November 10, 2010

Richt empathizes with Newton

After seeing what A.J. Green went through while in the cross-hairs of the NCAA, Mark Richt said he can empathize with Auburn and what the Tigers are enduring in regards to quarterback Cameron Newton.

By now, Newton's story is a familiar one as it's been alleged that the former Westlake standout and his father were involved in a "pay to play plan" while being recruited by Mississippi State.

Wednesday, Richt took Newton's accusers to task.

"I think anybody is innocent unless there's some proof that they're guilty," Richt said after practice Wednesday. "That's America. That's how we're trying to operate; it's how we should operate."

But as anybody who has followed college football this fall, that hasn't always been the case.

Take the now-famous party at South Beach in Miami, for example.

"It's kind of nationwide. There have been a lot of people dealing with this kind of thing. Like this thing with Auburn in particular, there's nothing that's been proven, that's been done that's been inappropriate in any way," Richt said. "It's just amazing the amount of noise there is around it. That's the thing about it, whether somebody does something or not, there's just a lot of attention put on things that are accusations that may or may not be true.
"I'm not even talking about this one in particular, but just in general. If someone gets accused of something in general it's like a bomb just goes off . Whether or not it's true, I don't think some people even care if it's true or not, they're going to sensationalize it and make a big deal about it."

Richt pointed to this year's earlier situation with Green, pointing out how rumors of the wide receiver possibly being in Miami led to the inquiry that discovered the Summerville, S.C. native sold his Independence Bowl jersey for 1,000 dollars to a person deemed an agent by the NCAA.

"The thing that happened with A.J., from the way I understand it, is one of the young men from North Carolina who was at the party in Miami, he had Twittered that he was in Miami. I don't know who read the Twitter but somebody checked into it, asked what the guy was doing in Miami and somehow it kind grew into where maybe A.J. Green was there," Richt said. "I don't know, somebody said he might have been there or whatever. I think he lived near one of those guys from North Carolina or was near where he was from and they thought they were buddies and maybe A.J. was there so they wanted to check him out. Maybe they got as many high-profile kids from the South and searched to see if they were involved, but it turned out to be something entirely different. It cost Georgia and it cost A.J."

As for Auburn and Newton, Richt said he doesn't necessarily expect the controversy will affect the Tigers as they prepare for Saturday's game.

"I think it probably distracts them a lot less than you think. Sometimes we live in our own little world over here, which isn't always all bad, especially when you have a lot of stuff flying around," Richt said. "Your meetings, your practices, they're kind of a place where you can go to get away from it all. Athletes, when they're playing the game and practicing the game, they're kind of in their element and they seem to be able to shut everything out. They're really trained to be able to focus during crowd noise, they're trained to focus during distractions during the game and I think they're able to do that during the week of practice, too."

NOTES: Georgia continued preparations for its upcoming contest with second-ranked Auburn by holding a two-hour workout Wednesday. "We've had good practices Tuesday and Wednesday, although it's impossible to simulate what we're going to see Saturday," said Richt. "It will be interesting to see how long it takes to adjust to the speed of their offense. We'll practice with some crowd noise Thursday and then get on the bus and go Friday." … Defensive tackle Kwame Geathers did not practice Wednesday while continuing to nurse a Grade 1 sprain to his right ankle but is expected to play. … Linebacker Mike Gilliard (hamstring) is expected to play. … Wide receiver Logan Gray initially thought he had broken his jaw against Idaho State. He is also expected to play Saturday.

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