The following are the highlights of Coach Ed Orgeron's Media Day Press Conference. Coach O recapped the offense, took questions, recapped the defense and took questions on them.
Coach O: We are progressing very well with our installation and are acclimating well to the demands of practice. We are coming together and I can see a football team being built and an identity of toughness starting to surface. The players are working hard and competing. I'm really excited. This is my first time as a head coach and it's fantastic. Every day I wake up early, come to work, stay late, go home and think about getting better the next day.
Our offense had a great day today. We scored a lot of touchdowns and did real well in third-and-short situations. Micheal Spurlock has become an electric football player with the ball in his hands. He is showing leadership qualities. He's having a fantastic camp. Robert Lane is in a battle for that job and he has a chance to be the starter. I'm going to let them battle it out and it will work itself out. Up front, OL Coach George DeLeone is doing a great job. They are starting to come together, even though Darryl Harris is lost for a little time. George made a tremendous adjustment there. Freshman Michael Oher is a tremendous talent. As soon as he learns what to do, he will be very good. We moved David Traxler to guard and TOny Bonds to center and that has worked well. Ben Boyce has also stepped up at center. Thomas Eckers has practiced better than he ever has - he's feeling Oher behind him. Tre' Stallings and Bobby Harris are two excellent tackles. Our tight ends have really performed well, better than at any time in spring. We moved Robert Hough up to first team and immediately Lawrence Lilly had his best day. Funny how that works. Jimmy Brooks is also having a good camp and we moved Lamark Armour over from defense. We really didn't want to do that because Lamark is a good defensive end, but we needed him at tight end. So I am really pleased with the front and the quarterback situation. At running back, we have not yet established ourselves as the type of running back unit we want to be. Jamal Pittman has been nicked up some, Alan Abrams has showed up in spots. I am really pleased with our two freshmen, Kendrick Perry and Antonio Turner - they will play for us this year. At fullback, Jason Cook is having an excellent camp and Seth Michaelson is having a good camp behind him. Those guys are doing a good job. At wide receiver, Mike Espy is coming to the forefront. Mario Hill is doing well, Larry Kendrick, Burnell Wallace and Milton Collins are also having good camps. Noel Mazzone is doing a great job with the offense. The offensive staff has come together and they are putting in the type of offense that fits our personnel. I'm really pleased with that.
Q: Do you have a timetable for naming a starter at QB?
Coach O: No. I want the competition to just let it happen. I think it will become evident on film and in the playmaking who the best one is. I want to let it naturally happen. Obviously, if it doesn't happen before game week, we will name one, but I think it will.
Q: When will WR Taye Biddle be available?
Coach O: I think about five more days.
Q: Talk about Andrew Wicker's move from DT to OG?
Coach O: It's been really good - he gives us some depth and toughness on the OL. He's working hard to learn what he needs to know and is doing well.
Q: How has Eckers established himself at RG?
Coach O: He's felt the heat from Michael Oher and is practicing very well. He's very focused and has done a good job. He goes aginst Boykin and Jerry every day and he has held his own. He has matured in the last six months.
Q: How have Milton Collins and Burnell Wallace shown up in camp thus far?
Coach O: Milton is doing very well. There are some things Milton does better than the other receivers and we are going to use those strengths. The same with Burnell. We are going to use them in spot situations until they learn the whole offense and can compete every down.
Q: Special teams?
Coach O: I wish we had more experience there, but we're doing OK. Will Moseley is doing a good job - he may be our kicker, punter and kickoff guy before all is said and done. The competition is still open. Rob Park has done some good things punting - he's a freshman so we need to bring him along slowly, and Matt Hinkle has done a good job placekicking too. We will ahve our best players playing on special teams and Chris Rippon does a great job there. Justin Sparks will be out another week, so we are anxious about him coming back.
Q: What about your other 10 special teams players in the various phases of special teams? Do you have enough athletes to fill those spots?
Coach O: I feel really good about it. We have a lot of guys who can play those areas, young and old. I'm pleased with the return game - like Mike Espy and Larry Kendrick. Coach Rippon is excellent with his schemes to block kicks and I think we will get some of those this year.
Coach O on the defense: We're really excited to have McKinley Boykin back. He shows flashes of being like some of the great guys I have coached in the past. He's coming off knee surgery and has been a little sore lately, but he's doing a tremendous job. I'm also excited about South Panola's Peria Jerry - he's tremendous. Michael Bozeman is doing well. I think we will be strong in the middle of our defense around those guys. DE Jayme Mitchell is having a good camp and Brandon Jenkins is backing him up. Our LEO position is wide open between Chris Bowers and Corvelli Haynes. I'm also excited about LeRon King - he's small right now, but he's quick off the edge and aggressive. I'm pleased with the way Ryan Nielsen is coaching our front - they are coming together. At linebacker, Patrick Willis and Kelvin Robinson are having excellent camps and Garry Pack is starting to establish himself as the number one guy. Dontae Reed was ahead of him, but Garry has overtaken him. I'm impressed with three of our young guys - Quentin Taylor, Robert Russell and Rogers Loche. They will have to play for us this year. At cornerback, Nate Banks and Travis Johnson are having an ongoing battle. Trumaine McBride and Dustin Mouzon are battling on the other side. At free safety, Charles Clark is really, really solid. He's the QB of our defense and is excellent. At SS, Jamarca Sanford is a playmakers. The defensive scheme is coming along well, but I think we may have to blitz a little more until we become a great pass rush unit up front in a base defense, but that remains to be seen.
Q: What is the difference with Pack now and Pack in spring?
Coach O: Learning the defense and competing. He's now understanding the speed we want him to play and he's now understanding consistency.
Q: Does DE Viciente DeLoach fit in?
Coach O: The last couple of days, he's done well. He may end up fitting in the rotation and we feel he can play end or rush end. Corvelli Haynes is also doing well - he's a good pass rush specialist who could end up starting at DE.
Q: What about Jeremy Garrett at DT?
Coach O: He's having a good camp. He's quick and is backing up Bozeman. We are going to use him in the rotation. I love him. He will play a lot and do well.
Q: How is your press coverage coming? You discussed needed improvement there in the preseason.
Coach O: Today it wasn't very good. We are working it, but it needs to come on more. We may not be able to use press coverage as much as we'd like if it doesn't come on real quick.
Q: How much better is the attitude than when you had your first team meeting months ago?
Coach O: Night and day. I have had no problems in camp - none. We are focused. We are at the IPF al day and we have had no problems. We are a family - I love their attitude.
Q: You said you were ahead of schedule. What do you mean by that?
Coach O: Installation of our offense and defense. It's the same as the one we had last year at USC. It's not a schedule for a first-year staff, but our staff has adjusted and has installed everything correctly.
Q: How are you doing wearing so many hats - head coach, defensive coordinator, etc.?
Coach O: I wish I could put another one on. I love it. This has been the most gratifying part of my college career - being the head coach here. I can't wait to get to work every morning.
Q: Is the defense the bell cow of your team?
Coach O: It needs to be. We are nowhere near where we need to be right now, but we will be.
Q: How do you rate the physicality of this team?
Coach O: We are a physical team, a lot more than we were in spring. I give the credit to S&C Coach Aaron Ausmus in the weight room and the offseason program he ran. I didn't think we were where we needed to be in the weight room in the squat, clean and bench. We got better there and it's showing on the football field.
Q: How is your team speed?
Coach O: I'm pretty pleased. Some guys are not where I thought they'd be, but overall I'm pleased.
Q: How is your signing class showing up?
Coach O: Pretty well. When you bring in linemen like Oher and Jerry, you are building a foundation. We have to be great up front on both sides of the ball and players like that are where you start. Then we brought in two big backs who are helping with the foundation of being physical. I like our recruiting class. The linemen are good, the backs are good and I like our young receivers. We have several who will play this year and that says something about how I feel about them.
Q: More on QBs, please.
Coach O: Our team, by the end of camp, will ahve no doubt as to who the starting QB should be, or the starting DT or any position. It will play out.
Q: When do you focus on Memphis?
Coach O: About eight days before the game.
Q: Are you disappointed in anyone?
Coach O: No, but if I was, I wouldn't tell you.
Q: How patient have you had to be coming here from national championship teams at USC?
Coach O: I took out the depth chart from our first year under Pete Carroll at USC. We were 2-5 at one time. I remember the process we had to go through. I remember what had to happen for us to have success. So right now I am very patient because I understand what has to happen to make championships happen.
Q: What is that process?
Coach O: Having good evaluations of what is wrong and how to fix it. Coach Carroll never lost his team and I don't plan on losing mine. I want those players to understand every day where they are and what they have to do to get better. It's a daily process and every day is important and can't be wasted.
Q: What do you need to happen this year?
Coach O: When I look at the schedule, I believe we have to play well and make progress throughout the year. I want us to play smart, hard-nosed, disciplined football. If we will do that, we will be fine.
Media Day Press Conference
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