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December 28, 2005Georgia worked out for nearly two hours on Wednesday in helmets and sweats at St. Pius High School. It was the first of five practices the Bulldogs will hold leading up to the Jan. 2 Sugar Bowl against West Virginia.
The team opened practice with conditioning drills before splitting the field into offensive and defensive units.
"We had a good practice," said head coach Mark Richt. "I think the guys seemed to be focused. I didn't see anyone that didn't have the right kind of attitude toward this first practice. Last night our guys had a great time at the ESPNZone. We appreciate the Sugar Bowl for providing that for us."
Later Wednesday night the team will eat dinner at Fogo de Chao in Atlanta. On Thursday morning the Sugar Bowl teams may participate in an FCA Breakfast and Georgia will continue practice just before noon again at St. Pius.
The Sugar Bowl will be televised live on ABC at 8:37 p.m. ET on Jan. 2. All Georgia games can be heard on the Georgia Bulldogs Radio network including WSB 750 AM in Atlanta and WNGC 106.1 FM in Athens.
Head Coach Mark Richt
"We had a good practice today. We want to thank St. Pius (High School). This is a great facility with a field turf surface, and they have accommodated us well. We're thankful the rain held off today. I felt like the guys started to get back in the groove of things out here this morning."
Senior QB D.J. Shockley
On coming off of the team's break:
"I'm feeling really good. It's good to be back around the team and to get ready for the Sugar Bowl."
On being back in the Sugar Bowl:
"It feels great. I'm really glad to be a part of this team and this program. Hopefully we can keep the winning tradition going and beat West Virginia."
On the Mountaineers' defense:
"The main thing is recognizing who everybody is. With their defense, you have to know where everybody is at all times."
On playing close to home:
"I think it does help, as far as the fans and the familiarity. A lot of us are from the Atlanta area. It's probably different for West Virginia, but they will get used to it real quick. They're a very good team. They went 10-1 and have a good offense and good defense."
Senior S Greg Blue
On trying to win the seniors' fourth straight bowl game:
"It's still business for us, but we'll have some fun, too. It's a good reward for all the work we've put in all season."
On playing close to home:
"It's nice because a lot of us are from Atlanta, but it can have its ups and downs, too. Most of us already know the city and feel like there's not too much to do (for fun).
But it's good because we did not have to travel too far.
We just have to take care of our business."
On the West Virginia offense:
"We will have to prepare for their option. Both of their running backs, the tailback and the fullback, and their quarterback are all great players, so we will have to do a lot of studying on them. They have run the ball well all season, and their option can really hurt you. And then they can also throw in the play action pass, so we will have to study and practice well all week for them."
Redshirt-Freshman WR Kenneth Harris
"I've watched the Sugar Bowl on TV before. It's a great chance to shine and make plays for the team. (West
Virginia) is a great team, and anything can happen, so it will be a big challenge. The main thing is for us to get ready to play and to feel sharp."
On replacing injured starter Sean Bailey, who scored two TD's in the SEC Championship Game:
"There's really no pressure. I just have to go out there and play my game."
Head Coach Mark Richt Afternoon Press Conference Opening Statement: "Good to be here today and be at the Sugar Bowl. We had our first practice today. We had some conditioning on the front end to see where they were. Just about everyone did very well. A couple of guys, it got to them a little bit. It got to the big men a little bit. Most everybody seemed to be in good condition. We had a good practice. I think the guys seemed to be focused. I didn't see anybody not having the right type of attitude towards this first practice. Last night, the guys had a great time at ESPN Zone. I appreciate the Sugar Bowl providing that for us."
Update on Sean Bailey: "Sean Bailey is out. He'll have ACL surgery. Kenneth Harris will be the guy who'll start in his position. T.J. Gartrell has really not been doing well. He has not been able to practice during bowl preparations. We thought by now, Gartrell would be ready to go. A.J. Bryant should get more of an opportunity at the flanker position."
On leaving Florida State for Georgia: "My wife and I felt that Georgia was the job that we would leave Florida State for. We were very happy in Tallahassee. We were never in any rush to #1 be a head coach and #2 to leave Tallahassee. We enjoyed where we were. But, this opportunity came up, we felt Georgia was the place we wanted to be. So, I actually called Coach Dooley, who was athletics director at the time and I called Grant Teaff who was the head of the American Football Coaches Association and I walked in and asked Coach Bowden would he call Coach Dooley and ask Coach Teaff to call Coach Dooley to tell him that I wanted the job. I did get some interviews. One was in New York and one was with the president and Coach Dooley in Tallahassee. The timetable was something along the lines of, on Friday, we would let you know what's going on. We would interview more folks and we would get back with you on Friday. I got a call on Tuesday and I was not ready for that call. When he offered me the job, I was a little bit taken back by it. Got cold feet for a minute and realized the seriousness of moving and being a head coach. I hemmed and hawed for a little bit. My recollection was he said you better figure out what you are going to do and let me know first thing in the morning because I can't wait for long. After soul searching and talking to family, I figured out it was the job I wanted. By then it was 1 in the morning so instead of waiting until about 6-7-8 in the morning, and allowing him to wake up and change his mind about me, I called him at 2 in the morning. I figured out that if I called him then that he hadn't changed his mind about me. I called him and told him it's morning and I do want the job."
On impact of loss of Sean Bailey: "Sean (Bailey) had a great first game and a great last game. In between he did OK. He was not as productive as I thought he would be. He had some problems dropping the ball as some other guys have had this season. He is a deep threat. He is a great route runner. Usually he has great hands. He'll be missed. Kenneth Harris has really come on for us. I'm confident he'll do a great job. It'll be nice for A.J. Bryant to get some more reps and competition. A.J. is a great player waiting to happen. If he gets a little bit of confidence and more reps he could really do some great things for us. He'll do OK but losing Sean will be a big blow for us."
On being in the Sugar Bowl in Atlanta: "We're certainly in Atlanta and not in New Orleans. But, the Sugar Bowl people are still here. They are familiar faces, going back to 2002 and even before that, when I was at Florida State. They are the same hospitable people that they've always been. It's a new venue. It feels like a BCS bowl to me. It's a great opportunity for us as the game and Atlanta is a great city. It's early, but so far, last night the event was great. The little things, like they did not run out of food. Everyone had a great time last night at ESPN Zone."
On feelings about D.J. Shockley going into 2005 Season: "The only uncertainly I had was if D.J. would be a hero every down. If he tried to run the ball, would he cough it up. I told him, look, if hang on to the football, you protect that ball, if you run it you secure it. If you throw it, you have a dadgum reason to throw it. If you do that, you'll have a good year. If you get into the rhythm of what you can do, you'll have a great season. I can't hardly remember, he might have had one or two fumbles as a runner and very few picks and very few balls that should have been picks. The Boise State game was huge for him. He has an All-American type off performance. For the fans and the media, there were some that did not believe he could do well. I think the game helped the public perception of him. I don't think he has ever doubted that his teammates and coaches believed in him."
On West Virginia: "Schematically, West Virginia is pretty different than most anyone we've played, offensively and defensively. The scheme, defensively, we've seen before but not very recently. It's been two or three seasons since we've seen that alignment. When we're talking about scheme, I think Florida's intention was to run a lot of things that Coach Rodriguez is running right now, but with Chris Leak's talent, it really did not jive or mesh with a that philosophy with a lot of the quarterback run. We've seen a little of that in the pas with the quarterback at Arkansas (Matt Jones), he had a lot of that stuff. We've seen some quarterback run before, but this season in particular we did not see a lot of that. There's not a lot to draw from. When it comes to personnel, West Virginia is very much like the talent base that we see in our league. They've done a great job of recruiting. They have a lot of speed and play a physical brand of football." Morning Practice Quotes Head Coach Mark Richt "We had a good practice today. We want to thank St. Pius (High School). This is a great facility with a field turf surface, and they have accommodated us well. We're thankful the rain held off today. I felt like the guys started to get back in the groove of things out here this morning."