The following is Coach David Cutcliffe's Monday press conference, beginning with an opening remark.
Cutcliffe: As I said after the game against Wyoming, there is no secret that we are not playing well. We have to correct some things that are very obvious. The penalties have to stop, we can't turn the ball over and we can't give up big plays. The only thing I know to do is to go back to work. We have to work better and smarter - I don't think we can work any harder. We have to get some people healthy, but it will be later in the week before we can assess any of that other than the obvious injuries. We have a lot of people banged up and a lot of people out and that missed practice time has hurt us.
Q: From the Wyoming game, were there any additional injuries?
Cut: CB Nate Banks won't practice today with a knee injury. I don't know the extent of his injuries, he was being tested today. DT McKinley Boykin will have a light day today. His knee is sore. He's been asked to do a lot this year and has responded. With so many DTs missing so much work, he's done double duty. Now, it's taking its toll a little bit, so we'll be careful with him. We're not getting a lot of full speed work from a lot of different people and I think that is showing up on Saturdays.
Q: What is the status of CB Travis Johnson and WR Bill Flowers?
Cut: Travis is still not ready. We will evaluate him more in the next couple of days. Bill is still out and I don't know what to tell you on that because I've never been around that injury before.
Q: You said after the game Saturday that you were going to look at everything real hard from top to bottom at the things you are doing. What conclusions did you come up with since Saturday?
Cut: A lot of things we talked about in staff meetings, I will not talk about publicly. But we have addressed a lot of different things. We have evaluated and torn apart our practice routine and we will adjust a few things in that area. We have evaluated personnel, trying to make sure we have our best players on the field that are healthy and have them in the right spots. We are also evaluating the amount of practice time certain individuals are getting - in other words, can we expect a player to play well with the amount of practice reps they are getting? We are tearing apart every decision and everything we do. There are some things we are doing well and we will have to continue to do those things. There are certain things we believe in within our system and we will continue to build on those things. Obviously, we are not getting the kind of results we want so we are searching for other ways to do things in those areas.
Q: How is the quarterback position shaping up for this week?
Cut: I haven't made any major decisions. Most of it will be based on practice performance. I don't have a big change in mind, but I will certainly be open to all three of them and will be evaluating all three closely. We haven't found an answer yet, but we are seraching. That's where we are today. It could be different tomorrow.
Q: It seems like once you get one area shored up, another leak pops up. How frustrating is that?
Cut: All of it is frustrating, but getting beat is the most frustrating thing to all of us. Getting beat and not playing well is a double whammy. Why are we so penalized this year? That's something we've done well in the past and expect to always do, but we keep committing mistakes and having penalties. That has to stop. We can't keep shooting ourselves in the foot. We haven't been a team that turned the ball over in the past, even this year. Suddenly, we have five in one game. We have to find out why and correct it. Certainly, when you are losing, those things are magnified, but they are problems and they have to be fixed. You have to be thorough in your preparation. We have a good system and a good system of preparation. We are going to tweak those things some, but we are also going to call on our senior leaders and players to step up and get these things corrected.
Q: How is the senior leadership? Are the pieces still in place from last year in that regard?
Cut: I'm going to call on our seniors and I expect them to respond. We have too many good football players on this team who have won a lot of games, and won big games. We have to get back in that mode.
Q: How far off are you from being a consistent offense?
Cut: There were things that were better. We produced some chuncks of yards a lot of times Saturday. But we are not hitting on all cylinders. I don't think Wyoming was a great threat defensively, so we still have questions to answer and things to correct.
Q: What's the updated status on DT Chris Herring, DT Daniel Booth and OT Bobby Harris?
Cut: We are going to have them out for some individual drill work today and see what they look like. With a calf muscle and sprained ankle, there are times they seem to be getting better, but when they start pushing on other people at practice, it's not the same story. That's what we have to evaluate. I haven't been told they are ready. We are just playing it by ear, but we need them back. They are all important to this team. Hopefully we are getting closer, but what we don't want is to rush them and have a setback.
Q: What have you seen from Mario Hill this year that he has emerged as the go-to guy in the receiving corps?
Cut: I think he's always been a fierce competitor and he's tough. He has good speed, moves and hands and he will go over the middle for a ball and take a hit. I think he's always had it, but it's just his time to emerge and take advantage of his skills. He also had some injuries one year that hurt him all year. He's very tough and he has stepped up when we needed him the most. When Bill went out, Mario stepped up. He took on the role of being the go-to guy. I'd like to see more of that across the board.
Q: Talk about Arkansas State.
Cut: They have played very well the past couple of weeks and will play well against us. They are extremely well-coached. Every game to us right now is huge. We are grasping to find a way to play to our capabilities and win a game.
Q: If you aren't able to be physical in practice during the week because of injuries, how does that affect the physicality of the team on Saturdays?
Cut: There's always a fine line in coaching of trying to stay healthy by not doing too much full contact during the week, but having enough to keep you sharp. You have to practice a certain way to be a physical team and we have not been able to practice quite like we wanted to dur to the injuries. That's another part of our evalaution. The players who are healthy better be physical because Arkansas State is a physical team.
Q: Have you ever been through a season with this many injuries?
Cut: This is the worst it's been since I've been at Ole Miss. I don't have a mental log through the years, but this is a tough one right now. It's not just the number of players out, it's the key players who are out and the amount of practice time being missed by a lot more than the players who are totally out. We have not been this beat up since I've been here.
Q: Why did you pick Wyoming for LB Patrick Willis to serve his suspension?
Cut: There was no good game for him to miss. It was just a decision we needed to make - get it behind us and him.
Q: Talk about Tony Bonds taking over at RG with Bobby Harris out and Marcus Johnson moving to RT from RG.
Cut: Tony has done pretty well. He's getting better. This is the first time he's played a lot in his career and he's stepped up. He's versatile and has filled a big void. Marcus has stepped up and played well at tackle, which is not his natural position. He's an extremely talented player who is able to perform at a position he's not as comfortable at.
Q: The running game has improved in the last two weeks. Any correlation in the lineup change?
Cut: I don't think so. I still believe our best lineup is with Bobby in there, but that didn't last very long - he got hurt early in the year and hasn't been back. Now, though, we will feel comfortable with Tony in there and that will allow us to continue building some depth in the OL.
Q: Talk about the tight ends being more involved in the passing game/offense the last two weeks.
Cut: People say 'throw to this one or throw to that one,' but it doesn't work that way. You call routes for everyone. The TE is the primary guy in an equal number of passing plays as the wide receivers, but sometimes a defense doesn't allow that avenue. When the defense takes it away, you have to lay it off to the second and third option. We do want the tight ends to be more involved because we feel we have some threats there, but sometimes the opportunities haven't been there like we had hoped.
Monday press conference
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