Q: Talk about being named the offensive coordinator at Ole Miss.
Austin; First of all, it was quite an honor to get a call from Houston (Nutt) and to just be considered for the position. When he was hired at Ole Miss, I said at the time, not knowing that I might be in this mix, that Ole Miss made an outstanding hire and that Ole Miss was fortunate to get a guy of his quality as a coach and a person. He's a winner and he knows how to put together a great staff. I knew that through talks with his former OC David Lee, who I am close with. I already had an understanding of the quality of individuals I would be working with even before I was offered the job. That was very important to me. To leave Saskatchewan was a tough thing after only being there one year and being able to accomplish what we did (winning the Grey Cup), but at the end of the day it was an opportunity to come work for a great guy, be a part of a great staff of guys who totally get it and are completely unselfish, and coaches who have won and understand how to better the lives of their players. It was also a chance to come home and coach at my alma mater.
Q: How much weight did it carry that it was Ole Miss, your alma mater?
Austin: A lot. It's quite an honor to me. It really is, and I understand that. I don't take that lightly nor do I take lightly the trust that Houston has placed in me. I am very honored.
Q: What did Houston have to do to sell you? Was it a system thing, or people thing, or location?
Austin: It was a little bit of everything, but the most important thing is that not every head guy is the same. I have learned that through the years. It was very important to me to go to work for a guy who has Houston's qualities. David Lee helped a lot in getting me to understand what kind of person Houston is and I am learning more and more every day that strengthens my belief I am in the right place. Philosophically, I am in line with Houston and how he teaches, how he motivates, what he expects, the accountablility he creates with the staff and within the team, his understanding that this thing is about the team and not about us, and that the team has to take ownership. It was very easy for me to accept this job from a philosophical standpoint. I believe in the same things he believes in. It was very important to me to work for a quality person who has a track record of winning, which Houston has. I am also very impressed with the staff I will be working with. That was also very important in my decision. Also to come back home and coach in the SEC, the best conference in the country, was important.
Q: When the offensive staff put you on the board for the chalk talk, were you on the same page with them?
Austin: Enough to get hired. (laughs) Our offensive philosophies are similar in a lot of respects and in some ways they differ, but you could say that about any offensive coaches. What you do is important, but it's not as important as how well you do it. The most important thing is to take the individual and collective skills of our players and structure things to give them the best chance to succeed. What is important is for us to put them in a position to be successful. A lot of coaches have won doing a lot of different things. There are no gurus in football on either side of the ball. What is important is to understand the talents of your players so you can piece them together collectively to give the unit the best chance possible to win and have success.
Q: Is this going to be a Houston Nutt offense or a Kent Austin offense?
Austin: It is going to be the Ole Miss offense. It isn't about me. It's about the team, and Houston gets that and that is why I wanted to work for him. He totally gets that on every level. We won't segment out those kinds of things because it takes the focus off what is important - the team and the unit - and puts the focus on something that isn't important. The only thing that matters is the unit having success, not anything else. It doesn't matter if we run the Wishbone, the spread, two tights, whatever. I ran everything in Canada from two tights and three backs to no backs and six wide receivers, but what was important was how you utilize the talent of the guys you have. The thing I like about this staff more than anything else, besides the fact they are talented and have won, is that there are no agendas. They are unselfish guys who only care about winning. They understand it is about the players and not the coaches.
Q: What will be the most important things to accomplish in spring training?
Austin: A whole scope of things. We have to evaluate all our talent. We have to eyeball them and see if they can do the things we ask them to do. We have to evaluate them physically and mentally. How quickly can they transfer what we are teaching in the classroom to doing it on the field? We have to learn if they are high rep guys or low reps guys, their aptitude for learning, their acceptance of coaching and how they interact with each other. Are they unselfish and are they inwardly focused? Once we figure those things out, we will be able to piece things together better.
Q: What is your impression so far of Jevan Snead?
Austin: I am very impressed so far. He is a quality person who his parents raised the right way. He is a guy who cares about being good. That is half the battle. He has an understanding of why it is important to strive for excellence in all areas of his life. He gets that. That will transfer to the football field. Physically, he has a great arm with a quick release. It is rare to find a quarterback who has a strong arm and a quick, fast arm. He has athleticism - he's big and strong. He's bright and coachable. Other than that, he's not much of a player. (laughs) Obviously, we need to see him on this level in pressure situations. That separates the average from the very good.
Q: What else have you evaluated on offense?
Austin: I think we have some good skill guys and have the making of a solid offensive line. I am excited about our skill players because I think we are going to have some playmakers in the mix. The one quality I will look for is who makes plays? I don't really care how they do it, I just want to know can he make plays? If he is a playmaker, we can work with that and I think we have some of those guys.
Q: How much did you get involved with recruiting when you got here?
Austin: One QB (Chris Wilkes) was already committed. The other (Nathan Stanley) I helped with some. From an intangible standpoint, they seem to have football intelligence and moxie and they are confident. They have that "it" thing about them. They have won and they both have big arms. It is important to have QBs who can attack all areas of the football field in the passing game. And those two guys can do that with their arms.
Q: What did you learn in the CFL?
Austin: We don't have enough time. I have learned from every coach I have ever worked with, from relating to players to organizing and structuring things to managing people.
Q: You have never recruited on the college level. Will that be a challenge?
Austin: I understand the question, but you have to understand I was selling all the time in Canada. It's one thing to recognize an American player who can help your CFL team, but it's a whole different thing to close the door on the deal and get him to sign and come to Canada. That is a sales job. Recruiting is a sales job. I was heavily involved in getting guys to Canada and convincing them why it was a good career move for them. That is recruiting. I understand it is different in terms of the younger guys and dealing with more family members and such, but if you believe in what you are doing, you have character and integrity, you are honest and genuine, and you are persistent, most people I have encountered in life understand and see that and it attracts those individuals to you. That is what recruiting, to me, is all about.
Q: How difficult was it to leave Eric Tillman and the Saskatchewan organization after winning a Grey Cup?
Austin: Very. Eric and I are very close. We go back a long way. He traded for me in 1994 when we won the Cup and I was the QB. He hired me to coach Saskatchewan this year and we won the Cup. He is a quality individual who is bright, shrewd and knows how to build a team. He also understands it's about others and not about him, like Houston does here. Saskatchewan was great to me and it is one of the nicest places you could ever live. It was tough to leave, but in the end Eric was unbelievable in this situation. He tried to keep me, but once I had made up my mind, he did not get in my way. He understands people trying to better themselves and the importance of that. He did everything he could to keep me, but he was very gracious when he knew I wanted to come here. He was very supportive.
Q: Is it tough to go from a head coach to a coordinator?
Austin: Any transition is difficult, but it depends on the situation you are going into and I am comfortable with this one. There will be things that are hard and things that are easy, but I have faith in the guys I am working with to make it as smooth as possible.
Q: Will you be recruiting strictly QBs here?
Austin: No. I will have more recruiting responsibility than that.
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