The following is a transcript of Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt's spring training press conference.
Nutt's Opening Statement: Before we get started, I want to share something with you that won't make the 6 o'clock news but makes me very proud. In the last couple of days, I have gotten three letters I was pleased to receive about our team. You always hear about the bad news and I was to share some good news. One, I got the sweetest letter from a lady who works at Azalea Gardens, a local retirement home, about a few of our players visiting there and the impact they had on those elderly citizens. Dexter McCluster, Markeith Summers, Chris Adams, Billy Tapp and Josh Tatum go over there and spent some quality time with those retirees and it meant a lot to them. Two, we had 40 players read to some elementary kids in our Reading By Rebel program. Three, I just got a second letter from Cotton Bowl Executive Director Rick Baker complimenting us on the behavior of our players at the Cotton Bowl. He wrote: 'I'd be remiss if I did not mention the first-class, quality young men representing Ole Miss. The way in which they conducted themselves in Dallas was a tribute to them, the staff and the university.' You won't read that in the paper, but that's what it's all about. That's like being a parent and someone bragging on your kids.
As we turn to spring training, we turned our team over to (S&C Coach) Don Decker to get them bigger, faster and stronger and to let them know they are on the radar. This time last year, you were not. You could sneak into the Swamp, get a victory and get out. But you can't this year. You are on the radar and you will have to work a little harder. You think you are working hard now, you have to work even harder. That has been our theme.
Our antennae has been up to see how they would respond and it's been very good. Greg Hardy can't go through everything due to his foot injury, but he was at every 5:30 a.m. workout encouraging his teammates. That's what team is all about.
We are all excited about the start of spring. We are going to welcome everyone to come and watch us work out. It's time to go to work and get better in 15 days of practice. Friday and Saturday we will be in shorts and helmets. Sunday we will be in shoulder pads and helmets and Monday we will go full contact right up to the April 18th Grove Bowl. From then on, we will go Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday.
Q: Has anything changed on the Jamar Hornsby situation?
HDN: No, we are still gathering facts. He's got a court date set. I just don't know how that is going to play out yet.
Q: How do you deal with the experts calling you a Top 10 team?
HDN: They also picked us last a year ago. I told the team that none of that means anything. We have a chance to have a good football team, but we have some concerns, like the left side of the offensive line that will be manned by two players who haven't played a lot. We will have to have a lot of people step up, we will have to stay healthy and we will have to develop some depth. There are good things and bad things, but we can't go around calling ourselves a Top 10 team. There are still a lot of questions and we have a lot of work to do. We got to the Cotton Bowl because we didn't care who got the credit and we were unselfish and had a great attitude, but there was no three-point plan to get us there. It took a lot of time and nurturing. It took a lot of talking to in the team meeting room. We had a lot of convincing to do to get there. We had guys who accepted their roles. We built a family and had a great journey, but that is over. What we have to do now is work harder. We have the bulls eye on us and our preseason ranking means nothing. That's on paper. The only thing we can control is having the best 15 practices of our lives right now in spring training and then go on from there.
Q: What about your offensive line and its depth?
HDN: I love Daverin Geralds in the middle at center. He's stronger and knows what to do. Reid Neely has experience at right guard and is a big body. John Jerry has really stepped up as one of our leaders. The left side is a concern because Bradley Sowell and Rishaw Johnson have not played much, if at all, at those positions. On the depth, this is a weakness we have to address quickly. That is why we were glad to get an Emmanuel McCray, Michael Brown, Logan Clair, A.J. Hawkins and Bobbie Massie in recruiting. Of what is on campus, Brandon Green is very valuable because he can play all three inside positions and is smart. Don Mosley has to come on as does Alex Washington and Clair. We think we have the first team somewhat settled, but we have a long way to go in depth.
Q: What leaders are developing?
HDN: Kendrick Lewis, Marshay Green, Dexter McCluster, Jevan Snead, Marcus Tillman, Jonathan Cornell, Daverin Geralds and John Jerry are taking the lead there right now. Reid Neely and Gerald Harris are doing a nice job too.
Q: Does it matter where leadership comes from?
HDN: All we are looking for are guys who will say 'follow me.' Guys who are intense and tough and do things the right way. Somebody on defense has to step up and keep it together, showing them how to do whatever it takes for your team and how to get it done.
Q: What is your feeling on the schedule?
HDN: I don't worry about that at all. Those are the cards we have dealt, so worrying about it is wasted energy. I'm not worried about it. We are in the toughest conference in America. Get ready and go play. Our intent was to have one 'name' team, like a TCU, who was close, but it didn't work out. In the future, we have Texas, Georgia Tech, Clemson, so we'll have our chances. I'm not concerned about next year. We'll have plenty of big non-conference games in the future.
Q: Talk about your running backs.
HDN: Brandon Bolden is listed as number one heading into spring and he had an outstanding offseason. Cordera Eason has lost 10 pounds and has looked quicker in our early morning runs. Every back knows that first team doesn't mean much and could change in a minute. Enrique Davis has looked very quick in our workouts. He's lost a little weight and looks good. I love competition and you will see that. We are always going to need backs to help us establish the run game and be physical blockers. We are excited about our prospects.
Q: Talk about your expectations for Jevan Snead in his second year as a starter.
HDN: We want him to pick up where he left off. If you took the first five games and compared them to the last seven and it's night and day. He improved so much. We have a real confidence of him taking it over with his experience and his confidence. He can improve a lot of things, but he's hungry and I look for him to improve and get even better. He understands defenses better. He has seen a lot of looks. We'll give him more freedom to audible and throw more in the audible game because we trust him and he understands what we are trying to get done. He's no longer unsure, so you expect another step forward from him.
Q: How do you carry over your momentum from last year?
HDN: We look to carry over some of that, hopefully, but this is a new team and a new year. It's all about winning. Each year is different so we'll see. We learned a lot from last year, so now the goal is to build on it and get even better.
Q: How do you replace big strike receiver Mike Wallace?
HDN: That's a good question because he outran every corner every Saturday and did the same at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. Not many have his speed, but Dexter, Shay Hodge, Lionel Breaux and Markeith Summers are a nucleus we are confident in. We are also bringing in some signees, particularly Patrick Patterson, who are big time players, we believe. I can't stand it that Melvin Harris is not going to be out there. He has to have surgery on his foot, the same type of surgery Greg Hardy had. We were starting to see him get so much better and it's hard to coach 6-7 height.
Q: Greg Hardy will not go through spring drills, but what about E.J. Epperson?
HDN: E.J. Epperson will be back even though he may not go through the first scrimmage after he dislocated his wrist in Cotton Bowl practice. He's lost some upper body strength, but we think he has time to catch up.
Q: What about your fullback competition?
HDN: We are excited about Andy Hartmann coming back, but we also are excited about the way Derrick Davis changed his body to play the position. He committed to the position and hit the task head on. He gives us a little more quickness and ability in the passing game. We know Andy is big and tough, but we need help there. H.R. Greer is another who could help.
Q: You signed 38 guys. You can't bring in that many. How is that going?
HDN: We are at 27 now. It's going good. We are two over right now. Eric Smiley has already signed with Butler CC. We have a few more that are on the fence academically, so we think we will be fine. We probably won't sign 38 again, but I thought it was important to help build a relationship with them and the Mississippi Junior Colleges by placing some players with them. We will never be a program that signs 15 JUCOs, but we will sign three, four, maybe five based on needs. They are important to us and this gives us a way to get to know the JUCOs better and to bring some players into our family who won't be here for two years.
Q: What do you expect from QB Nathan Stanley in spring?
HDN: I'm anxious to see him under live bullets against the first team defense. He won't be reading a card anymore and giving the defense a look. He'll be competing for a job and trying to get better. It will be interesting to see how he does when the game speeds up. We know he has an excellent arm and athleticism, but we have to see him under fire and how long it takes for the game to slow down for him. How will he process things and handle what will be thrown at him?
Q: What about Greg Hardy's progress?
HDN: He's doing great. His attitude has been the best I have ever seen it. He's made all our meetings and workouts and is being a great teammate right now. He is our of his cast and is in a walking boot. He also weighs 278 pounds now and looks great. We are very excited about the path he is on right now.
Houston Nutt's Spring press conference
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