COACH NUTT: Thank you. I'm privileged to be here. Going into my 11th season in the SEC. Very excited to be the head coach at Ole Miss University. We've had a good transition so far. It seems like we've been there a long time already.
But we're excited. Our families, our coaches, we're all moved and we're into it. It's hard to believe it's 37, 38 days away and here we go again in the toughest conference in America.
So I'm excited and ready to go. Ready for questions.
Q. Could you tell me what your impressions of Michael Oher were before you came to Ole Miss, and what are they now that you have him as a member of your team?
COACH NUTT: Michael Oher, Danny, my brother, was recruiting him at the time when he was attending Briarcrest High School. The first time we saw Michael was on a basketball court. Big ol' guy, was so athletic, so fluid. Didn't get much of a shot at him.
Now being with him for the last few months, I tell you, when you see him, you'll see he's in tremendous shape, really committed and probably one of our best signees, really, when you look at him, because we had to go re recruit him.
I tell you, he is totally committed, worked really hard. He's been a leader for us. That's why he's here with us today. I'm very proud of Michael. Boy, I tell you, he brings a lot to the table for our football team. We want him to be a little bit more dominant, a little bit more physical. But he has everything. He has all the tools, has the attitude. I really think he's gonna have an excellent year for us. I'm excited about Michael.
Q. As someone who was at Arkansas for a good long while, now at Ole Miss, is there something invigorating about starting fresh? Has it surprised you in any way, the impact it's had?
COACH NUTT: It has. I tell you, from the moment Diana and I and Haven, we walked in the Ford Theater in Oxford, Mississippi, I really thought the press conference was going to be basically a room full of just press, print media. But to walk in the Ford Theater and have 1500 people, then later find out that 500, 600 people were turned away, I can't tell you how we felt that day. That was a day full of goosebumps, just reenergized us from that moment forward.
Then you go into the meeting with the players, you see that hunger again, to see how they embraced our coaching staff, it excites you, motivates you. It makes you want to please. It makes you want to work a little bit harder. So it's just been an excellent transition. You're exactly right. There's something about being reenergized with new names, new problems, new street numbers, the whole bit.
Q. Coach Saban talked a little bit about expectations and said that we as members of the media probably look at them a little bit too much. He prefers not to look at them. There's been a lot of talk about you going to Ole Miss and the expectations that fans have for you and the program. Is that necessarily good or bad that a lot of people look at you coming to Ole Miss saying, Coach Nutt is the man for us, he's going to bring us an SEC championship?
COACH NUTT: Well, I think it's good. I think it's good because I'm proud that they wanted us in their family. They see something there. What's more important, that the players, they feel the same way. You can see that by their attitude.
So I think it's a good thing. You know, to go in with no expectations or low expectations to me doesn't do much for me. I mean, you want to set that level high. When you walk into a room, in my very first meeting, when you walk into a room, you ask how many of y'all have been to a Bowl game, not one student athlete can say, I've been to a Bowl game. To me that motivates me. That excites me. You want to take them where they can't go by themselves. You want your staff to take them where they can't go by themselves. That's what coaching to me is all about, trying to make a difference in a young person's life, taking them to the next level, to make them a better person, better father, better husband, on and on.
Expectations, those things don't bother me.
Q. Four coaches now in the league that are coaching at a different SEC school than the previous one they coached at. All four of them have to play their former school every year. I know it's only one week out of the year, but do you plan to talk to the other three guys, get some advice on how to handle that week, the obvious overkill that comes with it?
COACH NUTT: No, probably won't. We have a lot of football before that game takes place. The only thing on my mind right now is Memphis. All our coaches and players should be focused on one game. That game has always been very, very tough, always close. So I think it's really wasted energy. I don't think there's too many coaches that can help me with a place that I've been to and raised, where I'm from. I've been there a long, long time, and understand what goes on there.
So I'm just really more focused on the very first game, getting our players ready.
Q. Could you talk a little bit about Kent Austin, why you like him?
COACH NUTT: Kent Austin, first of all, is just an incredible person, with great character. He won a championship in the CFL. But first and foremost, he played quarterback. He played quarterback at Ole Miss. Tremendous teacher. I think one of the things that to me you don't see as much anymore is the teaching of fundamentals. From the way you get up under the center, the way you place your hands, the first step, the throwing motion, he can critique all of those things. Fundamentally very sound. Great chemistry with our staff, other staff members. Tremendous knowledge in the passing game.
So I'm excited about Kent being an Ole Miss alumni, great family guy. But, boy, what a winner and a great quarterback coach.
Q. You've been at Ole Miss eight or nine months. Is it still surreal as you switch teams in the same conference or have you gotten used to it at this point?
COACH NUTT: I've had that question asked about three times already. You know, it feels like I've been here a long time. It's the way I feel right now. Again, I think because of the transition, it's been so smooth. I realize we haven't played a game yet. I understand that. But this was a good move, I think, for our coaches' families. You feel that way. You feel the players feel that way.
So I just feel like I've been here a while. I know we haven't played a game yet. But you just feel good about it.
Q. Your predecessor was supposed to be renowned for how good a recruiter he was. Have you found in your time there that the talent that you've inherited might be better than what you probably had left at Arkansas? As far as this season's concerned, do you like the way the schedule sets up to maybe build something with this team?
COACH NUTT: I think Ed did an excellent job of recruiting. There's some holes at some different spots, different positions. There's a lot of players that didn't quite always make it to campus. But if you look at Greg Hardy, Michael Oher, Peria Jerry, you look at those players, look at the receivers: Michael Wallace, Shay Hodge, Lionel Breaux, Dexter McCluster, boy, there's spots of I just feel like tremendous athleticism. Boy, that really excites you.
My whole problem is you have a group of guys, again, that had very little success the last three, four years, and they haven't experienced a Bowl game. They didn't experience winning an SEC game last year. So those are the obstacles that we're trying to really work hard with.
As far as the schedule, I don't have anything to do with it. That's the schedule. I really like our schedule. I like our schedule, especially starting out at home. We got some good home games. Then you got some very tough road games.
We all know, hey, once you've been in the SEC, you grow numb to it. Every single Saturday, two chin straps, buckle up. It's going to be a full day for three hours. Anybody can beat anybody.
Q. When you first came into the league in the late '90s, the conference was in a middle of a span where it was basically Florida and Tennessee rotating winning the title. Now it's known as a league that is extremely deep. What do you think some of the factors that have gone into the conference's rise to its current state?
COACH NUTT: I tell you, I think it's excellent coaching, tremendous athletes. I think you look at the athletic directors, the chancellors, the tools they've given us, the facilities. It's the greatest conference in America.
NFL, they seem to come to SEC first. You look at that and you just look at the atmosphere. You look at the pageantry, the tailgating, the stadiums that are full every Saturday. It's just a tremendous, tremendous conference.
I think there's nine or ten teams that can win a championship in our league. I really mean that. If you just look from top to bottom, just look at the athletes, nine or ten teams easily could win our league. You don't ever know. That's what makes the conference so great.
It's a lot of great talent, good coaching, great football. A lot of exposure. A lot of people here today. So I think that's the recipe. It all adds up into just a great Saturday afternoon.
Q. Talk about what you see in Jevan Snead and maybe the pitfalls of being the first time starter at quarterback in the SEC?
COACH NUTT: Jevan Snead brings a lot to our team. I think he's highly intelligent. He works extremely hard. I love his leadership. That's where you start. I love his decision making. He makes great decisions.
Has a strong arm. Very, very accurate. So he has all the qualities you need to be a quarterback. But you hit on something that's important. He hasn't played in a while. Hasn't played. He's done scout team last year. He had 15 practices this spring. So he hadn't played in a while.
You're hoping he can just take right back up where he left off, but more importantly, you're hoping that supporting cast, that defense, receivers, tight ends, backs, will be able to take some things off of him.
But overall you just love him under the center. You love him with the ball in his hands because of his decision making, first and foremost. So I'm excited about Jevan.
Q. Just wanted to get your opinion on a couple of hot button issues in college football. One, the idea of instituting the early signing period in recruiting, if you'd be in favor of that, and if so, how early would you like to see it? Also, your current stance on the plus one format that's been discussed or if you like the BCS status quo?
COACH NUTT: Early signing date, we talked about it in Destin. The way it was presented to us, we liked the early signing date if there's not an extra contact period, if there's not gonna be a prolonged recruiting time. What we're basically talking about is people that say, You know what, I've been to your campus unofficially. I've been there possibly more than one time. I know where I'm going to school. I'm coming to your place. I think that's wonderful. Sign an early signing date, it's done. And you don't worry about it. There's no, Well, it was a soft verbal and now I'm rethinking things. You know it's done. He's locked up. He's ready to come.
That's the way the presentation was presented to the coaches, and you feel good about that, of that early signing date. But extending some time or extending another visit in May, you get into all that, well, I don't like that.
Whenever the date was, I'm not sure when the date was, sometime right after the season, November, December, after December I think was the date that we discussed in Destin, that we all voted for, is the one that we'd like.
What was the other part of the question?
COACH NUTT: Yeah, the BCS, plus one, I love Bowls. I've been a Bowl guy all my life. I love Bowls. The plus one, as long as you keep the Bowls, that's fine. But I go back to I love Bowl games. I love Bowl games. Love Bowl games. That's the reward. A lot of people can be happy during a very, very tough year, in a tough conference.
But the final four or eight, I don't see how you can do that with finals and all the things you have to do to keep things normal, as normal as possible. Plus one, maybe. But I'm for the Bowls.
Q. In recruiting, most go out with the parameters of height and weight at different positions, what you're looking for. How strict are you with those and what does it take to go outside of that when you're looking at a kid?
COACH NUTT: In recruiting?
COACH NUTT: First of all, I want to start with, I love our location, where we're located. Got a lot of athletes starting in Mississippi. We've always been one to look a little bit past the five star rating or four star, three star, two star. Doesn't matter to me. That doesn't matter to our coaches. We pick the players. It's the person. It's the character and speed, the difference maker.
You know, there's a lot of recruiting services out there. But I think it's how your team, your coaches evaluate. I think that's key. Jamal Anderson was a tremendous example for us at Arkansas. Probably a two star maybe. Played wide receiver. Eighth pick defensive end, first round. That's just one example. There's a lot of examples like that.
So to answer your question, boy, you do your homework, you do your homework, you do your homework. You study. I think you've got to go further than the film, further than a book that says he's a five star or a four star. You got to see him run and jump, play basketball, run track. You gotta go further than that. You gotta see him play basketball, run track. You gotta see something in person, live and in color, and then you make your character references and all those things, and you add it all up and you pick your people your that best fit Ole Miss.
Q. Will Jerrell Powe ever play a down of football at Ole Miss?
COACH NUTT: I hope so. I hope so. I don't know. We're still waiting, just like y'all. Hopefully. I'm anxious to see if this guy can play. I've been told that he can. I don't know. But I'm like everybody else: we're just waiting.
Q. Do you have the kind of runningbacks there at Ole Miss? I know you don't have McFadden and Jones, but talk about the runningbacks you have, what kind of running game you can have without Green Ellis leaving?
COACH NUTT: Cordera Eason, Derrick Davis, two guys, they had a good spring. They're gonna get a lot of competition from three freshmen, Devin Thomas, Brandon Bolden, and Enrique Davis. I'm excited about Cordera, how far he came in a short period of time. He really improved each day. I really think with our offensive line, we can have a very physical running attack. Hopefully we'll be able to get better and take off right where we left in spring.
I mentioned Derrick Davis, probably not the speed, as fast as Cordera. But what you love is the three guys that are coming in that are very, very, very fast, very exciting. There's nothing like competition.
Q. Can you talk about the impact of Tyrone Nix since he's arrived on campus, and also the impact he'll have once the season starts defensively?
COACH NUTT: Tyrone to me is such an excellent defensive coordinator because of his passion, because of his energy. It's very contagious. You look at him, he still looks like a linebacker. Boy, he gives it to his players.
I've known Tyrone since Southern Miss days. His teams play hard and they play with a passion. They play just the way he played. And there's only one way: it's all out. That's what you love about him. You could just see in the spring how they were really our players were buying in. Sometimes change is always hard. New terminology, new coach, new style. Boy, there was really a very smooth transition. That credit goes to Tyrone.
If you talk to him, you listen to him as he addresses the team, as you see him work on the field as a grass coach, I mean, he is fiery, he's exciting, and he's a teacher. He's a teacher. He can move and persuade. That's what it's about. He is outstanding. Glad he's on our team.
Q. You mentioned the great coaches in this league. What do you think about Bobby Petrino joining the SEC West, your thoughts about going in there and playing the Razorbacks in October?
COACH NUTT: You know, I don't know Bobby that well. I've seen his work from afar. I know he's done a great job at Louisville. I was really impressed with the run he made there. I've known some coaches that coached with him at Jacksonville, Jacksonville Jaguars. So there's a respect there. You know, he's done an excellent job wherever he's been.
We actually played against each other when I was the head coach at Boise State. He was an offensive coordinator at Utah State. I knew a little bit about the things that Bobby was doing. So he's very, very good.
Again, it goes back to you know, October 25th is a long ways away. We have a lot of work before we get to that point.
Q. You don't have any thoughts about going back and playing (indiscernible)?
COACH NUTT: You can't help but think about it. You grew up in Arkansas. You thought at one time you'd be there for life. I had 10 great years of experience there working with some great people. We won three titles. Two of them went to Atlanta. Very close against Florida, winning that ballgame. So we had some great days, great times there. You can't help but think what it's gonna be like coming in from the visitor side.
But quickly my mind goes back to Memphis.
Q. What is your opinion of the current overtime rules in college football? Would you change anything?
COACH NUTT: I wouldn't change a thing. I love overtime and I love the way it's set up. Really ever since Murray State, we've had some awfully good experiences and good success in overtime. I know a lot of people would want it a little bit more like the NFL, where you actually play the game. But I like the way it is. I think it's pretty good. 25 yard line going in is pretty exciting. I've been involved in quite a few of 'em. I don't want to change it.
We changed the clock. We changed the time. We change a lot of things every year. Don't change the overtime.
Q. With SEC coaches being paid so well these days, I want to know if you had an appreciation for the early stages of your coaching career, how humble those beginnings were compared to now.
COACH NUTT: Absolutely. Absolutely. First walking in here 1998, it was an eye opener. Now going into my 11th season, so much bigger, so many more people, so many more rooms to go to. I have an awesome, awesome respect for this league, what you do. I'm just I feel very, very privileged to say I'm still here in this SEC Conference. I think since 1998, there's been about 26, 27 changes at that head coach's table. I'm excited and feel very privileged to be at Ole Miss.
Q. SEC teams won the last two national championships. You have so many coaches here with championship backgrounds. The balance of power in conferences, do you think it's a cyclical thing or is there something specific about the Southeastern Conference that you think might be able to make it stay on top for quite a while?
COACH NUTT: I hope so. I hope so. I think if you look again, if you just look at athleticism at every position, from kicker all the way down to the tackles, the ends, receivers, the quarterbacks, you have the Heisman Trophy in this league, the Heisman Trophy winner in this league, so many great players. Then you have great coaches not only head coaches, but the assistant coaches, excellent coaches who will be head coaches. I just think we'll be knocking on that door. I really believe that. Again, I'm a little partial. But I have so much experience of going against these guys each Saturday, you know what they bring to the table. You know how good everybody is.
It's just outstanding football.
Q. I know taking over and 0 8 team may be the bad news. Is the good news that you got nowhere to go but up? What's it like taking over an 0 8 team like that?
COACH NUTT: Again, it's very similar to me coming the very first year at Arkansas when they were 4 7, 4 7. Didn't win too many conference games. The mindset, the obstacles you're facing are very, very similar.
You just take your experiences and hopefully you try to change a mindset that won't accept losing. We got a lot of hungry guys, a lot of hungry fans. Just because you change the bus driver doesn't all of a sudden mean, hey, we're going to start winning games now.
That's one of the things we really talked hard to our players about. Just 'cause you got new coaches, new names on the walls doesn't mean necessarily you're gonna win. It's you guys. You guys are out there blocking and tackling.
That's what you're trying to get over to your team, really trying to change a mindset. We look good in a uniform, but there's a whole lot more to that in 60 minutes that you have to execute.
Q. You said you thought you might be coach for life at Arkansas at one point. Is the coach for life a dying breed? If so, why?
COACH NUTT: I think it is. I think it is. Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden, I have so much respect for. They've been there for so long. My relationship I had with Frank Broyles. We had these conversations. It is so much more difficult.
The reason why, to answer your question, is because a lot more pressure. Salaries are higher. More talk show radios, more Internet blogs, more people can say anything without any accountability. Sometimes things are written that really puts a lot of pressure on the athletic director. It makes it very, very tough for a coach.
I think it won't go the other way for sure. I think that part of it's here to stay. Everybody wants to win. Everybody wants to win yesterday. Everybody wants to go to a Bowl, everybody wants to go to BCS, everybody wants to go to Atlanta. The toughest thing about this conference is not everybody can go. It's very, very difficult.
Q. Recruiting, big, in the state of Mississippi, Mississippi State, with the success that State had last year and Ole Miss having a down year, how crucial is this year, especially with the way Mississippi State has gotten off in recruiting so far, how crucial is it that you have a good year in the sense of recruiting?
COACH NUTT: I think it's very, very important. But I tell you, if you go back now and look at the way we finished in recruiting, I think you'll see that our freshman class is very, very good. Just about every one of them are going to be ready to go, academically qualified. You look at Enrique Davis, Brandon Bolden, Jason Jones, Lekenwic Haynes, E. J. Epperson, you got a lot of young men that are very, very athletic.
The one thing I love about Mississippi, I think there were 69, 70, 71 guys that signed to Division I in the state of Mississippi because of junior college and high school. I'm excited about, again, where we are, where we're located, how close we are to Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, plus Mississippi. So I know we're gonna find 25 every year good athletes, student athletes, that want to come to Ole Miss. There's no question in my mind.
What you're asking, I think winning does nothing but elevate that. If we did what we did in a short period of time at Ole Miss just this past few months ago, I know what we can do when we start having a little success. So naturally you want to win. Winning helps everything. It solves a lot of problems, helps everything. I think it will take you to another level in recruiting.
But I thought we finished very, very, very strong.
Q. Earlier you mentioned you thought there were nine or ten teams that had a chance to win the conference. In your mind, is Ole Miss in that group? What are realistic expectations for this team?
COACH NUTT: I would put us in there. Again, I'm not saying that, boy, you can give us our bus ticket, we're going to Atlanta. But what I am saying, if you walked these athletes in from each of those nine or ten teams that I'm talking about, you walked them in and compared them to different leagues, you'd say on paper, Whoa, they got Tebow, Heisman Trophy winner; you got this receiver, this back, this defensive end. I mean, there's a lot of athleticism, a lot of good athletes that can run, jump, hit you, block. It's good enough. But what you don't know is who's gonna get hurt, who's gonna stay healthy, who's gonna get the ball that bounces just right. So there's just a lot of variables, a lot of factors that are involved.
But that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to change the mindset of our program. We want to win. We want to win right now. I think it would be unfair to say, Okay, we're going to rebuild, just kind of gradually I think it's unfair for your seniors. Two guys I have here today, Peria Jerry, Michael Oher, it would be very unfair of how hard they've worked. You look at Greg Hardy, Marcus Tillman, Dexter McCluster, Michael Wallace, it would be so unfair to those guys to say, We kind of got to start rebuilding a little bit now, we're gonna work our way up. I can't do that. We're not built that way. Our staff is built to let's go, let's go as hard as we can, and let's go right now.
THE MODERATOR: Coach Nutt, thank you.
COACH NUTT: Thank you.
Nutt the Rebel Introduced to SEC
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