game meal? Man, I don't eat much before the game. I eat a lot after the game, but I don't eat much before the game.
Me: Haha, I understand. Thanks, Coach!
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