Mark Richt addressed Georgia's running back situation -- following the suspensions of Isaiah Crowell, Carlton Thomas and Ken Malcome -- on the SEC coaches teleconference on Wednesday afternoon. Here is some of that Q&A session:
On accusations that Georgia pushed back punishment until after the Florida game:
My response is we’ve always had the utmost integrity in everything we do and we have policies in place in our Athletic Association that we follow to the T. That’s the case here and it’s been the case since I’ve been here at Georgia. We all know that we do our business the way it should be done and we do it with integrity. People who make comments and who don’t know probably shouldn’t, quite frankly, because they don’t know. I’d be able to prove 100 percent that they’re wrong, but I’m not going to spend the time doing that. But the bottom line is we have rules and we follow them to the T and we’ve got the utmost integrity in how we go about our business. That’s how we tried to build this program since the day I got here, and we’re not going to change for any reason.
On whether he has ever had to suspend three players at a position at once and who now plays RB:
No that’s a new one. After 11 years you figure you’d cover most everything, but there’s always something new. Brandon Harton is a young man who is certainly the leading candidate right now and then there’s Kyle Karempelis. I’m not sure I can spell his name right this minute, but it starts with a K, both of them. He’s a freshman who, I like him. He’s a tough kid. He’s got some good running skills. In camp, he did a nice job. Harton did a nice job last spring. In fact before the spring game, he was kind of the story of the spring. He was a guy that walked on for us to play receiver as a freshman and then going into this spring, he asked if he could move to tailback and we were like, ‘Yeah, why not,’ and didn’t think much of it. Then by the time we got through with a couple scrimmages, he had made some plays for us, so we were very encouraged by him. Matter of fact, I awarded him a scholarship right before the season began. I felt like he could really help us, so he’s going to get the opportunity to do that along with Kyle. But we may have to use Boykin a little more and Smith a little more and maybe go to some no-back sets. We’ve got enough tight ends that I think we could use some sets with a couple tight ends and no backs, so we’ll have some ways to still try to move the football.
On having discipline issues with six RBs in the last couple years:
They’ve just got to learn to do things what I call the Georgia way. These young men that we have right now that are suspended, I don’t think there’s any question that they’re going to learn from it and be better men for it. I like the way they’ve handled everything to this point and if they continue on the rest of the week, I think it’s going to turn out to be a very positive thing, and that’s what you want when you have an issue with discipline. I’ve always felt like you always have to have an element of punishment, something that will sting, something that will maybe make somebody think twice about doing it, or other people that are watching, make them think twice, but you have to educate them. But then you’ve got to love them still. They’re still part of this family and we want them to understand we’re supporting them through it. But if the attitude is right and they’re ready to learn from it and become better for it, then discipline can be a very positive thing in that way. Everything I’ve seen to this point has been pointing to that very thing, so I’m pleased with how they’re handling it. And then the other thing is you’ve got to challenge the rest of your team to pick it up, pick up the slack if there is any slack -- whether it’s guys playing, the young guys that will get the experience to play running back at the University of Georgia when they thought it probably wasn’t very likely. All of a sudden, they’re getting an opportunity to do their thing. That’s something they probably dreamed of, which is a great thing. But the special teams, the defense, the offensive line, the receiving corps, the quarterback, everybody’s got to play a little bit better and make sure the situation’s not going to cost us.
On whether he was surprised by suspensions:
Was I surprised that we came up with this situation? Yeah. But am I surprised that young men make mistakes? We all know no one’s perfect. We all know that guys tend to use bad judgment at times and when they do, that’s when we come in and help them out.
On Crowell already getting into trouble twice and concern over his decision making:
I think Isaiah’s going to do great. I really do. Because I saw how he has handled this mistake to this point. I really feel confident that he’s going to end up being stronger for it. I really do.