The following is a transcript of the Sunday afternoon press conference with Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt after the varsity football players had reported to campus. Monday, the Rebs will hold their first practice of the 2009 season.
Nutt: Everyone is checking in as we speak and it looks as if everyone we were counting on will be here. We are looking forward to getting started and are very excited about camp. I like the way the schedule is set up and the fall is laid out. We have enough time for just football.
Q: How much further along the first week do you think you will be compared to last year?
Nutt: We feel a lot better. We know more about our guys and they know what to expect. Things should be much smoother in terms of huddle calls, knowing signals and knowing the adjustments. We should be playing and thinking at a faster pace.
Q: Do you wish practice was spread out more like at some other schools?
Nutt: It is what it is, but I like it the way we have it. I like when school starts and the whole thing. We don't have to worry about class for a couple of weeks.
Q: What are your concerns about the team?
Nutt: Depth at two positions. Offensive line and in the secondary. Those positions that keep us up at night because we need some depth from guys who need to step up who have never played before. Then you always worry about injury and keeping them healthy. Hopefully we can and keep a fast, fresh team on the field.
Q: What have you told the team about being ranked 10th in the nation preseason?
Nutt: We'll hit on that again tonight at the team meeting. Just because people are saying nicer things about us this preseason versus last preseason means nothing. It's what you do out on that field. How you get better, your attitude, your work ethic - those are the things we are concerned with. We can't take the attitude of just getting by. It's going to be hot, but we expect that. Get ready and go to work.
Q: Is everyone ready to go injury-wise?
Nutt: E. J. Epperson, Greg Hardy and Melvin Harris are all ready to get started. Like I said yesterday, we will take it slow with Greg and see what he can do.
Q: Are there any position battles you are looking forward to?
Nutt: We will watch them all very hard. I'm excited about our veterans at linebacker, but I'm also excited to see our young guys out there - D.T. Shackelford, Joel Kight, guys like that. The young OL - Massie, McCray and Michael Brown. You are always excited to see the newcomers develop.
Q: How much time will you give Tim Simon at running back before a possible change to LB?
Nutt: We'll give him at least a full week to see how he is doing at RB and go from there.
Q: How is Jevan Snead handling the expectations?
Nutt: I talked to him last spring and he has done a great job with the hype. He did a great job at media days. He's very humble. He knows his teammates helped put him in this position. He's worked hard and has been even-keeled in his approach. He had an excellent offseason. That's what we look for.
Q: How did the team do overall in the offseason?
Nutt: We had one of our better summers. Kendrick Lewis, John Jerry, Marshay Green, Shay Hodge, Gerald Harris, Justin Smith, Jevan - a lot of guys had excellent summers. All of them did, in fact.
Q: When do you pick captains?
Nutt: We have 22 seniors who have tasted winning so we have some good choices. We will let the team pick them two weeks from tonight. We will ask them, who do you look up to? Who do you want representing you? Who has the best work ethic and attitude? Who loves this team? Who do you put at the top to lead it?
Q: What is your order at running back?
Nutt: Brandon Bolden, Cordera Eason are the top two, but Enrique Davis had a very good summer. Brandon can't put it on cruise. He will have to work hard to maintain number one. The good thing is we don't mind playing a lot of backs as long as we trust them to take care of the ball. Devin Thomas has been very consistent since spring in all phases. I'm anxious to see all that and the addition of Rodney Scott and Korvic Neat.
Q: Some have said Enrique is a bust. How do you feel?
Nutt: I do not agree. First, you don't give up on them after 12 games. Second, he's just now starting to understand how to compete after being a Friday night hero his whole life. Now he's adjusting to the best league in the nation. He responded in the summer offseason workouts. (RB Coach) Derrick Nix expects him to step it up this year. We'll see.
Q: Who will step in for Mike Wallace in the speed department?
Nutt: Shay Hodge has improved his speed. Markeith Summers is explosive and fast. And we always have Dexter. Lionel Breaux is fast too. Beyond that, we'll see how the young guys respond.
Q: Is Neat the next Dexter?
Nutt: We are hoping so, but we have to see his maturity level and go from there. It's tough handling multiple positions unless you are real mature. Korvic has never been away from home before. We'll see how he handles it.
Q: With your running back depth, will you use Dexter less at TB?
Nutt: I still want to use him at TB. He's too exciting and dangerous there and he's just now getting a feel for TB on this level. I'm not talking about 25-30 times, but we will use him a lot like we did last year. You just get a different speed back there with him in the lineup.
Q: Compare the excitement level this season to some of your previous seasons.
Nutt: Maybe one other time I have experienced this - 1998. This is the most I've seen from national media and fans. This year, it's "I can't wait!" from the fans. We want everyone excited.
Q: You have coached good teams and championship teams. What is the difference?
Nutt: The difference is being able to execute under pressure at a consistent level. Great defense, not giving up big plays, outstanding special teams play that stays focused for every game and makes big plays. It's complete team working together, getting better each week and performing under pressure.
Q: What about punt and kickoff return candidates?
Nutt: We know what Marshay and Dexter can do in punt return. In KOR, we are going to look at Brandon Bolden, Lionel Breaux, Markeith Summers and then we are going to look at some young guys like Rodney Scott and see how he handles the ball.
Note: Practice tomorrow starts at 5:45 and is open to the public.
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