Good morning, guys. Obviously, it's great to be back here in Birmingham. There's a lot of excitement in the air about the upcoming season. I'm excited to represent the University of Mississippi in the SEC.
A couple things I'd like to talk about. First of all, pre-season camp. Our team reports August 3rd. Our first practice is going to be on August 5th.
Our goal in camp is create a tough, competitive environment for our new football team. We had an excellent, excellent recruiting class. We're excited to see just how good those guys are going to be and how they can help contribute to our football team this year.
We asked to establish our identity as a football, team, establish the leadership of our football team. We plan to do that in camp. We're going to have to do a great job as coaches teaching fundamentals, a lot of new players to be able to compete in the SEC.
I want to start on defense. There's a couple of things from the last year that we're going to improve on defense. For the most part, we played pretty good defense last year. We have some excellent players returning. We need to create more turnovers, go after the ball on defense. Last year we were minus five in the turnover ratio. We need to improve on that. We have to do a better job of stopping the run. We didn't do a great enough job of stopping the run.
We need to get bigger up front. I'll show you how we plan on doing that. Our third-down defense has to improve. We need to put more pressure on the quarterback, whether it be from four-man rushes or blitzes.
I'm really excited about being able to coach Patrick Willis for one more year. I think he's an exciting football player, a great young man, and a dominant, dominant linebacker. We're going to build our defense around him. Really excited about what he brings to the football team.
Our defensive front, it all starts up front with our defense. It's going to be young, but I think we're going to be very talented. We move Peria Jerry from defensive tackle to defensive end in order for us to get bigger, more physical up front. He had an outstanding spring. He's about 6'2", 282, runs on the 4840. I expect him to be a great SEC defensive lineman.
At defensive tackle, we recruited a young man two years ago named (indiscernible) Po. He has not been cleared through the clearinghouse yet. I expect him to be cleared to the clearinghouse. I think he's going to be an outstanding lineman, along with Hayward Howard, a junior college transfer we had last year.
At the nose tackle position we have Brandon Jenkins and Jeremy Garrett. At the outside rush position Kentrell Lockett, Greg Hardy, and Chris Bowers. Those guys I expect to be a very talented front, along with a big-time recruit Marcus Tillman who played defensive end.
We're going to start four new guys up front. That's one of the things we can do at Ole Miss, is coach defensive line. I expect those guys to be ready.
At the Sam linebacker position, we have gather pack coming back, had a pretty good year for us last year, brought some experience to our defense. Backing him up will be either Jonathan Cornell or Robert Russell. Jonathan Cornell is a big-time linebacker we got out of California, freshman. We expect to help us there. The Will linebacker position is wide open. Quentin Taylor is starting at that position right now. We expect Rory Johnson, a junior college transfer who has not finished his course work, to be eligible and to be able to compete at that position.
We're excited about bringing back our whole secondary. I think everything starts in the secondary with the cornerback position. We're excited about Nate Banks, Trumaine McBride and Dustin Muson. Really excited about a young man Cassius Vaughan we recruited.
Strong safety position, Jamarca Sanford, is one of the best players on our team. He had some injuries last year. He's healthy, ready to go. We expect a good year out of him. Kind of a quarterback of our defense back there is Charles Clark. We also recruited two great young safeties in Allen Walker and Jamal Harvey. We're excited about the talent we have on defense. We're going to have to get them ready. I think we could be up to that task.
On offense, really excited about the new direction. Our offense began in the spring with Dan Werner. We share the same philosophies. Dan is going to run the offense that he's been accustomed to at the University of Miami. The offense I was accustomed to at the University of Miami. He has complete control of the offense. We're in agreement that he's going to run what he thinks best. I have complete trust that Dan will do a great job at that.
What you're going to see different in our offense, you're going to see two backs, more of a power game. We have a young offensive line. We have to have more double-teams. We have to run the ball to be successful in the SEC.
We're going to use the tight end a lot more than we have in the past. I think I have an excellent tight end in Robert Lane. He is a very, very good football player with the ball in his hands.
We always want the threat of a deep ball. You watch Miami play, they always had the threat of the deep ball. We will have in our offense.
With our offensive line coach Art Kehoe, assistant head football coach, 27 years, University of Miami, five national championships, he has already brought -- and I needed it -- a chemistry to our staff and football team. He's my assistant head football coach. He has a lot of experience. I will rely on him on a lot of subjects besides the offensive line. He has some work to do, but I expect him to build a cohesive unit and competitive unit there.
The things that we need to improve on offense, and we totally need to get better in almost every area obviously. We need to take care of the football. We threw nine touchdowns -- scored nine touchdowns last year. We threw 18 interceptions. That's not very good. We need to improve on that obviously.
Our run game has to improve. I think one of the strengths on our football team, I'll talk to you about it, is our tailback position. We have to have an overall production in overall offense.
On the offensive line, we made some changes. We moved our freshmen All-American Michael Orr to left tackle. He had a pretty good spring. This is the first time that Michael has had a full off-season with our strength coach. By the way, I think I have an excellent strength coach in Aaron Ausmus, tremendous job with the team this year. Left guard, Andrew Wicker, injured last year, moved over from defense. I think he's going to have a pretty good year there. We need to get better in the middle, especially playing in the SEC.
When you play in the SEC, you play great defensive lines almost every week, you play NFL-type players. We need to get more physical there. Thomas Eckers at center, Corey Actis, at JC transfer. Those guys are battling it out there. We're expecting things out of our right guard, who is only a freshman, John Jerry. John is about 6'5", 350. We need to get him ready to play there.
Tight end position, I'm excited that Robert Lane decided to come back to the University of Mississippi. He has gained weight. You'll see him here today. He is a great competitor. We look forward to him flourishing in Dan's offense. You've seen the offense at the University of Miami, used the tight end a lot. We expect him, Robert Hough, Lawrence Lilly, to give us a big boost at the tight end position.
You will see a lot of times we'll be playing two tight ends in the ballgame at the same time.
The wide receivers, we need to replace them all last year. We did not have the type of production that we need to have in our offense at the wide receiver position. Mike Wallace played sparingly last year, had a great off-season for us, has gained 20 pounds, runs a sub 4340. We expect him to have a good season.
We're excited about Marshay Green, who came to our team in January, had an excellent spring for us. We expect him to start at receiver. A young man that we're really excited about, electric football player from the state of Florida, Dexter McCluster. Dexter is a little guy. He's also going to help us on special teams, the return game. He's an exciting player. I think you'll enjoy watching him play this year, along with Kendrick Lewis, Markeith Summers.
We're going to have a young group at wide receiver. One group you can get ready to play fast, it's the wide receiver position. We expect them to have a decent year there.
In the tailback position, I already mentioned it, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, we have to watch him practice, knowing he was one of the best players on our football team, we couldn't play him. He's ready to go, has a lot of experience. I like transfers. He's proved that he can play in the Big-10, he can play in big games. Expect him to have a good year. He's going to have to show that he can produce on Saturday. That's when the test is going to come obviously.
Backing him up, vying for the same position, Mico McSwain, who had a great year for us last year. He still needs to learn how to run the football. We may play Mico at wide receiver some, it depends if he can handle it and depends how he adjusts to playing two positions. We don't know that yet.
Young man that we awful excited about is Cordera. Big recruiting battle over Cordera. I feel like he's going to be a fantastic back. Those guys give us depth at tailback. Fullback, Jason Cook, Reggie Hicks, freshman, also Derrick Davis tailback or fullback.
At the quarterback position, I'll say it to you now, if everything goes as planned, Brent Schaeffer should report with the team on August 3rd. Brent Schaeffer is going to be our starting quarterback. We're excited about Brent Schaeffer. He brings an excitement to our football team, something that we need in our offense. You guys watched us play last year. We need great pray out of our quarterback position in the SEC. I think he'll be able to do that. He'll be able to make plays on his own, he'll be able to run the football when he's being pressured. That's what I like about him. He's going to fit in well in the offense.
One of the things he wanted to come to the University of Mississippi because of the style of offense that we ran. We're excited about Brent backing him up. We'll Seth Adams, Billy Tapp, Michael Herrick. We have a couple of walk-ons, too, on our football team that I can't mention now that will be vying for the backup position.
Overall, we're going to be better on offense this year. We have better talent. We have a cohesive coaching staff that's on the same page. We're looking very forward to seeing the production on our offense.
On special teams we need to do a lot better job as a coaching staff on special teams. I think I'm really excited about our return game with Dexter McCluster, Mico McSwain, Marshay Green. We need to block kicks, block punts, be more aggressive, tricks, difficult formations. We need to gain an advantage in the kicking game. We also need to find a kicker. We recruited Joshua Shene. He's going to have to prove it. He's going to have to gain the position in camp. We think he's going to be excellent. We have an excellent kickoff man in Will Moseley. He's also going to be competing for the job with Rob Park.
I gave you an overall view of our football team. We're really excited to start camp, really excited about the way things have gone at the University of Mississippi since January. We can feel a turn, we can feel a chemistry in our football team. Recruiting is going very well. We're just excited about the way things are going.
Q. With Schaeffer not being on campus this summer, working out with the guys, not being able to go through spring ball, how is that going to affect it? Is that a big disappointment?
COACH ORGERON: Our guys knew that he wasn't going to be there for spring ball obviously. Our guys are anticipating Brent coming and welcoming him to the football team. We really are prepared to make him feel at home with our football team, to teach him the way we do things at an accelerated pace obviously. But our team has a very positive attitude about Brent coming. They remain very patient.
Q. You talked about if everything goes to plan with Brent. What is the plan and his status, for those of us that tonight follow it on a daily basis?
COACH ORGERON: Obviously, he's finishing summer school. He has some courses to finish. We've been in touch with Brent daily. We have a plan in effect. We think it's going to work. But if something happens that he can't finish on time, if something happens that he doesn't do well in the class or something like that, that could prolong his reporting day.
Q. Could you talk about the difference having a year under your belt in this league, going into your second year? Have you learned anything specifically from that first year?
COACH ORGERON: Well, everything was new for me last area, being my first year as a head football coach. Some things I did right, some things I did wrong. Hopefully, I don't repeat those same mistakes this year.
I really learned that I have to trust my assistant football coaches and let them do their job, fix the things that need to be fixed. But I need a strong assistant football coaching staff around me, and I have that.
Knowing the talent in the SEC, which I think is a great league, going, to be able to recruit the talent, to be able to compete against LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and Florida, knowing what we're going to face each year, knowing my surroundings around the University of Mississippi, knowing my football team. I think all those things are an advantage for us.
Q. I was trying to understand Brent's academic progress here. He's at the College of the Sequoias. He leaves, takes correspondence courses, goes back. Why did he ever leave there?
COACH ORGERON: Let me say this to you. We decided it was best for Brent to go back to the College of Sequoias because there was an ending date, August 2nd or August 3rd. When you take correspondence courses, there's an open-ended date. Some of the courses were taking too long to complete. I didn't know if he could complete them by the time camp started.
Q. What is the key to successful recruiting, especially after coming off a disappointing season?
COACH ORGERON: Persistence, have a plan, believing in Ole Miss, believing in myself. We work very hard in recruiting, we work every day. My goal is to out work my opponents in the recruiting. I don't know if we do that or not, but that's my goal. Building relationship, getting on them early and staying on them.
Q. Last year you talked about changing the perceptions that you have to face on the recruiting trail. Would you talk about how Art Kehoe has helped you change the perceptions of Ole Miss?
COACH ORGERON: There's no doubt. A championship coach. A guy spent a lot of years at the University of Miami. The day he was fired, he told me he was coming to Ole Miss. He has an attitude about himself. He has a confidence about himself. He is well-known all around the country as a great recruiter and a great line coach. He brings us an immediate attention to our football team.
Q. How does Dan Werner's offense at Miami, an abundance of great athletes, how does that transfer to Ole Miss where right now there's not as many great athletes?
COACH ORGERON: The thing I like about Dan is when I interviewed him, we could sit down, and I had confidence that he could run the type of offense that would fit our whole team philosophy. Our team philosophy at Ole Miss will always be defense first. I feel if we can play great defense, run the football, take care of the football on offense, we can have a successful football team.
Q. How healthy is Patrick right now and is there a concern on your part, he's been banged up most of his career, can he go through a whole season healthy?
COACH ORGERON: As I understand it, Patrick is very healthy right now and is ready to go. I will protect Patrick during two-a-days. I don't know how much I'm going to practice him. I haven't decided that yet. I have to see him run. I haven't been able to watch him work out yet.
It is very important that we keep Patrick healthy and ready to play on Saturday.
Q. During the off-season, Robert Lane talked with Northwestern State, looked into playing quarterback with them, decided to stay. Could you walk us through what that was like, if you feel like he's happy where he is.
COACH ORGERON: I kind of let him make the decision on his own, to be honest with you. We gave him time. I think he went to his father's deer hunting camp. I was not able to speak to him often. The reason he came back to the University of Mississippi is because his degree meant a lot to him and the Ole Miss family.
He's very proud to represent Ole Miss when he plays there. He thinks that he has a future in the NFL as a tight end. He was glad to see that we hired Dan Werner and that we're going to use the tight end a lot more in our offense.
I expect Robert to be a team leader on my defense -- on our offense and be a great football player.
Q. If Brent doesn't report on time, how much do you change the game plan for the opener as far as simplifying things?
COACH ORGERON: Well, we're going to have to simplify it if he does show up on time. We're going to see how much he can handle. I don't expect, if he doesn't show up on time, for it to be much later than a couple of practices. You just can't tell.
If it prolongs, we may have to go with someone else. We have a backup plan. We're going to have to have a simple game plan for the first couple of games because he's not the only new starter that we have on offense.
Q. Why did you feel it necessary to name Brent the starter on signing day?
COACH ORGERON: That's a good question.
When we started recruiting Brent, at one time I did not have a quarterback on my board. He was really the only quarterback. I thought it was a recruiting tool for me in the future that I could use, so I used that as a recruiting tool. Besides, it was a no-brainer that Brent is going to be -- he is the only quarterback that has SEC experience. I just thought, it was something I told him, I do it during recruiting, and I felt like it was necessary for me to do it.
Q. Can you talk about just your relationship with Kehoe, how you were able to get him so quickly from family?
COACH ORGERON: Art and I coached five years together. We were best friends down there. I coached the defensive line, he coached the offensive line. We had tremendous battles every day. I have a lot of respect for him.
When I left the University of Miami, I always knew that somewhere down the line I'd like to have Coach Kehoe on my staff, whether I could get him hired at some other school I was at, I'd become a head coach. It never thought he'd become available.
As soon as I saw it on the TV, I called him immediately. I was the first guy, I believe, to call him from an outside source. That was a no-brainer. He was a five-star recruit in my mind. We're glad we have him.
Q. Can you talk about Schaeffer, his skills?
COACH ORGERON: We like the way he throws the ball. No doubt about that. He has a strong arm. He had a very successful career out there at the College of Sequoias. He's very accurate with the football. He can run the ball. He can make things happen. He's like defending 12 guys on offense. Sometimes there's nothing there, he can make a big play for you. He's a play-maker.
Q. In general, when a school gets behind in this league with a losing record, how hard is it to come back, be competitive, compete for a division title in general?
COACH ORGERON: It happens. It happens. You can see UCF last year did it. Teams do it. We will not allow any mind burrs on our football team. We don't think about that. We take things one day at a time and get better and better.
The first thing we had to do at Ole Miss is get better talent.
Q. If Brent doesn't show up in time to get any snaps before the season, does Robert Lane go back from tight end to quarterback? Did he take any snaps in the spring?
COACH ORGERON: No, no. Robert is going to play tight end. We plan for him to play tight end. I believe that we have a couple quarterbacks on the football team that if something happens, this he could be pretty good quarterbacks. We plan right now for Robert to stay at tight end.
Q. How is Patrick Willis handling the death of his brother?
COACH ORGERON: We were at the funeral with Patrick. He handled it about as well as you could expect. Patrick is unusually tough and mature. He's put it behind him. Patrick has an unusual inner fire to himself. I do believe he's a young man that's mature enough to turn a negative situation into a positive situation. I think he just can't wait to get on the football field and let some of that out.
COACH ORGERON: Yes, it is. We're going to have a short week after the Memphis game, a short time to prepare for Missouri, who is a good football team, then on the road to Kentucky. We haven't done well on the road.
I say this to you. Before we do that, we have to have a great camp. We cannot look forward to the season before we gel as a football team.
Q. You mentioned moving Robert Russell over to outside linebacker. Can you talk about that decision.
COACH ORGERON: We're thinking about that. We think that Robert will flourish at outside linebacker. He has been a middle linebacker for a while. We just want to try him out there to provide more depth.
Linebacker Patrick Willis
(On the off-season) "It's been well. I'm looking forward to camp next week."
(On the defense) "The defense is coming along well. We're getting ready for camp. The new guys are looking well."
(On the schedule) "All I know is that our first game is Memphis. Other than that, I really don't know how the schedule lays out."
(On the excitement of having new coaches) "It is. It shows that Ole Miss is on the up rise. It's going to turn around sooner or later and we hope starting this year."
(On 'sneaking up' on teams) "I don't like the word sneak. I think we'll be able to compete with teams and when it's over, come out with a victory. I think it'll be an interesting season for us."
(On freshmen) "We welcome freshmen with open arms. All of them have done extremely well with their work ethic and overall ability. We hope they come out to camp and continue to do well."
Tight End Robert Lane
(On the position change from quarterback this spring) "I played tight end a little bit last year, a little in the middle of the season, and I was able to work this spring on learning the techniques of the position. I'm excited about going into camp this fall and competing and not only holding my position but playing well. I'm still learning techniques for my position because I played quarterback four years in high school and three years in college. I just love playing football so offense, defense, special teams, as long as I'm on the field, I happy."
(On the position change last year) "Coach Orgeron called me in after the Alabama game last year and said, 'We need to get you in the game.' He asked if I'd be willing to change positions to H-back or tight end, and I said it was fine with me, I just wanted to play. I had some success in the Kentucky game and really had a good game against Arkansas, I had over 100 years receiving."
(On quarterback Brent Schaeffer joining the team late) "It's not a negative. Brent has to do what he has to do. We're excited for him to get in and be our starting quarterback. I haven't seen much on him, I haven't seen any video, but I know he's a great athlete. He played a few games at Tennessee his freshman year so he knows about the SEC. I think he's going to be successful. Coach Orgeron feels like he's the best player, and we'll do whatever we can to make him successful."
(On Coach Orgeron) "Coach O brought in excitement last year, not only to the players but also to the fan base and the alumni. Now that the fire is started, it'll only get better this year because we want to be successful. We want to have a winning season, go to a bowl game, and win a bowl game, that's our goal."
(On the new offense) "Things are going great with Coach Werner and Coach Kehoe. They both came from Miami and were successful and had great tight ends so I'm looking forward to playing for them. Their offense is tight end friendly."
(On being at SEC Media Days) "It's great for him (Coach Orgeron) to do that. It's exciting to be one of the leaders on the team, not the only leader on the team, but I got the chance to come over here, and it's been great."