October 13, 2009

Richt says program on solid ground

Georgia coach Mark Richt Tuesday rejected the notion that something is amiss with his Bulldog program following last week's 45-19 loss to Tennessee, a defeat that dropped the team to 3-3.

Tuesday, Athletic Director Damon Evans told the Atlanta-Constitution that he had "concerns" about the current state of the Bulldogs.

However, when asked about the comment during Tuesday's weekly press conference at Stegeman Coliseum, Richt seemed to think that Evans was referring to the current season rather than anything about the program as a whole.

"I think he said he had concerns about the season if I'm not mistaken. I have concerns about the season, of course. As far as the program, we have a very strong program. We've finished in the Coaches Poll 10th last year, 2nd on the AP poll the year before and what six out of seven years in the top 10? That's not bad," Richt said. "That's the past, I understand that, but when you start talking about a program I think you have to start talking about where we've been in recent history here. The other thing is this season is not over, it's just not over. I think when some of your main goals, not necessarily fall by the wayside but become less likely to be attained, it's tough on everybody. We're very concerned. We're battling as hard as we can possibly battle to get us headed in the right direction."

Evans did not immediately return phone calls from UGASports.

But some fans are demanding change.

During his weekly radio show Monday night, one caller asked Richt what staff changes might be in store once the season is complete.

Naturally, Richt wouldn't say, but said he understands why fans would be upset at the current state of his Bulldog team.

"I think a lot of people expect blood. They want somebody to be let go and fired and all that kind of thing and maybe that's what needs to be done," Richt said during the show. "But at this point right now, we're going to do what we know is the best thing to do and that is to focus on this game this week against Vanderbilt."

With three losses, the Bulldogs are just one defeat away from dropping four games for the fifth time since 1999. It would be the third time under Richt.

But he remains hopeful, referring back to 1996 when Georgia dropped four of five games but finished strong with victories over Auburn, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

"I guess it's hard to measure a team's ability to withstand pressure and I think a lot of teams fold under that mind of pressure. A lot of coaches fold under that kind of pressure. We never did," he said. "We were very resilient, we were very persistent and we stayed the course. We didn't make a bunch of wholesale changes, whether it was players, coaches or anything like that. We just grinding, we kept banging away."

Despite struggles, indications are that Cox will still start

Although Richt didn't come out and say 100 percent that Joe Cox will start at quarterback Saturday at Vanderbilt, it certainly appears that will be the case.

"Joe has been a little bit up-and-down these last couple of games. I would say that yes he is still our starting quarterback. A lot of things go into the quarterback's ability to play at his peak level," Richt said. "I think quarterbacks get maybe a little more blame than they deserve and maybe a little more credit than they deserve. I think if we all played together as a unit, I think Joe's productivity will rise like it has in other games."

Last week, Cox completed 19 of 34 passes for 146 yards and was picked off twice, the seventh and eighth time he's been intercepted this year.

As for backup Logan Gray, Richt was also asked if the redshirt sophomore might finally see more time.

"He's been practicing well the last two weeks, I know that," Richt said. "I wouldn't say that's out of the question."

King ready to return

Richt said that running back Caleb King is expected to be ready for action after missing last week's game at Tennessee with a broken jaw.

"I think Caleb is going to be OK. Caleb is going today in a non-contact situation. If everything goes well, which we expect it to, he would be able to go tomorrow and get any contact that we get," Richt said. "I'm not sure with this weather forecast what's going to happen. We may end up inside. Thursday, even though we don't put the shoulder pads on, we can still simulate some contact and actually get some contact with him to see how he responds to it."

King isn't the only Bulldog scheduled to return.

Richt said that wide receiver Tavarres King (concussion) is expected to be ready, as is cornerback Vance Cuff who sat out last week after feeling some recurring affects with his injured knee.

Linebackers Marcus Dowtin (finger) and Akeem Dent (hamstring) are listed as doubtful, as is defensive end Kiante Tripp (shoulder, stinger).

More time for certain players?

Although Richt didn't necessarily give specifics on what players might be seeing additional playing time against the Commodores, the Georgia coach did talk about a handful of players who might be able to use some rest.

"We (coaches) mentioned Reshad Jones is probably getting too many reps. To get every rep is not good for anybody in my opinion. I think there needs to be a time when you are not on the field every single down," Richt said. "Prince Miller is getting a ton of reps. He's getting a ton of defensive reps; he's been the gunner just about every play on the punt team. He's been the punt return man and he's the safety on the kickoff team. He's playing a lot of reps, and we need to get Branden (Smith) in there more."

On offense, freshmen Marlon Brown and Rantavious Wooten are two games that come to mind.

"I think our two freshmen have earned more playing time," he said. "I don't think there's any doubt about that."

This and that

Sophomore cornerback Brandon Boykin is the first player in SEC history with two 100-yard kickoff returns after picking up his second one last week against Tennessee. Former Vol Willie Gault holds the SEC record for kickoff returns in a season with three in 1980. … A.J. Green continues to lead the SEC in receiving yards (587), a number which ranks him 12 nationally. … Drew Butler continues to lead the nation in punting with an average of 49.8 yards.

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