Cotton Bowl Practice Report -

The media was not allowed to watch any of Tuesday's practice, but Coach Houston Nutt met with reporters after the two-hour workout.

"I like where we are right now in terms of our workouts and preparation," said Nutt. "The trick in bowl games is really knowing if the guys are ready or not, sometimes it's tough. But I am going by how they are concentrating and executing.

"We've asked them to work when we are out here and they have done that. Today was a good day of concentration."

Nutt said the team hotel is starting to get more crowded and things are getting louder, but the Rebs are nearing the end of their "fun."

"We are going to have a couple of more things for them to do, but then we are going to tone down the activities. They will go see the Dallas Mavericks tonight and then we will tighten down on their curfews and such," he continued. "It's getting closer and they understand it's about to be all business."

Nutt was asked what is more important for his program - getting to a bowl game or the extra practice a bowl game provides.

"Both. We took advantage of the extra practices, like an extra spring practice, but we have also taken advantage of the fun and new experiences a bowl gives us and we are going to try very hard to win the game," said Houston. "You don't want to just get to a bowl game, you want to win it, but bowl games are always tough because only high-calber teams play in bowl games like the COtton Bowl."

The Rebels bring an 8-4 record to the table. DId Nutt predict that going into the year?

"I knew this team had some talent in spots because I had played against them, but I didn't understand the Peria Jerrys and Michael Ohers, Marcus Tillmans and Jamarca Sanfords, the speed of guys like Mike Wallace," he said.

"When I was at that other school, we beat this team pretty badly two years in a row so I didn't know what I was stepping into. I was pleasantly surprised. We had some gaps, but we also had enough talent to win some games. That's one reason going to Fayetteville and winning this year was so gratifying. They got a little revenge for the last two years prior."

Senior LB Ashlee Palmer, Nutt said, has been a different player since he had a close-and-almost encounter with his eligibility which almost denied him participating in the Cotton Bowl.

"He was so down, but I was not going to let him practice until he got things resolved. He was begging, but I was not going to let him take snaps away from guys who were eligible and had done their work," said Houston. "When he came back, he has not taken one lazy step since. The second chance he got motivated him and he was already a pretty motivated guy."

Nutt was asked about the turnaround with his team, for the millionth time.

"We just had to change the attitude and the commitment to the team," he said. "We also had to be consistent in our delivery of what we wanted done in the program.

"To their credit, the kids bought in and these are the results."

Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach was also a topic of conversation in the short get together, the last the media will have with Nutt until after the game.

"I have a high respect for Coach Leach. He's accomplished a lot. They have been to six or seven straight bowls and he's cool and laid back," Nutt added. "I wish I had a little more of that in me."

The Rebel mentor was asked about the health of the team.

"We still don't know about Jason Cook yet, but he's the only one," Nutt stated. "Along those lines, I was asked recently if I was ever nervous about using Dexter McCluster as much as we have because of his history with injuries.

"I held back on him a little at first, but my staff kept telling me I wasn't using him enough. I realized they were right and we started feeding him the ball more. It paid off."

All media contact with the team will now be cut off until after the game, but we have stored some interviews to last us until game time.

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