Ole Miss Media Day - Coach O: Part I

Coach Ed Orgeron met the press today at the annual preseason Media Day for Ole Miss football. Here are his comments:

Orgeron: Good to see everybody here. I hope you got some great shots of our team this morning (at practice). I want to say something and clear the air here. Our quarterback situation is still open. Seth Adams, Mike Herrick, Brent Schaeffer, Billy Tapp, and obviously Jevan Snead cannot play. They are all competing out there. Last Saturday, Seth had a better scrimmage than the other guys. Today one of the quarterbacks may have had a better scrimmage than the other guy. It's going to remain open. It's like a racae. Just because a guy's pulling away doesn't mean he's going to win. We're going to give time for the race to finish so we can make a great decision on our quarterback. Allright, good. I really love the attitude of this football team and coaching staff. We've been working very hard in conditions that will be similar to what we're playing in. We had a fantastic scrimmage (last Saturday) at 2:30 at Vaught-Hemingway on the turf, and I thought our guys performed very well. We're going to keep on putting them in those circumstances so they can perform under playing conditions. I'm really proud of Aaron Ausmus and the job his strength coaching staff has done this summer to get our guys for the most part in tremendous condition.

Now I will go position by position with what's going on out there, and you can then ask me any questions. You guys know how I feel about Art (Kehoe). I talk about Art all the time. He's a fantastic coach. He's brought this group together. Michael Oher is in his best condition. He's 315 pounds and I don't believe he's missed a rep this camp. I think he's ready to have a really, really good season. At left guard is Reid Neely is performing well. At center is Corey Actis. John Jerry is becoming a leader for us at 350 pounds and a 5-flat 40. He's a tremendous guard and he's learning the offensive schemes and making calls at the line of scrimmage and doing a lot better job at it. Maurice Miller at right tackle - Mo is down to a slim 335. He's played well. We're really pleased with our freshman class. There've been very few disappointments with our freshmen class and there've been a lot of surprises. Bradley Sowell has obviously lost a lot of weight and is looking good out there. Rishaw Johnson is at left guard. We feel Rishaw's going to be an excellent player. Mark Jean-Louis was about 367 pounds is down to about 330 and doing an excellent job. So we're developing depth. What we want to do is to develop depth so we can play better in the fourth quarter. Overall we're really proud of our offensive line. We believe that's going to be a key for our season.

At tight end we are focused on and we have accomplished getting Robert Lane the ball more. He's had some excellent days out there. We can't throw him enough. He's a playmaker. Also Robert Hough. Robert's gained weight and is about 238 pounds. He looks good and is a very good athlete. We feel those two tight ends are doing an excellent job for us. David Traxler is doing OK there and so is Cecil Frison. I talked to you about the quarterback position. It's up and down; it's really up and down. We're going to let it play out. We had preseason game No. 1 last Saturday. We'll have preseason game No. 2 this Wednesday. We'll have preseason game No. 3 this Saturday on Meet the Rebels Day. We'll go the equivalent of a game. And then the next Saturday we'll have a mock game, which is preseason game No. 4, and hopefully we can find out who is ready to go. At wide receiver we're thin; we're very thin there. Dexter McCluster is having a very good camp. You may have seen him in a yellow jersey (today). I put him in a yellow jersey today because I didn't want him to get hit. He's fine but he's too valuable a player and can't afford that. Marshay Green is having an excellent camp. He's a great returner; he's a great competitor. He's made some big plays out there. A guy that's coming along and coming along fast is Lionel Breaux. Defensive-minded Coach Ed Orgeron wanted him on defense and didn't do much there; he asked me to move. Said Coach I think I can do better on offense, and he had a tremendous scrimmage on Saturday. He's coming along there, and hopefully we found us a playmaker. Mike Hicks is doing a good job and so is Mike Wallace. He's our fastest guy and he can be our deep-ball guy. Shay Hodge is coming along. He's ahead of schedule. I don't know when he'll be back, but I think he will be back soon. We're going to welcome him back.

At running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis is excellent, a big-time player, a big-time character. He's probably the best player on our football team right now. He's worked so hard. He's so far ahead in conditioning. He's the leader of our offense; he's the go-to guy. There's no doubt about that. He's even better than he was last year at any time. He's in great condition and he has a great attitude. We're not giving him a bunch of reps right now, but come Memphis he will be at full tilt. Bruce Hall is having an excellent, excellent fall camp. A really, really good running back who does a lot of things, catches the ball out of the backfield, is explosive. Great attitude. Cordera (Eason) is having another good camp. We're really excited about Jeremy McGee, our transfer from UCLA. He gives us some quickness in the backfield. We've got a bunch of big backs. Jeremy gives us a change in direction with quickness in the backfield. We're really excited about his performance. Reggie Hicks is an athlete. He could play tailback. He could play fullback. He could play tight end. We're going to avhe the best place to put Reggie. Obviously BenJarvus will get the load along with Bruce. BenJarvus is the guy back there, and I want to make that clear. He's our guy.

At fullback Jason Cook is having an excellent camp. We did some things last year in research and development to involve our fullback more. He's fitting into a great scheme. He's a very smart young man and a very good leader for us, along with Andy Hartmann. The guy that's been a surprise to us as a staff is Derrick Davis. He had a knee injury and at tailback he is going back to his old form of his Meridian days. He's had some breakout days.

I mentioned the quarterback system right now. Seth is practicing most of the snaps with the ones. Mike is practicing most of the snaps with the twos. Brent is practicing most of the snaps with the threes. That's how it is out there, and we'll continue to grade them. When it's time for the race to be finished we'll announce that. Not until then. Thanks you.

Defense. I can't say enough about having John with me. I am excited to have John Thompson on my staff. He is a tremendous man and a tremendous coach. Saturday after a tough practice, he's sitting in the ice tub with Jerrell Powe. I don't know what they were talking about. But that's him. He gets close to his players. You can already see a change in our defense. We're sacking the quarterback, blitzing left and right. You never can tell where he's coming from. He's done a great job in allowing me to be the head coach. I wanted to start with that.

Second, we have a shot, we have a shot here, to have a tremendous defense. It starts with the defensive line. Marcus Tillman's having an excellent camp. He's 270. He's exactly what we want with a strong end. He's getting sacks. He's working hard. He's intelligent. He's a great young man. Peria Jerry is practicing about 70 percent of the time, and he ain't been blocked yet. Just ain't been blocked yet. He's got a tremendous attitude, he's quick, and he's having a great camp. He's ready for an outstanding year. Backing him up is Jeremy Garrett, who has practiced sparingly with a knee injury. I don't know when he's going to be back. Lawon Scott has shown some quickness. He's 1 300-pounder, he's a freshman, and he's playing very well up front for us. So we're developing some depth there. At nose tackle Jerrell Powe has come in and been everything we expected. He's a great young man. He works hard. He's getting in football shape, and he's showing where he can be a force. I mean a force in the middle. Obviously he hasn't been cleared through the clearinghouse yet, but as soon as he gets through the clearninghouse, we feel we have a great group with Peria Jerry, Jerrell Powe, Jeremy Garrett, Lawon Scott, Daverin Geralds, and Ted Laurent, who is having an excellent camp. We have six guys there we think can play, and that's what we need to lead our defense. At Leo position Kentrell Lockett is out. He has an injury and should be back in three or four weeks. Greg Hardy has really turned it on at the Leo position and is having an outstanding camp. We feel we have a top-notch defensive line and we're excited about it. LaDerrick Vaughn from Memphis we're moving from outside linebacker to put his hand on the ground. He's had several sacks with his speed. We're using him as a nickel rusher, and he's having an outstanding camp. Let me say something about Coach (Ryan) Nielsen. He does a tremendous job coaching our defensive line. He has the fire and intensity which is exactly what I expect out of our defense.

At linebacker it's about what I expected. We have to keep on finding, keep on changing guys' jerseys, red shirt one day, white shirt one day. Sam, Mike, Will. We just don't have the guys in place yet and not the experience yet to be a great linebacker corps. But I will say this, after one day with shoulder pads, we put Chris Strong as our starting Mike linebacker. We feel he can handle it. We feel he's going to be a great football player. He has to get through the clearinghouse, but he's exactly what we wanted there. Boy are we excited about him. At Sam linebacker, Ashlee Palmer's having a good camp. He's the starter right now, backed up by Jamie Phillips. Antonio Turner should be joiing the team soon. He's got to work his way up the ladder. We moved Jonathan (Cornell) to Will linebacker. He's going to play some Mike on third down. He's our most consisten linebacker, and Lamar Brumfield will back him up. Tony (Fein) is going to back up Chris at Mike. Again, nothing is settled there. We have to see how they go through camp. IN the defensive backfield we're excited about Jamarca Sanford. He's a leader. He's very solid. John (Thompson( is using him on some blitzes and techniques that are a little bit different ,and you can see him blossom in our defense. He should be a force. Really excited about Jamison Hughes. Young guy from Oxford, (assistant coach) Tony Hughes' son. A good athlete. We think he has a bright future here along with Fon Ingram and George Helow as backups. At free safety we're unproven. Kendrick Lewis is there now and he's having a good camp. It's going to take several games to see if he can remain consistent in that position. Backing him up and starting in our nickel package is Johnny Brown. Fantastic young man from the Delta. One of our better freshmen. A great athlete and a great player. We believe Johnny has a bright future here. Colby Arceneaux. Every time you look out there, Colby Arceneaux is making plays. He's not the biggest, he's not the fastest. But I'll tell you what, he's getting interceptions, he's already showing leadership abilities on our football team. We're glad he's here.

At the cornerback position, we're very thin. Dustin Mouzon's having a stellar camp. Jamariey Atterberry is coming along but not ready yet. He's a good athlete from Kosciusko, and we're really happy he's here. But it's going to take a while. Terrell Jackson is starting at the other cornerback position and is backed up by Cassius Vaughn. Those two guys are fighting a battle, and we've got to find the best guy there. We expect Nate Banks to be back. We don't know when but maybe in the next couple of days.

Special Teams. We're strong there with Joshua (Shene). Joshua had a fantastic day (Saturday). He was right on the money. He's doing the kickoffs for us, and we believe he will be the guy. He has a strong leg. We've been practicing those kickoffs from the 30 (new rule), and it's a little bit different than we imagined. The kick is getting there a lot faster than our coverage. There are some things we'll have to do and some things we'll have to experiment to get that thing better. At punter, Rob Park and Bryan Powers are fighting it out. There's a battle. One will have a good day, and then the other. Bryan has been inconsistent. We're letting those guys battle it, out along with Justin Sparks. We have an excellent return game with Marshay and Dexter back there. We think we'll be very explosive on special teams. We're looking forward to that.

I don't think Mico McSwain is going to make it academic-wise. It's not final yet, but that's my gut feeling.


(More Coach O to follow with the Q&A section.)

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