'Shots fired': Richt, players react to Williams comments

semerson@macon.comOctober 23, 2012 

ATHENS - Shawn Williams unloaded on Monday night. His coaches and teammates reacted on Tuesday.

First up was head coach Mark Richt, who said he spoke to Williams on Tuesday morning.

"I think Shawn's just a real passionate guy. I think he loves Georgia and loves his team, and wants us to play the best that we can possibly play," Richt said.

But Richt did admit Williams made it "more public than you'd like," but added that he didn't think Williams meant any harm.

"It's not an issue. It's really not an issue," Richt said. "I did talk to him this morning about it, but it was more him coming to me. I think he read the comments and didn't like the way - not necessarily how it was reported, but how he read it himself. He was like, 'That's not really the tone or at least what I'm trying to communicate in my heart.' But he's an emotional guy, and he wants to have success, and he wants to have to try to motivate not only himself, but his teammates to play better. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But you'd just as soon not have it as public as it was."

So is there any truth to what Williams said about playing too soft?

"Well that's what he felt about it, and he has a right to say that," Richt said, then added a few moments later: "We do want to get better at stopping the run, yeah, you better believe it."

And could it provide an emotional spark?

"It might," Richt said, with a smile. "We'll see."

Then it was the players' turn to react. A couple players, Christian Robinson and Mike Gilliard, understandably didn't embrace the comments, because Williams had said other inside linebackers should get more playing time. (Robinson's comments during interviews, and Gilliard's via Twitter, will be in a separate story.)

Defensive end Garrison Smith said he saw the comments on Monday night when his roommate pulled them up on the computer.

"And I was like: Oh ... okay," Smith said, looking taken aback. "It's definitely shots fired."

But sophomore Amarlo Herrera, one of those inside linebackers whom Williams said needed to play more, echoed Williams' overall sentiment about the defense being too soft.

"It needed to be said sometime soon. Somebody needed to stay something. So he took it upon himself to say it."

The only minor disagreement for Herrera was whether Williams needed to air it out in public.

"It could've been a better way of saying it, but now that it's said, it's said, you can't take it back," Herrera said. "People need to take heed and step up."

Herrera did start at Kentucky, but said Tuesday that it was his least amount of snaps this season. But he shrugged off the idea that it created division among the inside linebackers.

"I just talked to Christian a minute ago downstairs," Herrera said. "We didn't talk about (Williams' comments.)

Senior cornerback Sanders Commings has known Williams for a long time, as a teammate and fellow defensive back.

"I think he's trying to motivate everybody, really. He's very passionate about football and this game, and he wants to be on a very physical defense," Commings said. "I don't think he was trying to call anybody out, take shots at anybody. He just wants us to play harder, play better."

Commings also agreed with Williams on the defense playing too soft this year.

"I definitely think we should play harder and more physical. I think if you watch last year's tape, compared to this one, we were definitely a more physical team. Last year we had eight guys around the ball on tackles, and this year we've got three or four guys around the ball."

And while the focus of Williams' comments were at the defense, senior receiver Marlon Brown - whose unit is performing just fine - didn't have a problem with Williams' comments.

"I feel like he's a leader. And he came out and he said what was on his mind. And if some guy's feelings got hurt by that, you shouldn't be playing football. We're all grown men here. So if somebody feels a certain way, he can put it on the table - and that's what (Williams) did. Shawn is a spark to the team. So when guys hear a teammate saying something about them, it goes a lot more than a fan saying something about them."

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is due to speak to the media after practice on Tuesday.

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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