When Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt approached the podium at the postgame press conference of the Gove Bowl - a 55-28 Blue Team win - he breathed a sigh of relief.
You could read his mind. Spring training is over and there are no major injuries to worry about.
The following is a transcript of his exchange with the media, starting with his opening comments.
Nutt: The best thing about today is that we didn't get anybody hurt. We finished a very good spring in a strong way. We got better and helped a lot of our young guys grow and improve. Guys like Jason Jones, Devin Thomas, A.J. Hawkins and a lot of guys like that were able to mature and get better. We still have some concerns - the number one area being depth in certain areas, most notably the interior of both lines. We have to develop more depth on the offensive line and dfensive line. The second group has to keep coming, working hard to get stronger, faster, bigger. We will address all of that in the next day or two. I will meet with each player individually tomorrow and Monday when we evaluate them and address their needs. For the most part, however, we had a good spring.
Q: Did you have any major surprises?
Nutt: Guys like Ferbia Allen and Mark Jean-Louis showed marked improvement, as did Devin Thomas. There were several more who took advantage of their 15 spring practices and did something about their situation, improved themselves. Lionel Breaux, Andrew Harris, Jeremy McGee, Derrick Herman, Jason Jones and several more made the most of their opportunities. That's what you like to see.
Q: Discuss Andrew Harris more please.
Nutt: The last two weeks, he has done very well. The first two weeks of spring, not so good. And that's what we are trying to get across to him - to be consistent. He's physical, he's tough, his hands are better, now just be consistent. Do it all the time - on and off the field.
Q: How do you feel about Jevan Snead's comfort level now?
Nutt: That's the biggest difference in Jevan since last year at this time. He has command of the huddle and the offense. He's confident and he leads the offense. He knows the playbook and has gotten better. He threw the ball very well today. Even though it was best against the rest, we got some rhythm going today and you could see some smoothness and chemistry.
Q: Evaluate Nathan Stanely and Billy Tapp.
Nutt: Both of them did very well. Nathan can throw every pass - deep, intermediate, touch pass - and he has escapability. He just needs to learn defenses better and that's coming. He improved a lot in the last seven or eight days. He can really throw the ball. We know what we are going to get from Billy. He can manage the offense and won't get you beat with dumb mistakes. We will have a battle for backup QB in the fall.
Q: How do you manage the high expectations from now until the season starts?
Nutt: That's a good question. We've been doing that since the first meeting after the Cotton Bowl. The players have to know in January that what they did was really good, but it's not easy or normal without the effort required. Go ask Peria Jerry or Michael Oher or Jamarca Sanford or Jason Cook how long it took them to reach that level. It took a lot of work. We've been watching things closely as coaches, stressing everything they have to do to get back to that level. It's about the weight room and commitment and attacking things at practice and a sense of urgency and taking care of your business off the field. I have been very pleased with what has transpired since then. Our leadership with Marshay Green and Kendrick Lewis, John Jerry, Jevan Snead, Marcus Tillman and others made sure nobody takes a lazy step. Now, they are students for a while, so take care of things academically and finish strong in that area. Then, we have to have the best summer we've ever had. We are going to work hard and come back for two-a-days ready to roll.
Q: Can Devin Thomas fill a role on your team next year?
Nutt: I think he can. He needs to come right back where he left off in spring in two-a-days and if he does there will be a role for him.
Q: Is Bradley Sowell the guy at LT or are you still looking? What about Rishaw Johnson at right guard?
Nutt: Right now, he is the guy. He really improved the second half of spring. He needs to get stronger, but he's so athletic he can move and give you a chance on that edge. Rishaw got hurt in pregame warmups, someone rolled up on his ankle. He had a very good spring. He committed himself. I was proud of him.
Q: Your linebackers were disruptive all spring. What are your impressions of them?
Nutt: I love the first three and Lamar Brumfield. That's Jonathan Cornell, Allen Walker and Patrick Trahan. Cornell is one of our leaders and you can count on him. Allen has really improved and grown up. Trahan was all over the field all spring. Brumfield can play all three of the LB positions.
Q: What do you need to happen next?
Nutt: We need guys like Justin Smith, A.J. Hawkins, Alex Washington and some othre interior people to step up in the offseason and come back to two-a-days in the best shape they can be in.
Q: What about true frosh Craig Drummond?
Nutt: What we do in spring was a real shock for a young man who should be going to his prom this month. Getting up at 5:30 in the morning for workouts, the pace we keep, the whole college experience was a shock, but he will be way ahead of any true freshman coming in, so this helped him. Spring got him used to how it is on this level. Now he can start progressing.
Nutt's postgame press conference -
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