Houston Nutt: After watching the film (of the Samford game)and putting grades on everything, I was really pleased with most of the football game. Lot of improvement, especially the running game. As we've already mentioned, it's always good to win. But there are still some things we can be better at doing. I liked the attitude Sunday. Came back with a really good attitude and had a good day of practice. We're anxious to get going on Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt's a good football team. They are an excellent team that is playing well, undefeated, and well-coached. To me (QB) Chris Nickson is the difference. He's a guy that can move around, escape, he can create and run. He has good receivers and a running back who is physical and tough and knows how to hit it up in there full speed. Defensively they've given up very little. Very sound. A really hard-hitting secondary. Especially No. 33 (SS Reshard Langford). He will hit you. No. 17 (CB) is really good as well - D.J. Moore. He's really good. They're 300 pounders in the middle. They're 6-5 on the edges. (Coach) Bobby Johnson has done a job. I know Bobby and the kind of work he has done. I have a lot of respect for their program.
Q: Would you give us a Greg Hardy update?
Nutt: He joined us yesterday for the first time since he's been back from surgery. He moved around fairly well, little sore. I'm anxious to see Tuesday how things go when he puts on pads and goes through practice. He hasn't done anything in a month. You just don't know. But running straight forward and doing a few drills he looks good. But you just don't know how things will go until probably after practice (Tuesday).
Q: Compare this Vandy team to recent Vandy teams.
Nutt: I'm a big Bobby Johnson fan and I know the kind of work he does. He started way back like seven years ago, and you can just see improvement each year. I think this is probably one of his better years, along with when he had (Jay) Cutler back there. Nickson is the type quarterback that's athletic. He can escape problems. But their defense has really improved. I think it's one of the best defenses he's had. They're sound, they can run, and they're physical. They'll hit you.
Q: How do your receivers match up with their secondary, and what player will fit into Fon Ingram's spot?
Nutt: Our receivers are getting better. Michael Wallace. Shay Hodge. Lionel Breaux's really coming on. Dexter McCluster, Markeith Summers, Drew Harris. We've got a good group there. If we can keep those guys healthy, I feel good going against anybody. We've just got to keep executing. Jevan has to play better and he knows that. That's one of our strengths – wide receiver. So we have to get them the ball. As far as Fon, Fon was really playing good football. He was doing a really good job covering kicks for us. We were going to get him more plays starting this week, but he made a bad decision. We have Kendrick Lewis, Johnny Brown, Terrell Jackson. Those are our guys right there.
Q: Your offensive line is the only one in the SEC that hasn't allowed a sack this year. Have you been pleased with how they've done?
Nutt: They're doing a great job. But I'll tell you what. It's still 11-man football. A lot of that has to do with the tight ends. A lot of that has to do with the backs. A major part of it is Jevan Snead. Jevan Snead doesn't take sacks. He gets rid of the ball. Give him a lot of kudos on that. He can avoid, escape, and when he feels pressure he gets rid of it. Protection has improved each week. They're doing a good job of handling all those scenarios. People are blitzing us and trying to create pressure, trying to put a hit on Jevan. It's been 11 people trying to get things done, so I've been proud of that.
Q: What would you like to get out of Greg Hardy this Saturday?
Nutt: I'd love for him to be in on every play, every down. That's what I'd love. I don't know until we see him in practice Tuesday and what he can handle. He may be so sore after turning and twisting and trying to get to the quarterback, I just don't know. I've never experienced a screw in that foot like this. I haven't been around this type of surgery, so I don't know. It's a wait and see for me. I know he can't go the whole game, but he can give us a lift and help us out.
Q: Are you pleased with what your team accomplished in the non-conference games so far?
Nutt: I wish we were 3-0. But you go back to the first game until now, and I do feel good. We've improved in a lot of areas. I still want to get better in the turnover margin. I want to be better with penalties. You always want to be better. But we've talked all the way back to the spring about how do we change the mindset, and I feel like our guys are closer. I love how hard they're playing. I want them to keep believing and doing things the right way. I want them to listen to these coaches and keep making strides. We haven't played our best game yet. Let's keep getting better every week.
Q: Has your team made the progress you anticipated they'd make to this point?
Nutt: In some areas we're better. Some areas still upset because we're not 3-0. We want to finish. That's been our theme song. Finish. I've been proud of this team. New system, new terminology. Change is hard. Hopefully we can keep scoring points on offense. I've been proud of that. Just keep building off what we have going. It's real football now. It's SEC play and everybody knows how tough that is. We've got to keep getting better.
Q: Are you at all surprised at what Vanderbilt has been able to do so far?
Nutt: No. I've seen it coming for a while. We've played against Bobby Johnson and faced his teams. We know how well they recruit, how hard they work, their schemes, their strategy. You have to be ready to go. There's not a team in our league you can circle and say that's a W. Not any team, no matter who they are. Vanderbilt is one of those teams.
Q: Has Greg Hardy been able to do any conditioning?
Nutt: He's been doing that for quite a while, last two and a half or three weeks. Been in the pool running. He's been on a strict schedule, trying to stay in condition and get the foot well.
Q: Is there any added significance to this game other than it is the first SEC game and is your fourth game of the season?
Nutt: The biggest thing is it's SEC. First step. First game. Vanderbilt is undefeated. There's going to be a tremendous crowd here. Great atmosphere. Lot of energy. It's the biggest game of our careers right now – this Saturday.
Q: Nickson is a runner and a passer. How tough is it to prepare for him?
Nutt: That's tough. He has both. He can run, which makes a coordinator nervous. He's like a 12th guy. You can go cover up everything, get everything down, and then he takes off running. Those are some of the most well-designed plays they have. That makes it hard. He's a 12th guy. We have to stop that run first. That running back, he is physical. Then do a good job defending the pass because they take their shots deep and lull you to sleep. They've got a good package, really good package. You have to defend both.
Q: When you look at the schedule, is this almost a must win to get to six wins and become bowl eligible?
Nutt: You look at all of them, but this is the next game on the schedule. It is the biggest game. It is the absolute biggest, most important game on the schedule right now. It's the next step. All those goals and things you talk about before the season, like a bowl game, well this is the next step. You have to have blinders on. You don't want them to look down the schedule and here and there. You can't do that. This game is too hard. You have to take one step at a time, one game at a time, one series at a time, one play at a time. It all starts with Vanderbilt. Period.
Q: Has Greg Hardy's attitude been what you wanted?
Nutt: Oh yes. He's been very good. He hasn't missed anything. He's been trying to get back. I think he misses football. No question in my mind, he wants to be back and be out there.
Q: What makes Preston Powers, your long snapper, so good?
Nutt: The thing that makes him so good is he has such a quick, quick release for a snap to get the ball back to the punter. Fast. Accurate. He's a good blocker along with that. I've never seen a ball get back there that fast. That really helps so much with the athletes on (special) teams who can change the game. Nothing like having a good solid snapper. Makes you sleep better at night.
Houston Nutt weekly press conference
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