When Bulldawg Illustrated first put the question to Mark Richt on his Sunday teleconference as to what the loss of Todd Gurley to an ACL injury in the win over Auburn meant to the Bulldawg Nation, it seemed the Georgia head coach was almost at a loss for words.
“Y’all got the news,” Richt replied, softly speaking. “You know, it’s sad news.”
But as the UGA beat media continued to inquire about likely the Bulldogs’ greatest all-time running back since Herschel Walker, Richt did say more and it was on his final question of the night — the teleconference was backed up three hours due to on-campus recruiting — that he summed up the tremendous contribution Todd Gurley has made to Georgia football.
“Well, Todd’s been fantastic,” Richt stated. “Without a doubt he’s one of the best running backs I’ve ever seen, I’ve ever coached. He practiced hard, played hard and loved the big games and played his heart out for Georgia. I’m just really proud I had an opportunity to coach him.”
Richt was asked if he thought of taking Gurley out of the game before the late drive that he was injured on and which Nick Chubb came in and ran for the Bulldogs’ final score of the night in the 34-7 win.
“Not that drive,” Richt said. “I mean even a year ago we’re down 21 in the fourth and come back. They have an explosive offense and we’re just trying to seal the deal there.”
Richt said Gurley seems to be dealing with his season-ending injury well.
“Well, you never know for sure what’s going on on the inside but he seems to be handling it very well,” he said.
The coach, however, wouldn’t comment on the university buying an injury insurance policy for Gurley.
“I’m not going to get into any of that until I make sure I’m not speaking out of turn,” Richt said. “Right now, I’m not going to make a comment on that. I may do that in the future but right now I’m not going to.
“I mean, I don’t know what else I can say (about Gurley’s tumultuous season with the suspension and now the ACL injury),” he stated. “Todd served his suspension for an issue that happened and when it was finished it was time to play and he played and he got hurt, and we’re sad that he did.”
Richt said he feels good about Chubb, now the second-leading rusher in the SEC, Sony Michel and the rest of the backs on the team.
“We’ve got other good runners besides Todd and guys that are blocking well,” he said. “Obviously you have to block well to run the ball well and our O-line and our tight ends, fullbacks and wide receivers all have kind of joined in the block party, so to speak, and they’ve enjoyed creating space for these really good backs and the backs have done a really nice job.”
Then Richt was asked if he thought Gurley would go ahead and declare for the NFL draft.
“I don’t know that answer,” he said. “I don’t want to speak for him.”
Richt said the staff hasn’t yet discussed the possibility of again moving sophomore J.J. Green from the defensive backfield to tailback.
“We just haven’t talked about that. We’ve had a lot of recruits in town and we didn’t even have our staff meeting today. We had so many official visits in this weekend and we’ve been managing that all night last night and all day today. And we don’t even have a staff meeting until tomorrow. I haven’t talked to anybody about anything other than recruiting tonight.”
And with Gurley now sidelined for good, will the Bulldogs be looking to sign additional running backs in its upcoming recruiting class?
“I’m not 100 percent sure on that,” Richt replied. “We didn’t know for sure if Todd would stay or go after this season anyway so we’ve been projecting there was a possibility he’d leave. So it really won’t change our thoughts. I don’t want to get into saying for sure what we’ll do at that position.”
On non-Gurley questions, Richt commented as follows:
On wide receiver Jonathon Rumph not seeing more action in this game, was it because of the Bulldogs simply running the ball so well
“That was part of it. We ran the ball well, we didn’t throw the ball a lot. It’s not like we had a lot of opportunities for receivers in this particular game, but I’m sure that’s part of it.”
On how big of a Tennessee fan he would be this week with the Volunteers playing division leader Missouri
“Very big. There’s no doubt. We do have an early game. Do you know what time the game (Vols-Tigers) is? (Answer was a night game). But I would hopefully be settled in my lounge chair and be ready to cheer for the Vols. There’s no doubt about that. Whether I wear orange or not is still up in the air.”
On former UGA player Will Muschamp being fired as head coach of the Florida Gators
“Well, it’s just the nature of the business and I wish him well. He’s a good ball coach and a good person.”
On junior outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins having any injury issue in the game
“Not that I know of. I’m just now watching the defensive film because, like I say, we had an awful lot of recruiting going on today and we’re just behind catching up with everything. But Jordan played his tail off and a couple times where there were holding calls it was because he was coming off the edge so quick and getting tackled, basically, at the point of trying to get a sack. He played hard and I don’t think there’s anything going on with him that I know of.”
On why senior inside linebackers Amarlo Herrera (12 tackles, interception) and Ramik Wilson (8 tackles) enjoyed such big games against the Tigers Saturday
“I’m about done watching this defensive tape and from what I’m seeing, the down linemen really did a great job of maintaining their gap integrity and forcing guys to try to move them with two, double teams, and just double teams not getting off down linemen to get to the backers. When your backers make a lot of tackles, it’s a really good game. When your safeties make all the tackles it probably means you had a rougher day at the office when it comes to stopping the run. But I thought the D-line did a super job and obviously there were some times when the backers read some things and ran through gaps and made some plays behind the line of scrimmage. But for the most part those D-linemen were getting the job done and the backers were cleaning up like they should.”
On the call on offensive guard Brandon Kublanow being tagged for being downfield on the 41-yard fake punt completion pass
“It was very, very close. I think we’re allowed three yards and I think it was debatable whether he got that far down the field but Kublanow was on the line of scrimmage and when he was making his block the defender that would normally rush or be at the line of scrimmage playing for a fake, some type of run, he kind of softened up a little bit, backed up a little bit. And Kublanow kind of stayed on him and then he got himself to where he was a little bit farther down the field than we practiced all week and that he really expected. But it was very close. If you’re a Georgia fan, you probably think he was in good shape, if you’re an Auburn fan you’d be asking the officiating crew why they didn’t call it. But it was a shame because it was a very well-executed play and where he was it wouldn’t have mattered if he had just taken a knee on that play. It wouldn’t have affected the play whatsoever.”
On freshman tailback Sony Michel not playing against Auburn due to an ankle injury
“He got better and better every day. We were kind of hopeful in the pre-game warm-up he’d feel good. Unofficially when we came off the field for the pre-game warm-up, I was in the locker room and I was seeing the guys as they were coming in and kind of encouraging everybody to kind of get ready for the game. And he walked by me and I asked him how he felt and you could just see the hesitancy in his mannerisms or however you want to say it. You could tell he didn’t feel like he was really ready to rock and roll so that kind of told it for me. I didn’t even talk to the rest of the staff about it. We just didn’t think he was ready.”