|by David Hood|
Swinney previewed the matchup against the Bulldogs during his first Tuesday press conference of the season in the WestZone, and he said it was time to evaluate what kind of team he has, and then said that neither team will know what to expect from the other.
“I know everybody is finally excited to get the season going. It seems like it's been an extra long camp,” Swinney said. “I'm excited to see our team play to see where we are. You can only get so far in practice. You evaluate and you grow and you make adjustments. This is one of the best teams in the country in Georgia. Seeing how we match up against them is something I'm anxious to see. Coach Richt is a great coach and he's been there forever. They have recruited at a high level. The opener is always difficult because you have all spring and all summer to prepare for this opponent. But the biggest challenge is the unknowns. You don't have video evidence of who we are and who they are. You never really know until you go play. A lot of unknowns. They've had a lot of changes.”
One constant for Georgia is on offense, where the scheme hasn’t changed and the Bulldogs can still give it to Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
“Offensively, no changes as far as their staff. The biggest thing they do - they are as balanced as any team in the country,” Swinney said. “That makes it difficult to defend. They've got a new quarterback, but No. 14 [Hutson Mason] played a good bit last year and he's a senior and has some confidence. He's got some really good skill guys on the outside. They've got outstanding tight ends and we all know what they have in the backfield. Big time NFL players. They do a good job of mixing the run and the pass and creating the balance.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs will have two dynamic playmakers at linebacker in Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins.
“Defensively, they have a lot veterans coming back but there are a lot of unknowns from our perspective,” Swinney said. “They have a bunch of guys back, but it's an entirely different staff. They have some dynamic players up front - and Floyd and Jenkins are two of the best players in the country. They'll use them a lot of different ways in pressure packages. They do a good job of bringing them off the edges. Really good football players at the linebacker position. In the secondary they've moved a lot of guys around but they do have some veteran guys. They have a JUCO kid who they are talking a lot about and was an outstanding player from the state of Georgia who we know about. And [Damien] Swann is a great, great player.”
The Bulldogs are talented, and Swinney said his team will have to get off to a strong start.
“We have to be dialed in early. Special teams they have an All-SEC kicker and they have a lot of speed in the return games,” he said. “First goal is what it really is. We try to win the opener. That's all it is. Hopefully we can play a high level of football. I think we are relatively healthy.”
On the continuity of his staff
“I think continuity is a good thing. Change is sometimes good too. We haven't had a change in personnel. I think we have good energy from a personnel standpoint. We are all on the same page and quickly get going. So that's a positive. We are going to need that experience and continuity in a game like this. I wish I could tell you I know exactly what they are going to do, but we don't. We'll have to adjust to their wrinkles as we get into the game.”
Did you watch FSU game film to prepare for Georgia DC Jeremy Pruitt?
“Oh yeah. That's what you do as a coach. You go and study everything. Coach Pruitt came from Florida State and I've known him forever. But they brought a coach in from over here and coach in from over there. That's what you do. But absolutely, we watch all the Florida State film and try to get a feel for schematic ideas.”
Martin Jenkins starting
“Martin was out this spring. Had a great summer. He's a fifth year senior and a veteran guy. Cordrea was the starter going into camp and is really going to be a great player for us this year. We just felt like Martin earned the opportunity to be the starter. He' tough-minded. Focused on the details. Lot of knowledge. It's water under the bridge. He's earned it.”
Do you see any nerves from Cole Stoudt?
“I'd like to sense some nerves from Cole. Y'all know how he is. He's just kind of the same guy. It really doesn't matter. I think when Tajh got knocked out against B.C. Cole coming in during his freshman year he just was like, 'ok let's go.' That's his demeanor. He's very confident because he's prepared very well. How he'll do Saturday night we'll find out. He has to take care of the ball. Play within the system. Be a good decision maker like we need him to be. That's critical. That's the key thing. If we give those guys a short field, it's going to be a long night.”
Do you like the college football playoff?,
“I do. I love the bowl system. I've always been a proponent of the bowl system. My experience as a player and a coach in the bowl system has been awesome. It really has. I didn't want to lose that and that was the big thing for me. That keeps our regular season important because four teams doesn't really taint that. If you go to eight or 12 or 16 teams that will taint that. If we do that, that's fine, but this system puts so much emphasis on the regular season games. I like the fact the bowl games are on the 31st and the 1st. I think they got it right. I thought the BCS worked for the most part. Everybody argued about the third team and now they'll argue about the fifth team. Whatever. It gives us a little more flexibility and a little more room for error than past years. It combines the best of both worlds.”
Have you been to Sanford Stadium?,
“I've been there- in 1990 as a player. We got beat. We were up 10 with about nine minutes to go. We started out 0-3 that year in Coach Stallings' first year. We played them in 1994 in Tuscaloosa when I was coaching. In 1995 when we went over there and beat them. I think that's the last time I've been there. Ironically, I went over there in 2001 when I was out of coaching. I went to the Georgia/Tennessee game. Neil Calloway was coaching at Georgia and Woody McCorvey was coaching at Tennessee. Had a chance to kind of get an up close view of the Georgia-Tennessee game in 2001. That's the last time other than just driving through Athens. My sister lived there for a few years.”
Will defense be the difference in the game?
“No I don't agree with that. I think team wins this game. Every now and again you might get a score on defense. But you need your offense and special teams. Teams win. Teams win it. That's what I hope we'll be - a true team. You have strengths within your team every single year and sometimes they change and sometimes they stay the same. Hopefully the defense can be a big difference for us- but everybody's got a role to play and everybody's got to do their job.”
How do you feel about the offensive line?
“We'll miss David [Beasley]. But I think we've got really good people. We've got eight guys I am confident we can go play with. And a couple more who situationally we could use. Crowder is the only one who doesn't have a lot of experience but he's a good football player. The biggest thing is everything starts from the inside out with Ryan Norton. Jay Guillermo deserves to play. I think we'll have good communication and hopefully everybody will be on the same page- I think we'll hold up just fine.”
Thoughts on Todd Gurley
“He's a beast. I've been against a lot of good ones over the years. Saw a bunch of good ones at Alabama. Saw some good ones at Tennessee. Some great backs at Florida and Florida State. I coached against Eddie George. I had never seen a guy like him - ever. I remember going to a bowl function and both teams were there. I knew that team better than the coaches and I remember seeing him in person and I thought we were going to get our butts handed to us. He looked like a defensive end playing running back. Gurley- the combination of the size, the speed and the strength. He's got a great motor to him. He's just unique from a total package standpoint. He's the total package. He led them in receiving touchdowns last year. He had like six touchdown catches to lead the team and he missed several games. He's just a dynamic player.”
David Hood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org