Houston Nutt press conference parts I and II

The following are Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt's remarks and the Q & A session from Tuesday's Rebel Media Day.

Part I

Houston Nutt:

Really proud about yesterday's first practice. It goes back to the offseason and summer work. Give a lot of credit to Coach Don Decker and his staff. The heat, you can tell how well they trained and worked out the entire summer. Proud of that. The freshmen. They're good. They're going to be very good one day. Showed a lot of athleticism. Threw a lot at ‘em yesterday. You always check to see how they respond to different scenarios and different situations. Really proud of how quickly they picked up, how athletic they were, and what a great attitude they have. I know it's the first day, but I was really proud. Now we've got to build on that and keep getting better. We're going to depend on our leaders, guys like Jason Cook, Michael Wallace, Jamarca Sanford, Michael Oher, Peria Jerry. We've gotta really lean on those guys. I'm really excited to get back to work again today.

Q: How quickly can guys who weren't here this summer, like Trahan and Marr and others, be ready to play?

Nutt: That's tough, because it's a little unfair. You can tell the ones who have been here. Then you have a guy like Patrick Trahan who is so talented, so natural going through drills and who has great strikeability, you could just tell that by the way he was tackling the dummy. You'd give anything if they were here (this summer). To answer your question, I feel a guy like that, we've got enough time to get him ready. I think the same for Demareo Marr. You just have to be smart because you don't want him with an IV. You don't want to run him off the field. We have to be smart and pick and choose. He got really winded by the first half of practice, he's so excited, so anxious, going so hard. But he hasn't worked out. He's been doing a lot of school work.

Q: How does Ole Miss honoring incoming freshman Kermit Tyler's scholarship as far as his education go against your total numbers since he won't play football anymore due to injury?

Nutt: Right now it does (count against the total number). But I think eventually we'll be able to get a medical. I think there's some paperwork involved. That's OK. We're in good shape number-wise. The way the scholarships are, I wasn't going to be close to 85 my first year anyway. Our intention is to have 25 qualified and ready to go. We just about got there. This is just a very freak incident. I'm just glad our doctors and Tim Mullins went to Jackson and I'm glad they did the blood work and really studied it and found this thing.

Q: Since this program hasn't had success lately, do you sense a rejuvenation and energy among the players?

Nutt: We do. It started with our fans this summer. We went to Rebel Club meetings, alumni meetings, you feel that hunger and enthusiasm. It filters down to our players. I can tell. I could tell that from our very first meeting (with the players) in this room. I felt it and saw a lot of hunger in their eyes and how much they do want to win. I've been really proud of their enthusiasm and passion and attitude each day coming to work.

Q: You coached Tony Ugoh at Arkansas and he's now playing tackle at the NFL level. What are his similarities to Michael Oher who is trying to get there?

Nutt: Michael has a little bit bigger body. The feet, the athleticism, the agility, very similar. I want Michael to be a little bit more dominant. I want him to dominate his guy. I want to make sure the guy he lines up with is eliminated, and that he doesn't make the play. That's the way it should be. He's practicing like that. He's been very physical. I don't think he's always been like that. Last spring we felt like he could be much better. The last week of spring practice he really came on. To answer your question there a lot of similarities. Gotta keep going, keep working and dominate your guy. You'll see today a lean 6-foot-5, 315-320 guy that is in excellent condition. Coach Decker's done an excellent job with him. I think he's more confident now. He's bench pressed more than ever. I'm excited about his season.

Q: Talk about the fan support you've seen this summer.

Nutt: It has re-energized me. They've been there. They have shown up. We've had gymnasiums that were full, cafeterias that were full, conference centers that were full, and full of a real spirit and attitude that hey we want to get behind this football team. It really excites us as a staff and as players. I met with them (players) last night and told them they had a lot to be thankful for. Lot of Ole Miss family that's written me and faxed me that said we're back, we're coming, we're excited. So it makes you want to work harder and give more. That's the message you're trying to get to your team. The people are there and they're coming to support you. So it's only fair that you give them all you have. And that's what we're trying to get done.

Q: What are your thoughts on Jevan Snead and your expectations for him?

Nutt: Jevan had a very good spring. He's a good decision-maker. He can get us out of the bad play. He's very accurate. He has a strong arm. Along with being a good decision-maker, he's accurate. Boy those to me are the two key components of being a good quarterback. We're putting the ball in his hands. He's another one whose body is much stronger than when we first met him. It's tough laying out. He hasn't played. He's got to get used to going against the speed of the game. He's getting beter. We've got to put him in some situations and keep bringing along. Coach Austin's bringing him, and I've got a lot of high expectations for him.

Q: How much of an impact can Jerrell Powe make this year?

Nutt: That's a hard question. I don't know. He hasn't played. I've never seen him play. I've heard a lot of people talk about him. I'm excited. I can't wait for us to put on the pads. I'm glad he's out here with us. Been really proud of his work ethic. First time I met him he was 386 pounds. He's 340 today. The strength and conditioning people did their job. Now we've got to do our job. What's going to be the most difficult thing is just the fundamentals, the football part. He hasn't played in a long time. We've got to bring him around. I'm sure everybody's expecting him to play yesterday and be ready to go. You just can't do that. We've got to get the fundamentals back and take little baby steps.

Q: Have you given any thought to October 25 (the day Ole Miss plays at Arkansas)?

Nutt: I have. I have. You can't help but think about it. I've been asked that quite a bit. Right now the things on my mind are our players and Memphis.

Q: With the influx of new players, are you feeling better about your overall depth?

Nutt: It's better than the spring, but there are still key positions I'm worried about with injury. You've gotta have some depth in this league. We're going to have to count on a few of these freshmen and newcomers. But we do feel better.

Q: We discussed Michael Oher. Are there other candidates in the trenches you feel like can dominate on both sides of the ball?

Nutt: Reid Neely is a guy. He's really worked hard. He has that big body. Bradley Sowell. John Jerry. He's another one we haven't gotten to work with because of the situation with injury he had this spring. He's behind a little bit. There are some big bodies there. Darryl Harris, Daverin Geralds, Rishaw Johnson, a lot of big bodies. Coach Markuson will tell you we've got to be more physical. We've got to be more dominant. We've got to get better fundamentally. That's everybody. Defensively, Peria (Jerry) is the motor. That's the speed you want. We'll tell everybody to follow that. Those guys have learned how to play. Coach Rocker has done a good job introducing to them the way you play. Emmanuel Stephens was here and had a good spring. Marcus Tillman has really bought in and had a really good summer. Hopefully we'll get Ted Laurent back in three or four weeks. Here are the guys that have to come on. Lawon Scott. Jerrell Powe. LaMark Armour. All these guys have to continue to step up. They've got to be much more physical.

Q: Talk about your running backs.

Nutt: Cordera Eason and Derrick Davis both really took off right where they left off in the spring. Proud of them. They've got 15 practices over these (new) guys. These new guys, we put ‘em in there to see how they did against these big guys and they didn't flinch. That's what I love about the newcomers. They're very competitive. Devin Thomas did some good things, Brandon Bolden, Enrique Davis. They're all talented. We'll find out here as we go through these practice, the grind, the wear and tear, the playbook, who will feel sorry for themselves, who will step up, who will go through those aches and pains, who can handle it. We'll know more in about five or six days.


Part II

Q: How would you describe your offensive philosophy and how has it changed and evolved over the years?

Nutt: I've always believed that to have a great offense you have to execute. It takes 11 players to make one play work. On offense you have to 11 guys. You have to be a physical team in this conference. You have to be able to run the ball. What you really love to have is that balance. We've always had that. Then you have to go with what you have here. You have to go with your team. Whether you're at Murray State or Boise State or when we first got to the other school over there. But right now what we have here is a guy like Jevan Snead. A big offensive line that we're teaching to be a little more physical in the run game. And you have a good group of receivers. You've got to get that ball to your playmakers. So we'll do what they do best.

Q: Can you already tell that Patrick Trahan is going to be an impact SEC player?

Nutt: I think so, but I don't want to jump out there too quickly. We're talking about one two-hour practice. That's the first time I've ever met him besides the visit and recruiting him. So I don't want to say he's going to be the SEC impact newcomer of the year. I'm not going to say that yet. But what you do see is that you see him going through bags and you take a second glance. When he goes through bags and tackles a dummy, he should get you excited. He did me. Everything you've seen on film now after two hours of practice makes you feel real good about Patrick Trahan. Is he ready to go play Memphis tonight? No, he's not. Is he ready to start? No, he's not. But that was a good first day. A lot of up, up, upside. Tall, fast, and he arrives in a bad mood. That's what I like about the guy.

Q: Which of your philosophies are the same and which are different than when you were at Arkansas?

Nutt: What's going to stay the same is this. Heart. One heartbeat. Perseverance. Attitude. You want your team to be a great fourth-quarter team, a team that finishes. That's kinda been our theme song. Hey, let's finish. Let's finish our homework. Let's finish these bleachers. Let's finish in the training room, in the tutor room. Everything to me relates. In the classroom, in football, there's a direct correlation. The guy that turns in his homework is the guy we're going to be able to count on when it's third and eight. So all that part won't change. The things that change are now you have different names. You have the same type problems. You try to put together this puzzle and put the components together. You start with your seniors. You find out who your playmakers are, who you're gonna trust, who you're gonna hand the ball to on your most valuable possession. Who are those guys? We feel like Jevan Snead's one of those guys. We trust his decision making. That's where it all starts. To answer your question, philosophy and all those things from the other school, I don't think that part changes that much. What you're trying to do with these young men is take them where they can't go by themselves and where they haven't been in the last three or four years. That's the hardest thing we're fighting, the hurdle of did you win a game in the SEC last year? No. How many of y'all have experienced a bowl game? Those are questions they can't raise their hands. Those are major, major hurdles. We live in such a world where if anything goes wrong it's I confess it's your fault. So we want to get away from that. When something goes bad, it's the next play. You've gotta have a short memory. That's something we've really worked on. We've handed that baton to our seniors. Hey it's your football team and we're counting on you to do that, to lead our team. We need that attitude and commitment and sacrifice, and that's what we've been trying to preach to ‘em.

Q: You are working inside early and outside late; classroom type sessions in the morning and practice in the late afternoon. How did you decide to do that?

Nutt: I really got away from two a days three or four years ago. With the heat the way it is, especially the humidity here in Oxford. Little bit stronger than what I'm accustomed to, a few degrees. I don't think it does you any good when you've got 10 or 11 players in the hospital with IVs. So I think with this wonderful building, we're going to take such advantage of it. We're going to have a great classroom setting every morning, really correct our mistakes, and get ready for a full, give me everything you have, don't hold anything back practice once a day and really try to learn from film and classroom in the morning. For the past three or four years we've done it that way and we've kept people on the field. Here's what's different. Used to it was who is going to pass the conditioning test? Who has worked out all summer? Nowadays I know who's in shape, who's working out, who's been here. So I had a feeling Patrick Trahan wouldn't be ready. He's been doing homework all summer. He said he's been working out a little bit, but we know it hasn't been the rigid schedule of what we do in the summer. I think this is the best schedule and keeps them fresh and going and now they can really give it to us once a day.

Q: You must have felt good about the depth at receiver since you moved some of them to the secondary.

Nutt: Because of the depth there and the lack of depth in the secondary, we asked Marshay (Green) last spring to move over, and boy he had a tremendous attitude about it. He's a competitor. He really lifts the team. He's still learning, but I love the way he competes. Same way with Jeremy McGee. Moved him over as well. That's two guys right there that give you two good athletes. With Cassius Vaughn and Dustin Mouzon, it gives you some depth right there you have to have. It also gives Tyrone (Nix) some luxury with some nickel and dime packages and extra DB packages.

Q: With all the expectations, how do you keep pressure off your players and off yourself?

Nutt: I love football. I love this setting. What I mean by setting is that these 18, 19, 20 year olds, when I come into this room and look in their eyes, I love that they haven't been down that road, that they haven't yet been to Atlanta, they haven't experienced it, they haven't experienced a bowl game. That excites me and energizes me. It energizes me about the fans, that they are hungry. If you get up in the morning and say, Oh, I hope we win. I'm just not built that way. I want our players to have fun. It's the greatest game in the world, so I want ‘em to have fun. It's a baby boy's game. The first day you put your pads on in the YMCA league or Pop Warner. It's that kind of game, and I think sometimes we make it too hard or too complicated. It's not. It's a great game. It's a fun game. It's tough. I live through them and try to make them a better person and better football player and have the best team you can possibly have in the SEC, the highest, toughest conference in America. So I don't worry about that pressure.

Q: Talk about what Tyrone Nix brings to your defense.

Nutt: I've known Tyrone a long time. I watched him when he was at Southern Miss. We played against him when he was at South Carolina. I knew his passion and energy from afar. Now that I'm working with him, I feel even better about him. Great character guy. Great family man. But his hobby's football and getting them to run to the football. With Rocker, Dameron, Vaughn, boy that's a good combination and a good group there. I've got a lot of confidence in him, in his schemes, X and Os, but more importantly I have a lot of confidence in Tyrone because of his attitude, his energy, his passion. If you're around him, you'll see. When he talks to those 18, 19, 20 year olds, it's contagious. He knows how to do it.

Q: You obviously had some good references when you hired Kent Austin. But were you ever worried about that transition, and how has it gone so far?

Nutt: I was really never worried, because a guy that I coached with before, David Lee who is now the quarterbacks coach of the Miami Dolphins, he recruited Kent Austin to Ole Miss. So I felt like I knew him. Watching him from afar and watching what he's accomplished, there was no doubt in my mind. There are very few, I feel, true quarterback coaches who truly coach fundamentals and understand how to bring a guy out from taking the snap to taking that first step to a three step and a five step and all those things. There was no question in my mind on that part because of what David Lee said. As far as the mix, it works so well because his attitude is so good and he brings so much to the table with his knowledge of the passing game. Then what you find out is he believes in running the football. He believes in play action, in waggles and boots. So it was a good mix. A good fit.

Q: How does the talent here now compare to your last two teams at Arkansas?

Nutt: The biggest thing the last two years is we could say 'next' a little more often, and by that I mean depth. There are spots here. Defensive line, feel good. Receivers, feel good. But there are also some positions where you say he can't get hurt or he can't get hurt. So that's why this camp is so important. We've got to bring the newcomers and freshmen up in a hurry. So I'd say depth.

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