Houston Nutt's Monday press conference

The following is Coach Houston Nutt's weekly press conference prior to the Florida game.

Nutt: I think we're on the verge of having a really good football team. The more you watch film, I'm just excited. I'm excited about our team. They're really close to really believing in this staff. They'll tell you they are. But it's a transformation. It's changing. And it's hard. It's not easy. I'm just proud of our seniors. I'm proud of what they're standing for. I'm proud of how they're leading our team. It hurts them. As much as I wanted to win that game Saturday night, what I feel good about is how the locker room was. That's when you know. That's when you find out about your team. I really think we're going to another level. We're close. If you talk to Bobby Johnson, and I'd like for y'all to call him. I think the world of him and the job he's done. I think he'll tell you we're different. I think if you called Coach Grobe today, I think he'd tell you we're different. That's what I'm excited about. Our defense has improved. Offensively I want to play one game where we don't shoot ourselves in the foot, where we don't make critical errors. I want to play one game like that. I'm just encouraged. I've been as down as down could be. But I've been encouraged. When you take a full 24 hours and look at it, I think we've got a chance, a real good chance.

Q: What's the process of getting over a loss like last Saturday?

Nutt: That's why I love that we practice on Sunday afternoon. Get up and go to church on Sunday, get treatment, and come over here Sunday afternoon and try to get that bad taste out of your mouth, hard as that can be. Watch that film and watch the mistakes. Look at the 1-yard play. Man it was there. Just look at the little things. If we take one step different. If we open our eyes a little bit to the right more. If we don't make this decision or that one. It's that process. And don't let that happen again. Don't do it again. You're smart enough to do that. I demand that they listen. They've got to be great listeners. I really believe the good Lord put two ears on us for a reason. Listen twice as much as you talk. Listen now. We're going to demand that. Really listen and get better and correct. If we do that, we'll have a good team. If we do that, we'll have a good football team.

Q: How do you stop the turnovers?

Nutt: Jevan has to realize now that it is his fourth game, he's getting some things he's never seen before. We can prepare him all week, and they'll put in a wrinkle, a little different blitz. They brought a free safety on first down. On first down! They've never done that. Free safety blitz. It's the speed of the game. He's going to get better and better and better. I know he is. I believe in him. It's just about going back out there and working a little harder and concentrating a little better. And expect some things, like those wrinkles and blitzes. They're going to try to put pressure on him. They know that if they give him time, he's going to hurt you. He's proven that. He's had to escape some problems and gave us a chance to win. As bad as he played, he did put us in a position to win the game. Coming out of a blitz and getting us to the 6 (yard line) or wherever we were. I've got a lot of confidence in him. He's learning. He's growing. He's going to get better. I played quarterback. No quarterback goes out there ever with the intent of throwing an interception. Don't do it. They don't want to. We're in the best conference in America. Fastest athletes in America. So your mind has got to speed up, and he will.

Q: How do you prepare a team for the Swamp?

Nutt: Just like what we talked about. All I want to do is I want to be mistake-free for one ballgame. Florida doesn't need any help. We've helped two teams, when you look at it. Let's don't help them. They're ranked as one of the top two or three teams in the country. Let's don't help them. They've got the Heisman Trophy guy. They don't need any help. They've got a fast defense, one of the best in the country. Let's don't help them. We're going to build on that theme this week.

Q: You mentioned Saturday after the game a lot of people might try to beat the team down or belittle them from the outside. Have you heard any of that?

Nutt: I feel things are still very positive. I've heard nothing but good. Excited. Again, it's not something we major in or go around thinking ‘I wonder what he's saying over there on that street corner?' I can't do that. I've got to get wrapped in on our 105 guys and give them the best plan we know how. To answer your question, the ones I have talked to, they've been as pumped up as they were the first day we were here. Naturally we all want to win. Players want to win. Coaches all want to win times nine. Everybody's been really good.

Q: Using the Wild Rebel and other plays like that, are you now having to tighten things up a bit to keep turnovers down?

Nutt: I don't really think the turnovers have come in the Wild Rebel, except maybe the last play. I don't consider that extravagant or anything. I think our ball-handling has been good. What we've got to do is work hard no matter what formation we're in. We may limit some things. We may cut down a couple of things. But the plan we had wasn't that complicated. It's really pretty simple. It's about a decision-making process. It's about just catch the punt. Marshay's trying to make a play. Catch that punt and tuck it. Jevan knows he forced a couple. And there were a couple of route runners that helped him, too, as well. Especially on the first one, the tight end. There are errors for everybody. There are mistakes to go around for everybody. It's not just one. It's 11-man football and that's what we talk about it. We've just got to keep working and putting emphasis on that, and we will.

Q: Talk more about Florida.

Nutt: They can beat you in so many ways. They can jump on you in a hurry with a kickoff return, a punt return. They have speed at every position. They're two-deep. They can beat you in a lot of ways. They can put pressure on your quarterback. They can line up and put eight or nine men on the line of scrimmage and really feel good about their corners in lock-down position. Miami didn't score very many points on them. Tennessee didn't. They're not giving up much. They've got a bigtime team. Offensively same thing. They've got the full arsenal.

Q: Do you sense some quality depth being developed on your front seven on defense?

Nutt: Yes. With everybody starting to get back, what really makes you feel good is there's Hardy standing next to you. You're ready to get him on the field. He did some good things for his first game. Ted Laurent did some good things. Peria Jerry is really playing at another level, and he's been a difference maker for us. Emmanuel Stephens has more energy now. Lockett. So to answer your question, one of our strengths is the defensive line. Very good.

Q: Talk about your pass defense?

Nutt: They have improved a great deal. This is a major test right here. Vanderbilt is a little bit more of a run team. Major test this week. Got speedsters at every slot. They can move. We'll know a lot more this week.

Q: Do you worry about losing some aggressiveness while trying to cut down on turnovers?

Nutt: We want to still be aggressive. It goes back to when we give you the ball, you have to worry about the ball before the next move. You've got to lock it up. Especially the way we get hit in the SEC. We can't cut down here or there. We've got to get the ball to our guys who can make plays, Dexter being one of those. I wouldn't have changed anything on that last call. I would have given it to him again. Believe in him. Nobody hurt worse than he did. He really thought he'd get into the end zone. We're going to stay strong right there.

Q: Has the Wild Rebel lately been as effective as earlier in the season?

Nutt: I feel good about that formation. It's given us some of our biggest formations of the year. A lot of people have studied it now. I saw the Miami Dolphins run it yesterday. It's pretty good. They know we're going to run it. The opponents are going to have to spend time on it. It's effective because they have to spend time preparing for it.

Q: Talk about Greg Hardy's first game back.

Nutt: To have him back by the first SEC game and with 15 plays is better than I expected. I'm glad he's back and he's only going to get better.

Q: You've coached against Greg Hardy and now you coach him. What does he do to opposing offenses?

Nutt: The No. 1 thing you see is how quick he is. You have to know where he is on passing downs, third downs. Playing against him we always wanted four hands on him. Tremendous athlete who can really disrupt.

Q: You mentioned pass protection breakdowns. Where are those and how do you fix them?

Nutt: It's all of it. One time it's the left guard, right guard, left tackles. Everybody's had their share in that deal. We're seeing so many things now because of Jevan's success, especially in Winston-Salem. People are coming after us. We've got to do a good job of hitting some things, making some defenses pay when they do blitz. Being ready for that. Our wideouts and quarterback will do that. They'll get on the same page. Takes some pressure off that offensive line. That's a hard job, trying to defend twists, end tackles, stunts, safeties and linebacker blitzes. Including the backs. The backs have to do a good job as well so we don't have that pocket collapse. It collapsed on us a little bit a couple of times. Then Jevan got some happy feet. But it's not easy sitting back there and seeing all those things. Our offensive line will get better and we will help them.

Q: Does having been in this conference for several years help you to better understand how to take a team to a place like the Swamp?

Nutt: It always helps. When you've been in the league as long as we have, you know it will be a tough place to play, it will be loud, all those things. Peria Jerry, Jamarca Sanford, those guys, they understand. For some of our younger people, it will be hard to convey in words what you're getting ready to face. You have to go and experience the atmosphere. Hopefully as coaches we can help them. It takes a tremendous road focus to go into somebody's back yard and execute.

Q: How many debate tickets did your agent get you for Friday night?

Nutt: Not one. Not one. I don't have anything to do with that. I'm sorry.

Q: What will your players be doing during the time of the debate on Friday night?

Nutt: We will be in meetings. We've got an early bedtime. We'll eat supper, we'll meet, and then we'll be done by about 8:30. They can catch a little bit of it if they're interested.

Q: Does bringing back something from the past like the Wild Rebel formation, kind of the way things used to be run in football, make you feel good?

Nutt: You feel good about using it and getting production and scoring. It's not like we're sitting up here beating our chests. That's the last thing on my mind. We've got other things to concentrate on.

Q: But is it kind of amazing that it has caught on?

Nutt: Yeah, especially in the NFL. You wouldn't expect or dream that on that level. Goes to show that if you've got the right people to handle the ball and speed and toughness, which naturally they do at that level, it does take time, especially if there is no preparation for that set. If there is no preparation for that set, a lot of things can happen.

Q: Is your offensive line as physical as you want it to be on third and one?

Nutt: If you watch the film on third and one, that hole was there. That play was blocked. We've got to do a better job of running that ball in. I always think we can be more physical. Always. And we tell our guys that every single day. When you're bringing in a new offense that's not used to pounding away, with different fundamentals, different deal. So we're in that learning process. But we've gotten better.

Q: Where did the play break down? Did Cordera Eason have to jump on that play to score?

Nutt: He didn't have to. In his mind he thought he could get over. The guy on the backside had him. But it was actually pretty well blocked. There was a hole in there. If we run, we run in. Again, it's not just that one play, That's what makes you sick about this game. There were so many instances that just makes you sick when you feel we could have won by three touchdowns. Three touchdowns. But you can't look back because we didn't get it done. What you have to do is go learn from it and not make the same mistake again. Listen and get better.

Nutt: Why not just run the Wild Rebel all the time if it is so successful?

Nutt: I think about that all the time. I really do. That's a good question. We might just do that. Tell them we're going to do that down there.

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