Coach O discusses spring training

Spring football begins Friday, March 2. Rebel Coach Ed Orgeron held his pre-spring press conference today at noon. Read about it inside.

The following is a transcript of Ole Miss Football Coach Ed Orgeron's pre-spring press conference. The Rebels begin spring training Friday.

Coach O's Opening Statement: "We are excited to start spring ball Friday. In looking at our team, we feel one of the strengths is the offensive line, featuring Michael Oher and John Jerry, two fantastic players. Center Corey Actis is coming back too, as well as RT Mo Miller. We have to fill the left guard slot and Darryl harris and Mark Jean-Louis will be those main candidates. At tight end, we have Robert Lane and Robert Hough coming back and we are excited about that. We are pleased with the wide receivers we have coming back. We need maximum production from them and I know Coach (Hugh) Freeze will do a good job to get the most out of them. At QB, we are looking for a greatly improved position there with Brent Schaeffer and Seth Adams. We think we are very strong with 1,000-yard rusher BenJarvus Green-Ellis returning at TB. Bruce Hall and Cordera Eason will be strong backups and at fullback we have Jason Cook and Reggie Hicks battling it out. We are also looking forward to having Dexter McCluster back and we will put him in position to make plays. We feel good about our offense and I feel Dan (Werner) will do a great job there.

"On defense, we have some holes to fill by losing Patrick Willis and Rory Johnson. We are going to mix and match players there until we find the best three. Right now, we don't know who our starters will be there and it will probably be the start of the season before we do know. We feel we could be very strong up front this year. We don't have a lot of depth, but our starters should be good. With DEs Marcus Tillman, Greg Hardy, Kentrell Lockett and Chris Bowers, we should be strong. Inside, with Jeremy Garrett, Brandon Jenkins and Daverin Geralds, who will be practicing all spring, and Peria Jerry, who will not practice this spring, we should be good there too. Peria should be full speed when August rolls around. We have some work to do in the secondary. We have Cassius Vaughn, Nate Banks, Dustin Mouzon and Terrell Jackson at the corners and we don't know who will emerge there. At the safety slots, we have Jamarca Sanford, Markeith Summers, Jamal Harvey, Allen Walker and Ashlee Palmer. We have work to do, but our goal is to put the best people at the best positions to make plays.

"In our kicking game, we are excited to have Josh Shene and Rob Park back. All practices will be closed except the spring game on April 7."

Q: What is Greg Hardy's role this spring?

Coach O: We will let him finish basketball and then he will join us for football.

Q: Did Peria have offseason surgery?

Coach O: Peria is doing fine. He will be out this spring.

Q: Can you discuss who some of your linebacker candidates are? Earlier you said Chris Bowers may work at MLB this spring.

Coach O: We are going to mix and match a lot of guys. It's easy to mention we are going to put someone at a certain position, then it's reported and then we change him the next day. We're not going to say that right now. We are going to mix and match guys as we see fit and then we will make some decisions.

Q: What position battles are you looking forard to?

Coach O: Our left guard to see who will replace Andrew Wicker and of course quarterback. I think there will be a battle there. Also see who the best three wide receivers are. Linebacker and DBs are wide open.

Q: Who do you see emerging as leaders?

Coach O: Jeremy Garrett has had an excellent offseason and has worked really hard. Jeremy has to stay healthy. If he does, he will be a leader. Other guys have to come to the front. We are looking for leaders to emerge.

Q: What about Billy Tapp at tight end?

Coach O: Like I said, we are going to try a lot of guys at different positions and I'm not going to announce it now because we may move them one day and move them back the next. There will be a lot of changes made, but some of them could be temporary. We just don't know right now.

Q: Will Mico McSwain be a WR exclusively?

Coach O: Yes, he's playing th 'X.'

Q: What do you see as Jevan Snead's role?

Coach O: We are going to let him play and compete. There is no scout team in the spring, so he'll get reps with all the teams. Maybe we can learn some things from him.

Q: What do you need to see out of Brent in spring?

Coach O: Consistency. Being able to make the right choices and throws. We need to see him run the offense. We need immense improvement in the passing game. Our run game was pretty good last year, but the passing game has to get better. We need some leadership back there at QB. We need to create some situations where we score more touchdowns.

Q: Is spring a situation where you would like to be able to name a starting QB when spring is over?

Coach O: No. That does not matter until the first game. We want the best guy at every position to play. Hopefully Brent will have a great spring, but if not, it will be Seth, in my opinion. But the job is wide open to all QBs.

Q: Marcus Tillman played some DT last year. Is he exclusively an end now?

Coach O: We'd like for him to be. But with injuries, he's a guy we know can handle DT. Our plan is for him to play end in the spring.

Q: How healthy is McCluster?

Coach O: He seems fine. He's strong in the weight room, he's working hard, he's doing well in the class room and he has a great attitude. We need to put the ball in his hands. I am also excited about special teams and what we did in the return game last year. We are hoping to build on that this spring.

Q: In the drill work you have done so far, what have you seen out of Ashlee Palmer?

Coach O: Really quick and athletic. We need to find him a place to play whether it's at safety, wide receiver, tight end, linebacker - there are a lot of places he can play. We need to get him on the field and see what he can do.

Q: How is DC John Thompson doing so far?

Coach O: John Thompson is doing an excellent job like I thought he would. Things are well-organized and he's got us going in the direction we want to go.

Q: What are your expectations for TB Cordera Eason?

Coach O: We expect him to continue to improve. I look for him to have a great year knowing he's our back of the future. We will feature BenJarvus next year, but Cordera has to take that spot over in 2008. We want him to work hard toward that.

Q: What can McSwain learn this spring at WR?

Coach O: It should be a lot simpler for him.

Q: How much has Thompson already helped you?

Coach O: I don't have to be in the defensive staff meeting all day. I can visit with the offense too and recruit a little more. I can do more head coaching duties. We are on the same page. We meet at night. I really like his style and what he brings to our program. Our players are already attached to him - he's a great communicator. He's a great leader.

Q: Based on last year's ending, do you feel like you are entering spring training with some momenutm?

Coach O: Yes. I think our guys are focused. Most of this team was recruited by us. We have 17 seniors and they have bought into the program. We have a coaching staff that understands what I expect of them. We can rely on some experiences we had last year in some games and we are aware of our deficiencies we need to fix.

Q: Do you anticipate having to adjust things scheme-wise due to the losses you had with Willis and Johnson?

Coach O: We would like to think we can play our base defense still, but there are things John will bring to the table. He has the freedom to do what he wants on defense and I think you will see more of an attack style, more of a blitzing style on certain down-and-distances.

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