Can the defense play that long all the time as they did on Saturday?
That is why they call it a team sport. That is what excites me about this team. We can't go one for six getting first downs at the end. There are so many good things in this game, but because of the outcome, they are over-shadowed. Obviously everyone looks at the final result, and that is what it is all about. The offense has to sustain drives and the defense needs to get off the field. If you would have told me before the game there would be three interceptions, I would have felt pretty good. Once again, that was a good football team and it will be important that we play the whole game.
At the end of the half, it seemed typical of late game drives…
Everyone is searching for an answer, just like me. We are going back and evaluating to make sure we are not in situations where people have a bead on us. It comes down to guys have to make plays. I am not going to back off of the statement that we are a good football team. We are a good football team. That was a good football team out there Saturday that can play with anyone in the country. They were basically the same team that won the national championship. The week prior they went to Georgia and get embarrassed a little bit and came back and got refocused. I told our team we were going to get their best effort and we did. I said we needed to come with our best effort. Obviously we didn't, but we were still in position to win the game. We have to get over the hump. People have a right to be upset. I told them here (the players) last night, it is like the neighborhood bully that keeps taking your lunch money, soon enough you are going to be hungry. So you have to stand up and fight back. I believe our guys are going to fight back, that they will stand up and make the play. We have play makers and those guys have to make the plays.
Is there any position where you have said, this job is up for grabs?
If I didn't feel that we were as close as we are, that may be something I would do. One of the things we do everyday is talk personnel, we go over everyone. I am probably going to give Chad Jackson a chance to return punts. Here is a guy that is making plays. Not that Vernell (Brown) hasn't, but Vernell can't let that punt bounce at the 10 and get downed at the two yard line. Chad is a guy making plays, so let's give him a chance. Reggie Lewis and Kenneth Tookes got a chance; we constantly want to give guys opportunities. Brandon Siler is playing more at linebacker, so from that standpoint yes we need to get some guys in. I don't think we are in a position where we need to make wholesale changes.
On the bench being the best motivator…
I don't think there is any doubt about that and if you talk to our players, they will tell you that. Talk to our coaches, they will tell you that too……………..Including me.
Do we need a last minute win?
I have spent a lot of hours since the end of that game thinking about it. But, I know how close we are. If I didn't believe in these guys, see it in their eyes, and know where they are going, then I may be concerned. We do need to be in that position again. We did last year (Georgia). We will be again. People ask why we let a team like Arkansas come back and there is a lot of human nature in that. Arkansas is a good team. There is a reason that they lead the SEC in offense. They are pretty good, but we made the play when we had to make it. Are we capable of finishing like we are supposed to? Yes we are capable, now we have to do it.
On Middle Tennessee State…
I think you guys are going to be surprised at MTSU. There are a lot of players on their roster that signed with SEC schools and even Miami. That receiver #1, he would play here. The quarterback was 30 of 34 on Saturday. They are a talented team. You learn that every time you line up you have to be ready to play this game.
Assessing the secondary…
I said at the beginning of the year it is a group that will get better as the season went along and they are getting better. If Denise would let me, I would spend every penny I have on experience. But you can't do that, you have to play and these guys are playing and getting tested. Dee Webb is now playing like we thought he would. He's not tentative, he's making plays, he is almost out of position sometimes because he's trying to make plays. Reynaldo (Hill) is playing better. Jarvis (Herring) is playing with more and more confidence and playing better back there. Corey has got to some things that he can do but he hasn't done. Terrance (Holmes) is getting better every time he steps on the field.
About Chris Leak…
Is Chris Leak ready to win the Heisman, probably not, but I like where Chris Leak is and what he is doing. That is one of the things about playing quarterback at the University of Florida that make it special. He is a sophomore in college and he missed OJ for a touchdown. But didn't throw any picks. I have been around here when there have been 4-5-6 picks, so those things happen. As far as his mechanics and improvement and winning attitude, I wouldn't change anything.
Has this loss affected you more than others…
I think Nick Saban said it best last week. People were on him about losing and he said "It's our livelihood, it is what we do. That is what we are judged on." The thing that we have and a lot of people don't.have, is we know where we are at. It is easy for me to stand up here and feel pretty good for where we are at. Now, I know we are not winning, we have to win and I'm not ducking that. I took responsibility for that on Sunday. It is our job and my job. But, I know how close we are. I have that privilege that a lot don't. I see it, I'm with them. I know a lot more about it.
Offensive Line evaluation.
I don't think there is any question we are improved on the offensive line. Last year we had six sacks from them and they are as good with pressure as anyone in the SEC. Mike Degory and Chris get us out of bad plays. They had a sack but it was a coverage sack. In my opinion we are better schematically ad fundamentally. I think Joe Wickline does an outstanding job with the offensive line, and I think they are doing an outstanding job.
On Offensive consistency…
On the practice field they are in tune with each other. Our offensive staff, they do a great job of every one being on the same page. For the most part, I think we are. We are doing a better job of putting players in position to make plays, now they are going to have to make the plays. The thing I like about our team right now is there is not one that will not stand up and take accountability. Once again, it is my responsibility, but it makes me feel good when I have 100 guys that feel like that.
Is there anyone stepping up and taking charge behind closed doors?
These guys have an awful lot invested. When this happens and things don't go the way you want them to, that hurts. It hurts, but that's the way things are. Do I want my guys hurt? No. I would love to take that away. I do know this, because it does hurt them, I feel good about them.