Monday press conference

Rebel Coach David Cutcliffe coached a long time at Tennessee, Saturday's foe. He's looking forward to his first-ever meeting across the sidelines from old friend and boss Phillip Fulmer. He knows the competitive juices will be flowing, something he relishes.

The following is Coach David Cutcliffe's Monday press conference prior to the game with Tennessee Saturday.

Cut's Opening Comment: After looking at the South Carolina tapes, we certainly did some good things, the most important being making plays when we had to have them. Do we have a lot of things we have to work on and correct? Certainly. We will address why we are giving up so many big plays on defense and why we can't convert more third downs on offense. We also have to learn to play four quarters on offense. To have a chance down the stretch, we have to do those things - and a few more - better. We have a number of injuries. WR Mike Espy and OT Tre' Stallings are day-to-day with ankle injuries. DT Chris Herring we will look at for some light work today. And we have a number of people who will be limited - SS Kelvin Robinson, DE Corvelli Haynes and a couple more. We'll more know about it after Tuesday's practice.

Q: What are your inner thoughts about facing UT, where you were a long time?

Cut: I'd be lying if I said it wasn't emotional because a lot of those guys are my long-time friends. When you have a competitive spirit, I'm sure they are going to want to beat me badly and we want to win badly. It stirs your competitive juices. But when you start looking at tape, you get snapped back into the reality of preparing for an outstandin football team and you kind of forget that. They are well-coached. We have our hands full. That routine kind of takes over and personal things are set aside. It will be a challenge to play against people I was so close to for a lot of years and people I learned so much from.

Q: What have you taken from UT and brought here?

Cut: A lot of things. Practice routine, philosophy - it's what I know and what I've been around, recruiting philosophies, our weekly schedule. Certainly I've adjusted and changed a lot of things, but many of the same basics still apply at Ole Miss and at UT.

Q: Knowing their offense, will that help you?

Cut: Both sides will be pretty familiar with each other, even though we haven't played each other since I have been at Ole Miss. It will come down to players making plays. There will be some familiarity as to what each of us do offensively, but after six years of change it will come down to the players making plays.

Q: Have you talked to Coach Fulmer this week or will you?

Cut: Probably not. We talk regularly during the year, but now that we are playing each other, I doubt we will this week.

Q: What got into you Saturday using three QBs?

Cut: We needed an offensive spark and all three had worked and produced in practice. Things weren't going well for us. We weren't consistent. We needed to do something different, even drastic. It worked. Now whether that's the right thing to do from here on out, we don't know. If the circumstances call for it week-to-week, that is what we will do. We are week-to-week in our decision making - practice results, health, preparation, etc. will all figure into it.

Q: Can you give us a Jamal Pittman update?

Cut: He should be back and available, I am concerned about his health. He has not been full speed so we will evaluate him this week. He's been struggling with a hamstring, but we will see.

Q: What are some of the characteristics you picked up from Coach Fulmer?

Cut: His work ethic is second to none. The ability to be the same and be intense day after day and how important that is in this business. We both cut our teeth on organization and scheduling together and we learned from each other.

Q: Talk about Bill Flowers.

Cut: He provides us with a lot of energy and he's a big playmaker. He's made big plays since he's been here and just has that knack. He's high energy and consistent. Q: Did the other players know you were going to use three quarterbacks?

Cut: Our QBs knew they were all going to play. I wanted to keep that under wraps so I didn't really care if the other players knew or not. I thought it might spark them more if they didn't know. The best way to keep something quiet is to not tell many people.

Q: Do you still know the words to Rocky Top?

Cut: I know the tune, but I don't know if I could sing every word or not.

Q: Some people are saying you may have caught UT at the right time after a big win. What are your thoughts on that?

Cut: Tennessee has had a lot of big wins so they are used to it. They are playing really well. They did what a lot of people thought couldn't be done by beating Georgia in Athens. Phillip does a good job of keeping things the same in preparation. I'm not saying this because they are my friends, but they are an extremely well-coached team. If you look at their defense, offense and kicking game, they are very well prepared.

Q: When did you and Fulmer get together?

Cut: I was coaching at Banks HS and he was recruiting Banks. He was at Vanderbilt then. We hit it off - we have similar personalities. We got to know each other and it went from there.

Q: What are the pros and cons of your artificial playing surface?

Cut: The only negative is that it is a little hotter than natural turf in the early part of the season. The positives are that it is a consistent surface that doesn't burn you like the old turf. It doesn't wear out as the season wears on.

Q: After 17 years at UT, did you think you would ever get your own program or be the head coach there?

Cut: 17 years is a long time at one place in this business, but I believed in the people there and what we were trying to do. My focus was just on taking care of my job, not the one I didn't have. I knew if I took care of my job there that something would come to me. Through the years, I had other opportunities, but I never gave them much though because everyone there was so good to me. Until Ole Miss came along, I never gave it much thought at all. A couple of times I looked into some things, but I was happy there until the right situation came along.

Q: How tough was it, in retrospect, to leave UT right before the national championship game that you had worked so hard to get to?

Cut: It was an emotional time. 17 years and as committed as I was to those people and that goal, it was hard. But this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. It was so exciting that I got over the departure in a hurry. I didn't worry about that team winning the title. I knew they would. They were destined to be champions. That made it easier, knowing they would win.

Q: How close are you to being able to use the indoor turf for practice?

Cut: They are still working on the track around the field, but as long as we aren't having serious storms with lightning, I'd prefer to be outside working with a wet ball right now on the game field.

Q: Do you think UT and Fulmer will have some tricks up his sleeve for you?

Cut: Yes. They are creative and will have something special for us.

Q: What is going on with your pass defense?

Cut: First of all, we missed three or four wide open receivers on long balls ourselves. We want to fix that. On their side, they threw a couple right on the money, they underthrew a couple we let them catch. But we were there, we just didn't make the plays. It's not like they were running wide open, we just didn't make the plays. Are we getting enough practice time on playing the ball? We are asking ourselves a lot of questions right now but working on that is a top priority. We need to build our confidence back up in playing passes once we get in a position to make plays. It's also a matter of pressure on the QB. We have to find a way.

Q: What is the difference in the 0-2 Rebs earlier and the team from Saturday?

Cut: We're more confident. We have more rhythm and tempo. We played with more energy. We have played with good effort all year long, but there is a difference in effort and energy. That is what it really takes to win on this level. On offense, we are more consistent.

Q: What about PK Wesley Bryan's effort kicking off?

Cut: In my mind, his five touchbacks were five big plays in special teams. Anytime you make a team start at the 20 or inside the 20, those are big plays. He stepped up and did a great job. More than likely, he will maintain the job. Jonathan (Nichols) is still sore and Wesley did a great job.

Q: Do you have a 98 National Championship ring and have you ever worn it?

Cut: I do have one and it is proudly displayed at my house. I am not a jewelry kind of person, but I am proud to have it and proud to have been a part of that season.

Q: How hard is it to wait on an 8 p.m. kickoff?

Cut: It's tough. There's a lot of waiting and a lot of laying around. We have meetings and do things to try to keep them busy, but you also want them rested. We're always looking for ways to handle those days, but it's just a long day and there's no way around that.

Q: What have you seen from the Vol QBs?

Cut: Both are talents and Randy Sanders has prepared them well. They haven't made many mistakes and they are both playmakers. They have some talented players around them that have helped them as well. They are difficult to defend.

Q: What about the Mannings being on campus?

Cut: They will both be here and will both be pulling for their teams. Peyton will be for UT and Eli will be for Ole Miss. My daughter doesn't understand why Peyton isn't for Ole Miss. It didn't dawn on her that he wouldn't be for Ole Miss.

Q: Talk about Houston and Riggs as a one-two punch at TB for the Vols?

Cut: They are good backs and UT will always try to establish the run and be physical. Riggs has really come into his own this year. Houston has been hampered a little with injuries, but he'll be fine for us. They are a difficult tandem that wears on you as the game goes on.

Q: talk about Ethan Flatt's progress.

Cut: He has become more consistent. He made mistakes in Wyoming he's not making now. I'm pleased with his focus and attitude in becoming an SEC QB.

Q: Any plans for the crowd?

Cut: We will open the gates thirty minutes early and we want all our fans to be there as early as possible. We need and want a great atmosphere for this game. I want to encourage everyone to be there early. We need a great crowd. I hope everyone responds because it will help our team.

Q: Talk about UT's defense.

Cut: They are very physical and aggressive. They run well. John Chavas and his staff do a great job. They show you a lot of looks and are difficult to prepare for.

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