Press Conference: Cut anxious to get going

Rebel Coach David Cutcliffe addressed the press today with a cautious, but optimistic, persona. He feels the Rebs have done everything he's asked of them in August camp in preparing for the opener Saturday evening against Memphis in Vuaght-Hemingway Stadium. The following is a transcript of his Q&A with the media.

David Cutcliffe's Opening Statement; "We are looking forward to the challenge of playing a really fine Memphis team. I think our team is prepared and ready to play a game. We have rested them the last three days so we should have a lot of energy. We will learn today more about our injury situation. DT Daniel Booth (calf muscle) will not work today, but we should get TB Brandon Jacobs (knee sprain), WR Kerry Johnson (hamstring), FB Lorenzo Townsend (hamstring) and DT Andrew Wicker (toe injury) back on at least a limited basis today. We'll see from there and will make some decisions based on their performance on the practice field."

Q: Are there things you do as a coach differently with a brand new quarterback that you may not do with a veteran starter?

Cut: We will try to put Micheal Spurlock in position to be successful early to allow him to get settled and get in a rhythm. That's what we'd like to do. Bottom line, though, is that he just needs to play. He hasn't started a game in three years. He needs to mix it up and get hit. We need to get him involved in the offense early on. I don't think there's anything special you can do except to try to set him up for success, if you can.

Q: Is there any advantage to you that they don't have much tape to watch of Micheal from a scouting standpoint?

Cut: They are very aware we will be different than we were. They aren't quite sure what we will do so you hope there is some advantage, but that will wear off pretty quickly as the game progresses.

Q: Do you think Micheal will be nervous?

Cut: I would think he'd be a little nervous. Or anxious. I think we will all be a little anxious. I haven't been around him as a starter, but he doesn't strike me as the nervous type, in my opinion. It will be interesting to see how he responds. Whether he sleeps much Friday night, who knows?

Q: What are your thoughts on Danny Wimprine and D'Angelo Williams?

Cut: I saw them in person last year and have seen a lot of tape on them since then. They are both outstanding players at their positions and outstanding athletes in general. They had excellent seasons a year ago and are poised, I'm sure, for even bigger things this year. I don't know if you can stop either one of them, you just have to contain them the best you can.

Q: How much a factor is revenge this year?

Cut: I hear a lot of revenge talk, but I don't know if that lasts very long as a motivator. We certainly want to play well. It's a big game, it's a rival game, we lost to them this year. There are a lot of factors, so revenge is just a small part of the package. We have to be a motivated team outside the revenge area.

Q: How important is FS Eric Oliver to your scheme?

Cut: He's always been an intense, excitable player. He's grown from an inconsistent player as a youngster to a much more consistent player. He has a knack for big plays and big hits. It's very important to us that he is there to support the run. He's also an important part of our coverages and in keeping people lined up in the right places at the right times. He has to make secondary calls, etc. He has a lot of responsibility back there, but we feel he can handle it.

Q: Memphis DC Joe Lee Dunn has a reputation of doing some "crazy" things defensively. How does that play into going with a new starting QB?

Cut: He's looked at a lot of Memphis tape and he's seen it as a backup. You have to remember, Micheal prepared as a starter for two years because he was Eli's backup. He's seen it all on tape. Now he has to be functional against the things he has seen. Mentally, he's prepared. Physically, can he handle it? We'll see.

Q: Talk about your running game.

Cut: They will be very important. Any time you are breaking in a new QB, you hope you've got a good running game around him. That certainly takes the pressure off a new QB. That involves everyone - receivers, OL and backs. I think our backs are ready to go. We've had flashes of running the ball well in preseason work. The thing they have to do is take care of the football. Get yards and hang on to the ball.

Q: If Daniel Booth can't go Saturday, you will have four new starters across the defensive front. Is there any apprehension there?

Cut: Yes, some. I've said all along that having new starters on the DL and at linebacker is tough. We are breaking in, possibly, six new starters. I'm anxious to see how we'll handle it. Memphis is a balanced team that can run and throw. That front will be responsible for taking care of the run, first and foremost, but they also have to apply pressure to the QB. We will be challenged early and will find out a lot about ourselves in the first game.

Q: Has the role of the backup QBs been fully defined?

Cut: Ethan Flatt and Robert Lane will both be ready to play. Based on age and the way we have practiced, Ethan would go in first. Both may play some, we don't know right now.

Q: What do you know about your team now you didn't know coming out of spring?

Cut: I think we've answered the question about being physical. We can be. We've responded to some tough practices very well. I think I can trust our work ethic - it's been outstanding. We've learned we are a little better in depth than we thought. We're not there yet, but we have made good progress and improvement since spring in the depth area.

Q: Has Micheal gotten better at throwing on the run? He appeared to have some trouble with that in spring.

Cut: We've worked hard on that since spring. He's a very good passer and I think he will be fine.

Q: Talk about your receivers from start to finish in August.

Cut: We had some concern for a couple of weeks because we didn't catch the ball well early in camp, but that has improved drastically the past week or so. They have been exceptional lately. We've got our top five that we feel comfortable with and we have two or three youngsters we think are close to being ready. The bulk of it will remain on those top five. The big question is where is Kerry Johnson, health-wise? We need him healthy.

Q: How much of that inconsistency in catching the ball can be attributed to a new QB?

Cut: They have thrown all summer long, so I don't know if that is valid. Micheal throws a really fast ball and has a very quick release, so there may have been more adjustment than we anticipated, but it's their job to catch it.

Q: Have you settled on your return game yet? You worked a lot of people in camp.

Cut: We are still working on that, but Mike Espy will return punts. He will also be involved in kickoff return along with B. Brown. There will be others we will look at as well, including Larry Kendrick in the kickoff return game.

Q: Will you be counting on any true freshmen this year at this point?

Cut: This week's practice could change things, and it can change from week to week, but as it stands right now LB Garry Pack will play this week and DE Corey Mills will be prepared to play. We expect Mico McSwain to play soon if he gets more comfortable at WR. We'll just play it by ear and see how it goes the first couple of weeks.

Q: What do you expect from LB Brian Lester this year?

Cut: He has picked up his game and responsibilities quite a bit and has earned a starting job at LB. He's had a good camp. He's a fine young man, an intense player and a kid who has improved as much as anyone on the team since spring. I expect good things from him.

Q: Talk about new starter at CB Trumaine McBride.

Cut: He's much more comfortable than he was. He's very athletic and quick. He's also bright and confident, but being thrown out there on the edge is always a work in progress. I think he has made tremendous progress.

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