Not a day goes by when Ole Miss Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix isn't ask about the system he's going to run next season, what the available personnel "looks like," and what position so-and-so is going to play in 2008.
Right now, none of that matters to the veteran defensive coach, who came to Ole Miss after leading the South Carolina defense in 2007.
"All I'm interested in at the moment is getting attitudes right," said Nix. "We are looking for consistency, going to class, attending workouts and doing all the little things right. Those are the first steps in becoming a complete football player.
"I'm seeing some kids responding positively, but we have to get everyone doing it."
Nix said the Rebel coaches have been proactive in trying to build relationships with the current players.
"The first month or two on the job we spent most of our time recruiting. Now we are spending a lot of time trying to get to know our players. We try to spend as much time as we can interacting with the players and inviting them to come sit down with us," Tyrone stated. "We are making sure they know we have an open door policy.
"We have kids who need leadership and direction and Coach (Houston) Nutt is setting a great example of giving them that. As assistants, we are following his lead."
Tyrone said he's seen some positive developments already.
"We are seeing positive results. Kids are working harder and understanding what it takes to finish a drill or a workout or a game. Their attitude is a whole lot better now than it was the first day of offseason, but we are still looking for more consistency throughout the entire team."
The goal between now and the first day of spring training - March 17 - is fairly basic.
"We are trying to get them in great physical condition and develop some mental toughness," he stated. "We want to teach them that when we go out on the field we play with one type of effort - 100% every snap. No exceptions."
Nix said he has looked at some film from last year, but he is not dwelling on that very much. He wants to enter spring training with no preconceived notions on players.
"Last year is irrelevant to me. I have looked at some film from last season, but my focus is on getting the players we have to work hard in the offseason and get them to do the things we want them to do in the way we want them done," he explained. "It's a clean slate for every player on the team. The past is the past. We are changing some things and part of that is giving every player a chance to prove himself.
"Every day you get the opportunity to prove you are a team player. You go to class, you got to workouts and you give everything you have. Those are the guys we are looking for. Those are the guys we will build this program on - team players."
Tyrone has not set any hard and fast goals for installation of his defensive package this spring. He says the spring pace is up to the players.
"It all depends on how much they are able to absorb and retain. How well can they adapt to what we will be teaching?" he added. "The biggest thing to me is to teach the fundamentals and make sure they have all of that down. Then, the more they comprehend from that foundation, the more we will be able to put in from a scheme standpoint.
"Our spring goal is not to put in a massive amount of information. It is to teach them fundamentals and teach them to play with great effort. Then we go from there. If we are getting the fundamentals and effort level we are looking for, it won't matter to me where we end up in terms of the installation of the defense this spring. You win ballgames on fundamentals and effort - it starts there, with passion and with effort and with the basics."
Tyrone simplifies things so even a fifth-grader can understand.
"If you don't go to class, you will not be academically eligible and you are wasting our time and the valuable time of your teammates who are going to class," he stated. "If you don't give outstanding effort, you don't deserve the opportunity to play. And if you don't do the basics, the fundamentals, you won't be an effective player. We will draw a hard line on those things. You have to have them to be successful.
"All these things work together to make a complete football player."
Much like Offensive Coordinator Kent Austin, Nix has never worked with any of the other defensive assistants before, but he's excited in his support group of Tracy Rocker, Kim Dameron, Chris Vaughn and GA Brad Villavaso.
"They are very knowledgeable guys who will make big contributions of input into our scheme," he assessed. "We don't have anyone with a big ego. We are all on the same page with the same objectives and goals, which is to get our guys fundamentally sound and playing hard. I'm already enjoying working with this staff."
Oh, by the way, Nix will run a base 4-3 defense, but right now that's the furthest thing from his mind, so don't ask.
Tyrone Nix -
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