Mark Richt comes out combative over Georgia drug rules
Mark Richt is used to criticism as head coach of the University of Georgia. Every year people place him on the hot-seat for either not beating South Carolina, or not beating Auburn, or losing a game they should win, or not beating a team by enough, and 2015 won’t be any different – although after beating Clemson and LSU, maybe the seat’s a LITTLE cooler.
Richt’s also had his fair share of criticism about Georgia’s drug policy, which has seen the school suspend or boot a number of players over his time between the hedges.
However, at the SEC Media Days in Hoover, AL, he was unrepentant. He said: “We don’t want our guys to do drugs, okay? I don’t want my son to do drugs. We’ve got policies that are stronger maybe than some when it comes to the punitive part of it. That’s kind of what everybody talks about. Georgia ends up suspending their guys a little bit sooner in the policy, which I’ve got no problems with. There’s other things we have in the policy, too, as far as the ability to educate them about what’s happening, giving them counseling, making sure that they’re healthy, make sure there’s no addiction issue we need to deal with. It’s a lot more than just the punitive part. There’s a punitive part, there’s an educational part, then we love ’em. You made a mistake. You have these consequences. Now let’s turn in the right direction and become a better man for it. I’d rather them have that type of experience in college rather than being married for four years and got a kid or two and they get fired from their job because of something that never got nipped in the bud while they were in their college days. We’ve got a very good group of young men. The fact that we have our policies as strong as they are, it doesn’t bother me.”
One such player is safety Tray Matthews, who transferred to Auburn this summer after he was arrested for ‘theft by deception’ cashing his player stipend check twice. Richt said: “Life’s too short. They’re young men that make mistakes. If somewhere along the way you learn from your mistake, you turn it around, finish your career strong, I’m happy for the guy.
Obviously whether we’re playing Auburn or Tennessee or Florida or anybody else, we want to win that game. I’m not too concerned about who’s over there, did he play for us, all that kind of thing. It doesn’t come into my mind. I have never hindered a transfer from going anywhere that he wants to go. Because, again, I think life’s too short. If this kid can get a fresh start and do well, I’m happy for the guy.” You might also want to note that when Georgia lost to Auburn, Matthews was one of the players who let what would have been an easy interception or incompletion bounce away to lose the game.
Speaking of players, he also revealed that starting quarterback Hutson Mason and he had discussed a number of times about him transferring from Athens. He said to that point: “He came to me [and said] “Hey, coach, if I was your son, what would you tell me?
And I didn’t say: “Hey, I think you should stay no matter what. But I talked about, If you stay, this could happen. If you go, there’s no guarantee of anything good happening for you.”….As we just went through the process of what it might look like, as we get to this point now, at one time when he was deciding should he stay, should he go, Murray could have left after his junior year, given him two years a start. That was a possibility. ….Also, if you remember, we did redshirt him not this past year, but the year before to guarantee at least one‑year separation from Aaron. Even that season was a little bit, you know, crazy because at any given time, if Murray would have got hurt, that was the year we played ‘Bama in the SEC championship game. If Murray got hurt, Hutson would have played. He would have burnt that redshirt to play in this game…..He’s really sacrificed a lot for this team….I think the stage is set for him to have a tremendous senior year and hopefully have the same success or even better than D.J. [Shockley] had.”
Funnily enough, he didn’t mention departed defensive co-ordinator Todd Grantham (who went to Louisville in the summer to work with Bobby Petrino), but said this about new DC Jeremy Pruitt, who was hired in from Florida State: “But I know this year, Coach Pruitt, he’s a proven coach. He’s won everywhere he’s been. Not only Coach Pruitt, but the rest of our defensive staff. We have brand‑new coaches all the way across the board. Tracy Rocker, Mike Ekeler, and Kevin Sherrer coaching our outside linebackers and our star position, along with Jeremy….They’re all brand‑new. They all coached high school ball, which I think is great. They know how to take a kid from ground zero. They know how to teach fundamentals extremely well. They’ve all been on college teams that have won national championships. There’s a lot of credibility as they come in…..But I think these guys know what it looks like to win big, and they’ve put in a system of how we’re going to go about our business. The guys are responding well to that. There’s a lot of accountability that goes along with it, as well.” Now, what would the reaction have been if Mark Richt said: “I made a mistake hiring Pruitt. He should have stayed in Tallahassee”.
He noted that he was ‘interested’ to see how the eight-man officiating crews would work out, and whether they would slow down teams’ offenses. “When it comes to tempo, I believe before the ball is snapped, everybody needs to be in position to play. Offensive player, defensive player, every official needs to be where they need to be. There were times when the ball was snapped, an official was scrambling to get where they needed to get. Times where defenders were scrambling to get to where they needed to get. It’s one thing if a team is doing a poor job of substituting when the ball gets snapped. I think sometimes defenders are coming in when a sub of the offense, just because they’re on the field or close to where they’re supposed to be, the ball was allowed to be snapped. I think everybody needs to be in position to play football when the ball is snapped. But in doing so, I don’t think it’s going to slow down the tempo much at all. But that would be my suggestion to officiating, tempo and all that. If there’s more penalties, there’s more penalties. More eyes, more penalties, that could possibly happen. I wouldn’t doubt that.”
Whatever the injuries, suspensions, officiating teams, Georgia has been picked by writers to finish No.2 in the SEC East behind South Carolina and Steve Spurrier, who – surprisingly – didn’t try and poke fun at Mark Richt during his own conversation with the press on Day 1 of the Media Days. He said that the SEC is “wide open” and said confidently: “I said, I’m not happy to be named number two. I’m not going to start cheering that we’re number two. I think in the end it’s going to be Georgia.”
This means one thing: The second Saturday of the season – which see Carolina and Georgia get together – is going to be pretty entertaining.
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