Highlights From SEC Football Coaches

Each week the Southeastern Conference hosts a teleconference for reporters to talk to each SEC head football coach. Here are highlights of this week's comments in the order in which coaches participate.

Tennessee Head Coach Phillip Fulmer:

"We're looking forward to the game against South Carolina. Our team continues to work hard and gel as a football team coming off the Alabama win. It's good to see our defense playing better. We had some struggles after injuries occurred earlier in the season. It also was good to see our offense bounce back in the second half versus Alabama. I like the preparations we've had thus far and we know what kind of challenge we have going into South Carolina."

"Jonathan Hefney is one of our best football players. He's got tremendous attitude and work ethic, really fine ability, and now with the experience he's had playing both safety and corner for us, he has really grown into a fine football player. He's taken over our return duties and did a really fantastic job fin the last ballgame for us. We're thrilled he is here and thrilled with the success he's having."

"I think defenses in general have taken a much more aggressive approach to playing defense. With all the different pressures packages, linebacker blitzes, zone blitzes and all the things that are out there, there is more occasion to have a linebacker popping free or a backside end that's popping free. Therefore, without having blockers on them, there are more big hits than there used to be. Rushing yards are much harder to get this day and age because more defenses are willing to play man-to-man and pressure offenses with their schemes. I think it's much more difficult now and there certainly are more free guys coming."

"Erik is just playing outstanding for us. He's really playing like we thought he would play last year. A lot of different things probably have caused that, but he is playing confident and poised in the parameters of what we're trying to do. Up until the last ballgame, he had do a really good job of taking care of the football. He got a little bit loose with it last week, but hopefully we'll get him back on a track he was on in the second half versus Alabama and play like that for the rest of the year starting with South Carolina."

LSU Head Coach Les Miles

On the open date….

"We are in the open date. We are trying to some players healed along with getting some rest. We are using this week to do a self scout on our team making sure we are doing the right things strategy wise. We are trying to use this week to make our players better as well as working hard on some of the things that we need to do better as a team as we head into November."

On defenses now compared to years ago….

"The athletes now are training more. The players are bigger, faster, stronger and they are equally as courageous on the field. They are brining everything they can into contact. You see it every Saturday."

"I think the game has always been one where contact is a very intimidating force in every game. If you bring contact, then x's and o's may give one team an advantage, but the team that hits maintains a competitive edge. I have always thought that you can keep a competitive edge by the contact you bring on defense."

Auburn Head Coach Tommy Tuberville

On getting back into SEC play and on the road *

"We had a good practice yesterday. We're excited about getting back in SEC play. This is our third road game. We did pretty well in the first two."

On getting healthy

"We're probably as healthy as our football team has been since the first part of the season. We're excited offensively that we played a consistent game last week and we have a better chance this week because we have four starters back. They are ready to go. Kenny Irons is healthy. Carl Stewart is another guy who is. Brad Lester is 100 percent. Our center Jason Bosley is back after getting hurt last week. He practiced yesterday. Joe Cope is back, who got injured in the South Carolina game. He's been out three or four games, and was our starting center. He'll be back working with the second unit. Defensively, our starting free safety is back (Aairon Savage). It's just good to have our guys back."

On the rest of the season and Ole Miss

"We now have a four-game stretch left in the regular season. We're looking forward to a good challenge this weekend from Ole Miss. They're a good football team that has continued to improve."

Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer

On the Saturday's Florida-Georgia game:

"I'm expecting a great game this Saturday. I've only coached one game in the Florida-Georgia series, but I think they've got as good of a personnel as there is in the Southeastern Conference, which means they've got as good of a personnel as anyone in the country."

On the success of Tim Tebow:

"Tim Tebow would be successful at anything he decided to do. He's got that kind of personality, drive, work ethic determination – he's one of the most accomplished human beings I've ever been around. He's having success because people are blocking well for him, he's a very accurate passer, and he's probably also our best runner at this time. There are a lot of reasons for his success, but mostly, it's what kind of person he is."

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier

"We are looking forward to the big game. Tennessee is 6-1 and we have scraped around and are 5-2. We have an ESPN game at night; we have played all but one game at night this year. All of our conference wins have been on the road and all of our conference losses have been at home so we hope to get a conference win at home this weekend."

"We are one game better then we were this time last year, but Tennessee is a stronger them that they were last year."

On Syvelle Newton

"Syvelle is a good passer, he can block and run and make things happen. I hope he is not as good as he still can be just yet."

Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt:

"Injuries really started the whole (quarterback rotation) with Joe Tereshinski getting hurt in the first series at South Carolina. It became a revolving door there for a while. We thought it would be Matthew's (Stafford) time with Joe out for four games and if he'd gotten better and played well I think it would have been his job for awhile. But against Colorado we had to make a move, but it wasn't entirely his fault. I think if we'd caught every ball Matthew threw we wouldn't have been in that position but we needed to make something happen. Joe Cox came in and played two fantastic drives so we gave him the opportunity to start, and he struggled there."

"Matthew's at the point now where he can handle the responsibility of being the starter a little better. We're going with him and he's making his share of mistakes, but he's also making some nice plays."

on Chris Leak

"The law of averages says he's due to throw a pick (in the Georgia-Florida game), so maybe it will be this game. He's had a good time with us. We haven't pressured him enough to make it uncomfortable for him. Even in the game we won (in 2004) he kept his composure and never got in position to throw many bad balls. To think he would throw a bad ball unless he is pressured is highly unlikely."

Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula

On Playing Florida International:

"I think we had good work yesterday. Our guys moved around really well. We have homecoming this week, which is a big deal around here. Our guys realize how important it is to go out there and play well. We have to get back on the winning track after a tough loss last week. I think the biggest thing that makes you feel good as a coach, is that our guys have been real good, even though everyone is hurting a little bit, the guys want to get that winning feeling back. We are beat up a little bit, but everyone that played last week should play this week. We have one question mark on Keith Brown, but other than that, everybody should be ready to go."

On motivation against FIU and the chance to play a number of players:

"We've talked to our football team and the media yesterday along the same lines of questioning. We are going to be motivated because of the way we feel right now and how we don't want to feel like this. When you lose a close football game like this is as bad as it gets. We want to get that winning feeling back. We have to prove to ourselves that we can play better. Each and every week we have to get ready to play on offense, defense and coaching-wise. Our goal is to win each week and to keep getting better."

Mississippi State Head Coach Sylvester Croom

"This is a big game both for us and for them. We're very concerned about Kentucky. They're much stronger than they were when we saw them last year. They're having a good season with a chance to go to a bowl game, so they'll be sky high. But so will we. We've improved each week and we expect to improve again this week."

Vanderbilt Head Coach Bobby Johnson

Comments about this week's opponent, the Duke Blue Devils

"We are excited about going to Durham and playing Duke. They have an exciting young team. They are playing a lot of young guys and you can see them getting better with each game."

"We will have to play very well to have a chance to win, just like we do every week. Our guys will have to execute our plan very well. That will be a key for us."

On creating winning programs at Vanderbilt, with its similarities to Duke (a small private school competing in very tough conferences):

"We are working toward that, us and Duke. I don't know how much we have accomplished yet (at Vanderbilt). What you have to do is try to recruit better, get guys that want to be students and football players, guys that know the importance of doing both to their very best"

Arkansas Head Coach Houston Nutt

On excitement and how it compares to 1998 – Coach Nutt's first season

"In 1998, it was a dream come true, back at home, at Arkansas and everyone picked you last and you look up and you are 8-0. That was a tremendous feeling. That excitement is a lot different than the excitement right now because it was the first year back. Before we got here, there were only about 35,000 people at the last games. You could feel a breath of fresh air throughout the state that wanted to follow football again.

"This time, our fans have pretty much been there and done that. But this group of young men, like Marcus Monk for example, haven't been to a bowl game. There some guys that haven't experience success. So it is different in that way, but it is still very exciting."

Pros and cons of playing a non-conference game this late

"It is really difficult. When you are in the conference (schedule) and then you jump out, it is really hard. I wish we could have them all at the front of the year, but scheduling isn't going to allow you to do that. That is the tough part, keeping your guys motivated and keeping them focused on game at a time."

(Louisiana-Monroe)

"Louisiana-Monroe is a team, that if you watched them play Alabama, they play really hard. They were in the ball game for two or three quarters and then they were down because of depth. You've got to be ready to play on any given Saturday. Their defense is second in the country in getting turnovers. They are doing a great job on that part of it. They have some athletes scattered out throughout their team. They haven't won too many games, but we just have to be ready to go Saturday night."

Ole Miss Head Coach Ed Orgeron

"Obviously, we feel Auburn is a great team. They have a very fast defense and a good defensive line. Kenny Irons is one of the best running backs in the SEC. They are well-coached and well-organized on special teams. They use a few trick plays, and we have to be ready for those."

On replacing recent losses on defense

"I think we'll be fine on defense. We have a couple players who are going to move positions and we'll have to see how they work out."

On Junior RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis

"He is a tough runner. He is great inside. He brings an exciting, tough, physical attitude to our team. He also helps give the defense a rest."

On stopping the Auburn running game

"I thought that against Arkansas we played well against the run. We are going to have to tackle and play well up front to stop Auburn."

Kentucky Coach Rich Brooks

On importance of Mississippi State game

"I don't think there is any doubt this is a pivotal game coming off a bye and coming off our worst game of the year at LSU. We have five games left and want to get into post-season play so we have to win three of the five. If we lose this game then we have to win three of the four left. This is a huge game for us to bounce back after our performance against LSU."

Getting into Post-season play

"It was our goal at the start of the season to get into post-season play. Kentucky is not rich with post-season play with 10 bowl games in the history of the school. If we were able to achieve a bowl game this year we would hopefully put a string together. We would have to get to the first game first. You have to walk before you can run.

"We're a little beat up but I think everyone is at this time of the year. We just have to play a much better game than we have had the first week or two."


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