SEC Coaches Speak

Each Wednesday during football season, Southeastern Conference football coaches participate in a teleconference with sportswriters from around the nation. Here are highlights of today's comments from the head coaches of each SEC school.

Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula:

On preparing for the coming game against LSU

"I thought practice went well yesterday. The guys were moving around. It's important for the guys to have a good mentality going in. LSU is coming off of a big win; they're highly ranked and deservedly so. We've got to put a good plan together and take the way we've practiced for the last couple of weeks and apply it to the game and play four good quarters of football."

On media and fan criticism of coaches

"Nobody likes to hear bad things about themselves. You have to understand that if you win, people are going to say good things about you and if you lose people are going to say bad things about you. One thing we have to do as coaches is to try to block all of that out and focus on the upcoming games."

On the rivalry with LSU

"When you play LSU you realize that you have to strap up and be ready to play. Both programs have a respect for the programs, because these are two very good programs. Usually there's a lot riding on the game, as well. It's a lot of fun to go out there and play against a coach and a team you have a lot of respect for."

LSU Head Coach Les Miles:

On fan criticism of coaches on message boards

"The only thing that we scan the internet for is recruiting. I don't really pay a lot of attention to a lot of opinion. I'm trying to do the right things for the football team and the right things for the program. I don't scan message boards, nor do I have people scan them for me."

On whether SEC fans are more intense than other college football fans

"I think if fan intensity is measured by crowd noise level, then it is. I think the fans in the SEC are very intense. I think there's a greater feel in the stadiums that we travel to. I think there is a greater intensity in the SEC."

On the Alabama-LSU rivalry

"It does have a place in your game week preparations. You understand the traditions of the program and the traditions of the past few years. Our guys understand that. We don't put much stock in the fact that this is a team that has lost a couple of games they shouldn't have lost. We understand that Alabama is a good football team, and has a very tradition-rich past."

Tennessee Head Coach Phillip Fulmer:

On preparing for the game against Arkansas

"We've got to focus on today's practice, and then we'll go from there. Right now, we are where we are."

"Each of the games has been hard fought football games. The '98 game was probably the hardest fought, but I don't think this year will be any difference. Arkansas has a very good football team this year."

On LSU winning only their second game against Tennessee in Knoxville

"We tell them the history of every game that we play in the series, and make them understand everything about the game. They were focused on the here and the now though. They played very hard and very well, but you have to give LSU credit for making that drive at the end."

Auburn Head Coach Tommy Tuberville:

On the 12-game schedule

"I wasn't a proponent of the 12-game season, because it gives an extra game to teams that have tough games in conference play, particularly those that have a conference championship. I know why we're doing it, and I understand it, but the plan hasn't been particularly well-devised. It's hard to schedule good, quality teams when you are working within your open dates, because not everyone has the same open dates. We're still looking for someone for next year, and we're having a hard time getting someone to play us."

On the improving SEC

"That's what makes our league so tough. All the teams are good, and they can beat anyone. Each week you go and you know there could be an upset. The coaches prepare and they know if you don't play your best game you'll get beat and it's not an upset. It's a lot of fun for the fans, but it's tough for the coaches."

Florida Head Coach Urban Meyer

On bowl games

"I think the upper-echelon bowl games are big money-makers. I think some of the smaller bowl games are not money-makers, and should probably be reserved for some of the smaller schools, as a reward for the guys on that team."

On the difficulty of getting through the SEC undefeated

"I've got a lot of thoughts about that, since I coached a team that went 12-0. I think that Utah team was one of the best teams in the country, but the chances of going undefeated in a conference as loaded as the SEC would be minimal."

South Carolina Head Coach Steve Spurrier

On the upcoming game at Florida

"First of all, our team is very healthy for this time of year. I don't think we've had a major injury to keep a kid out of the game, so we're going to go with all we've got. We're struggling a little bit, but we've played some teams close. We're looking forward to going down to Gainesville and seeing what we can do. I've been fortunate to go down there a couple of times, so I've already experienced the emotional part. We've got our team and they've got theirs, and I think once I get that headset on, it won't matter who we're playing."

On building South Carolina into a championship-caliber program

"We're on schedule. We knew it was going to take several years to build our team up to that level. We've got some good players, but we're not quite there yet. We've had two good years of recruiting so far, but it is going to take a little time. We've got the resources, and we're working on building our program so that we can win the SEC Championship."

Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt:

On fan criticism of coaches on message boards

"You know all that's happening. I think that college football would not be what it is today without the fans, and it wouldn't be an exciting sport. It's the pageantry and the excitement that the fans bring that make it so special. The bad part of that is that the emotion they have in a positive way can become negative. I have a lot of respect for the fans and their opinions, but I don't get into it too much. I know that it's out there, and I understand their frustration."

On the improving SEC

"I think it's good for those programs for sure; it's not so good for us. I don't like losing, but I'm happy for people like Sylvester Croom. I didn't like that Kentucky beat us, but you understand the pressures of the job and I respect them. I'm happy for them on a personal level, but I don't know how good it is for Georgia football. I don't know how good it is for the league either. If you don't have teams go undefeated, then you have people thinking that no one from this league should play for a national championship; and, that's not true. There are some very good one-loss teams, and it's very hard to go undefeated in this league."

Mississippi State Head Coach Sylvester Croom:

On the team's off week

"We had a normal Monday practice yesterday after taking Monday off. Today we'll have a normal practice in our shells, and tomorrow we'll have an early practice so our coaches can get out and go do some recruiting. It was good for us to have this week off, so we can get some guys rested and make sure we're fielding the best possible team in our next game."

On the win over Alabama versus a win over Florida in a previous season

"It's no question that this is a bigger win than when we beat Florida. First, it was Alabama, and it was on the road. I think our win had more to do with Florida overlooking us than with us being a good football team. This time, Mike had his guys ready to play, and so did we. Our guys played every play like the game was on the line, and when the opportunity came to make big plays, we made them."

Vanderbilt Head Coach Bobby Johnson:

On comparing Michigan to Florida

"Well, we played Michigan in the first game, so I don't know if it's a fair comparison of the first game and the ninth or 10th game of the season. They're both very good, they've got talented athletes and they know what they do best. They're accustomed to winning. They're used to winning. They've got to different offenses, but to say that one is better than the other or more talented than the other wouldn't be fair."

On Vanderbilt's improvement as a program

"We've got some good players. We're getting better and stronger. I don't think our guys have the other teams in awe anymore. It used to be that Vanderbilt expected to lose, but that's not the case anymore. Now our guys are ready to play against those other teams."

Arkansas Head Coach Houston Nutt:

On the coming game against Tennessee

"We're trying to have another good practice today. We've started out with great preparations against Tennessee. They're a great football team, and they're probably one of the most athletic football teams we've played all year. We're looking forward to playing them."

On poll standings

"I think when you're off the radar early and you beat a good team, it's hard to jump in there. I tell our guys that those things will take care of themselves. It's our job to work hard and win, and not worry about bowls and polls and everything. If we don't win, then it doesn't matter."

Ole Miss Head Coach Ed Orgeron:

On Ole Miss's off week

"We've enjoyed the time off. We had a very good practice yesterday, and we hope to have another one today. Our coaches will be on the road this weekend, so our guys will have a weekend off for the first time since the season started. When we come back we're just going to work hard and get ready for our next game."

Kentucky Head Coach Rich Brooks

On the coming game against Vanderbilt

"We come off of a pretty good win against Georgia last week. We're a little banged up, as are most teams this year. We know this is a big game for us, as well as Vanderbilt. We can get bowl eligible by beating Vanderbilt, and they can get bowl eligible if they beat us and Tennessee. So this is a big game for both teams."

"A win over Vanderbilt would be great. It's a huge game for us, and we're playing a really good team. For us, we would be able to get our fourth SEC win and climb up the SEC standings, which I think would be even better for our program than going to a bowl game. For as long as I can remember Kentucky has either finished fifth or sixth in this division, so it would be huge for our program to get those four conference wins."


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