"Good to be here today. Last year, just recapping last year a little bit, it was one of the funnest journeys we've had as a coaching staff. Took a group of young men, previous four seasons, it was very, very tough, the season before we got there they didn't win a conference game. So it was a little bit deeper rooted than I thought for us, just the ability to think, Hey, we're gonna win today.
"As we went on through the season, our guys really started believing. When you start believing, that's when you start achieving. Our guys really played together. I was really excited about the leadership that we had.
"The problem that I have is about 600 pounds. I got 600 pounds, two first team All Americans we're missing. Michael Orr, the left tackle, was a first rounder, and Peria Jerry. Those guys were not only captains of our football team and leaders, but just played so hard. So we got to replace a very good group of seniors.
"The thing that was interesting when, we came back from the Cotton Bowl, they had a wonderful week. The thing that stood out was the freshmen were still talking about their flat screen TVs, their gifts, their hats were still being worn. Really, really quickly, we told them that it's so important they understand that it just doesn't happen. It took Peria Jerry, Michael Orr four years to get to a Bowl game. So it's about going to work. It's about having attitude, attacking the weight room, whether you be in study hall, weight room, it's about going to work.
"I've been really proud of our leadership. Today, I brought Jevan Snead, quarterback, and Kendrick Lewis. Kendrick has really shown some outstanding leadership for us, really taken the baton from a guy like Jamarca Sanford. Really watched all those seniors. I really love the way he has led our football team. He's here today.
"They're working hard. We're anxious to get going again.
"Before I open it up for questions, I just want to go ahead and tell you that I voted for Tim Tebow. I voted him first team. I think Langston Rogers, my SID, will verify that. Without anything else, questions."
On the Florida win:
"The previous week we got beat by a very good Vanderbilt team. We were really down. Probably as down as we've ever been as a staff and as a team. Going into Gainesville, we knew it was a very, very tough chore. What was amazing about that game, all the players knew it had been 727 days since we won a conference game. That's how the stats, media, the information you put out, that was in their heads. Our guys knew it to the T.
"That game gave us confidence. It gave us genuine confidence that we can win. To see a celebrated locker room like that, it was awesome.
"The problem was the very next week, we played a good South Carolina team. We were in uncharted waters. We couldn't handle it. It took us really towards the end of October to get going. But once we came together as a team, it really fell back to Florida, that Florida game, as you mentioned, gave us the confidence that we could beat anybody if we have 11 guys doing it the right way, we take care of the ball.
"I think Jevan Snead really probably had his worst game right before Florida. But then he comes back. If you fast forward from the first five games, fast forward to the last five games, Jevan Snead was a different quarterback. Why? Because he took care of the ball. He got us out of the wrong play, got us in the right play, distributed the ball to different guys. Just was outstanding.
"But that win goes back to Florida. The thing I love about Tim Tebow, a lot of players will say, you know what, after a loss, a big loss, they'll say, I'm going to work as hard as I can, I'm going to do this, make all these promises. What you love about Tim Tebow, not only does he make the promise, he carries it out, and he puts his team on his back. Percy Harvin, I remember there was a couple weeks he wasn't on the field. I have those words, after our game, the words he spoke to the media, I have that on my desk. I read it to my team once. It was awesome. I have an awesome respect for that.
"But that game helped us, to answer your question, and we really took off as the year went on and started playing better. We took care of the ball and our defense played awfully well."
On a possible rivalry between Snead and Tebow for All-SEC votes:
"I don't want Jevan to look at it that way. They're both very good. I want Jevan to keep being Jevan. I had a good visit with Eli Manning yesterday. Jevan went to Eli's camp with Archie and Peyton. They watch pros, they watch professionals work. It's their work ethic, how you study the game. You just don't show up for practice. You just don't go through the motions. You really attack and work at your craft. To me, that's what Jevan has done I think in the weight room, film study. Kent Austin has done an excellent job for him.
"As far as a rival, we won't get caught up in all that. We have an awesome respect for Tim. Jevan has done some good things. You have to remember, Jevan laid out the previous year. So it took him a while. Those first three or four games, he wanted to be Superman every play. Strong arm quarterbacks think they can throw it anywhere. So it took him about four, five games to really get going. I tell you, he's been very, very good."
On the defensive and offensive lines:
"Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott, Jerrell Powe, this time last year was 383 pounds; he's 320 right now. I'm excited about that. The strength of our team is defensive line. I'm really excited about our defensive line. Those guys have worked hard. Marcus Tillman, Emmanuel Stephens, Greg Hardy, Lackett. The good thing with that group, they played. Justin Smith has played as a freshman last year. We have some depth there. They just got to keep coming, keep working. But those are the names that you'll hear.
"On the flipside of that now is where you stay up a little bit. We're gonna need some freshmen come in and supply depth for us. Bradley Sowell right now is a left tackle. Very athletic at 6'7", 6'8", 315. Really got better the end of the spring. He's got to have a good camp. Hopefully Bobby Massie will be there. We got some guys that have got to really step up.
"Rishaw Johnson is another guy that didn't play. We lost three senior offensive linemen. As good as we are on the defensive line as far as depth, that's why we had to go sign some offensive linemen. We're going to really need them for depth."
On his history of dealing with teams with high expectations:
"I think if you go back and look at the times we were picked high, if you go back and look, like every coach that comes through here, the one thing that's on their mind, you hope one thing: you hope your team stays healthy. If you look at the times we were picked high, we had some major injuries, major. Not as an excuse, but part of it. It's a blow.
"I can tell you this: I was really nervous when I got the phone call from Greg Hardy and Dexter McCluster getting hit in broad daylight, going through that front tire through that engine, the car catches on fire, and to think how lucky they are to be alive. To think not having those two guys for the season, that's a nightmare because that changes your team. I disagree with that a little bit. But, again, I think if you go back and study it, you'll see some major contributors were not on the field.
"We're excited to be in this position. We knew this would happen. If you go towards the end of the year, you win six straight, you go to the AT&T Cotton Bowl, you beat a good team like Texas Tech, there's going to be some attention. Now you got to embrace it, handle it. The way you handle it is going to work."
On the team's expectations for this season:
"I'm excited for our players. I'm excited for them because they're embracing it right, right way. How they go to a 5:30 workout, how they go to school, how they go to study hall, how they're doing things. Our antennas were up as coaches, how they would approach this off season with all the pat on the backs, much different. They're in uncharted waters.
"Again, the way they're handling things, I love what they're doing right now. That's why we can't wait to get to camp and get back to work and carry that over, keep that going.
"But it is different, a lot different. But we're excited about it."
On if the season will be a disappointment if the team doesn't get to Atlanta:
"You know, again, I think this: you're in the toughest conference in America. I believe that with all my heart. If you look at our teams 1 through 12, very, very tough. Our staff has been to Atlanta before. Been there twice. That's a difficult journey. It's very hard to get there. Things have to go right.
"I wouldn't say that. I wouldn't say that. For a team that had four previous losing seasons, I wouldn't say that. I think our team is on the rise. I think there's some good things that are happening. We had a very good recruiting class. When you see our freshmen on campus, they don't look like freshmen. They enrolled in summer school. So good to see all those guys that were there, to see them physically, see them going about school and work. You just feel like things are getting ready to happen and we're excited.
"But I wouldn't say, Okay, Atlanta or it's really a downer. I don't believe that."
On the early struggles of Snead last season:
"I really expect him to be much, much better. As you could see, the last half of the year, how much better Jevan got for us, being really a coach on the field, I think it had a lot to do with it. Any time you lay out a year, then you go into the fastest conference in America, things are moving very, very fast, too fast.
"So at Tennessee as a strong arm quarterback, you feel like you can get the ball to anybody at any time, not true. It takes time, it takes really a lot of time. I thought he handled himself well.
"I was so proud, the Vanderbilt game, that was the key because as poorly as he played, played his best game the next week in Gainesville. To be able to come back and handle that shows a lot of character. So I love the way Jevan has been approaching everything."
On the secret to beating Florida:
"I tell you, I have an awesome respect for Coach Meyer, his staff, the athletes that are on the field. It's two things if you want to beat Florida. I don't know if you recall, when we were going to Gainesville, we were about a minus nine, they were a plus nine. They didn't turn the ball over, not one time, until that game. We got three turnovers that game. We didn't turn the ball over. There might have been a tipped pass or something. Might have had one turnover. But we didn't turn the ball over for the most part and we got three turnovers. I think that's key. Win the turnover margin, gives you a chance.
"The other thing is, Tim Tebow is going to make plays. Percy Harvin, those guys, Percy's not there any more, but they can say, Next.
"They got speed all over the field. They're gonna make plays. Limit those plays. Limit those plays. You got to play great defense. Limit those big plays. Win the turnover margin, gives you a chance to win the game. I think those are the two biggest factors."
On DT Jerrell Powe's weight loss and his expectations for his play this season:
"I expect a lot from Jerrell. He's changed his body, changed work ethic, eating habits, of course, all those things. But he's doing it for a reason. And the reason is he really looked up to Peria Jerry. He knows now it's his time to play, to contribute.
"We was kidding him the other day, he's going to be able to go more than four plays at a time. When we first got there, he couldn't go through stretch. He's come so far. So we want him to take another step now. We just feel like that he will."
On Snead and Heisman hype surrounding him:
"You know, Jevan and I have talked this summer about that, that there's going to be a lot more attention on him. When you play the way you play, at the end of the year, there's going to be attention. It's how you handle the attention.
"I just want Jevan to keep being Jevan. He's always been a very unselfish guy. You're going to get to talk to him today. You'll see that. It will come out very clear. Very intelligent. He's a pleaser. He's a guy that can move the chains. He knows how to do it.
"I think the biggest thing, learning what we went through with Darren McFadden, there's going to be attention, there's going to be a lot more media, a lot more TV interviewers. There's going to be more and more demands on your time. Langston will do a good job with this, help me managing Jevan's time. You have to stay focused and keep priorities priorities. What that means is managing that time. It's school, it's football, and then handle all the extracurricular activities that's gonna happen with all this attention."
On the team playing its first four games on the road:
"Always tough when you go on the road. It's always tough. I like our schedule, though. You just grow numb to it. Any time you go on the road in the SEC, you know this, tailgates are going to be full, stadiums are going to be full, it's going to be loud. It's how you handle it.
"The way you go about things is you start in practice. As corny or square as that may sound, it's about how you prepare. It's preparation. It's how you go through that Monday through Friday, getting yourself ready for the toughest environment.
"Early on we've got to be a very good road team, starting with the very first game in Memphis. That will be the only game played on ESPN on Sunday. No NFL, no college football game, but our game on Sunday. So got to be ready to go."
On the conference's limit on scholarships:
"28? Was that because of my number I signed?
"You know, again, every year I knew one thing, you got to be at 25. You got to be at 25 by August. So that wasn't going to be a problem for us. We oversigned for a couple of reasons. One, when you live in the state of Mississippi, there's a lot of junior colleges. When we sign student athletes, we knew eight to nine would not make it, definitely would not make it academically. And what that does, when you sign a young man on signing day, it gives them the idea, Hey, I'm in your family, I'm in the Ole Miss family. And I have a go. I got to go graduate at a junior college or prep school, I'm coming back to play for you. There's a lot of incentive there.
"So the other thing was the junior college coaches that I'm just trying to get to know in the state of Mississippi, you develop those relationships. There's not a better way to develop a relationship than send a player to their school. And so that was our intention.
"We don't sign 39 every year. That wasn't our intention. But the rule, to answer your question, I wish it was at 30. But, hey, the rule's the rule. We'll abide by the rule. We know this: you got to be at 25. Our numbers are going to work out. If anybody wants to know, our numbers are going to be at 25 by the time we start."
On the LSU win:
"It's such a great atmosphere to play in. It's so awesome to pull up to know it's going to be a packed house. There's a lot of passion, a lot of energy. We were on a roll at the time. We were taking care of the ball. Our defense was playing so hard, playing so much better.
"So there was a feeling in the dressing room, especially the last six games, Hey, we're gonna win, we're gonna win. And we didn't have that the first six. We were very unsure.
"In fact, when we had a bad play, it would always compound with two to three more bad plays. They expected that to happen. So it took us a while to turn that. By the time we hit LSU, we were hitting on all cylinders, feeling very good about ourself, playing together, taking care of the ball, playing at a very, very fast, fast speed of the game. We were playing very fast.
"So I was just proud how we just really at all levels. The other thing is special teams. James Shibest did a tremendous job last year of turning really one of the worst teams the previous year in special teams to one of the best. And then Coach Decker does such a great job towards the end of the year in November. Our guys were stronger. I think if you talk to Coach Les Miles, he says we're always in very good condition in November. We keep our strength levels up. So it was good."
On being the hunted:
"Well, it's a fact. It's a fact. Last year, the same group of experts picked us towards the bottom. Same group of experts now picking us towards the top. We tell our team, What does that mean? Doesn't mean anything. You are going to be hunted.
"Last year we had an attitude we're fixing to go hunt, we're going to go compete, try to win this game when nobody gives us a chance. So that is a little bit of a factor. You know, right now we're the hunted a little bit. We're a little bit more attention.
"So, again, if you ask Urban Meyer, he's picked No. 1 I guess every year. Nick Saban had the good team when he was picked No. 1. The great teams expect to be picked No. 1. That's kind of where we want to get to. You want to get to, Hey, we want to be picked first in our conference. It's an awesome statement.
"But what goes with that now? When you have that much attention, you got to have much more work ethic. You got to work a little harder, you got to play a little harder.
"To answer your question, I think there's a lot to that.
On avoiding overconfidence:
"I always talk about being very humble. There's nothing wrong with hitting somebody right in the mouth, pick 'em up, get back. You don't have to worry about reeling off your stats. You don't have to worry about, Look at me. There's going to be enough attention on you. There's going to be enough attention. That's one of the reasons why we did this TV, what y'all call a reality show. I don't like using that word. But I want the cameras on 'em. I want them to get used to it. I want them not to flinch. I want them to not draw attention to themselves. Hey, look at me. You don't have to do that. If you're playing hard, making plays, you'll get enough attention.
"One of the things we did so good this summer is we won the summer. What I mean by that is they did things the right way. No one got arrested this summer. Knock on wood. We still got about 10 more days. But just those little things of doing things the right way. Don't worry about the attention. Don't worry about, Look at me, look what I've done. You don't have to do that. Go play.
On the team's pass defense:
"There's always concern. I have a concern with just depth. If you look, most of the numbers come in the first five or six games. But our secondary got better. You could tell in the Cotton Bowl. Our secondary did much better. Marshay Green, a converted wide receiver, had him moved to corner for us. We were looking some real numbers there. So he helped us. Very unselfish. Guy's made a lot of plays for us, was the MVP of the Cotton Bowl. Cassius Vaughn is back. Kendrick Lewis, Johnny Brown, you have four guys that played in the SEC. They will be better.
"Our problem again is now behind those guys will be young people, very, very young, some freshmen. But every team has some holes. That's what you're trying to manage right there.
"But to answer your question, we will be better in the secondary, and the numbers should be much better. Got to stay healthy.
On the progression of FS Kendrick Lewis:
"Kendrick was our leading tackler. He's very physical. He's an intelligent player. I love the way that he comes to play every day. He has a lot of energy. His enthusiasm is contagious, really contagious to the rest of the teammates.
"He's the one that really took the baton from those four captains. He took the baton at 5:30 in the morning. You knew the first morning of those workouts who was going to be your leader. Kendrick Lewis.
"This guy wants everybody at pass scale. When the coaches can't be there in the summer, he's making sure everybody is there. It's important to him. You just love his attitude.
"But he comes with a real attitude, especially on game day. He's a physical hitter, plays the ball well, has good hands. He's just an overall good football player. Even better than that, he's a better person. His character and everything, it really filters through the locker room.
On the spread offense:
"Absolutely. Absolutely. That gives us a chance to throw a little knuckle ball in there, try to slow down good defenses, defenses that are so fast, get them thinking maybe just a step slower.
"The thing we do have, we always had a physical mentality. We're going to be very physical, we're going to run the football, play action. The thing about Jevan, he can launch the ball from different areas. He can sprint out. He has escapeability. He can bootleg. So that really helps your offense. Then we can get in four wide outs, three wide outs. We're very multiple.
"When you say 'conventional,' what I like about that word, I think more of an old fashioned attitude which we have is we're going to be able to run the ball. But Jevan, threw for 2700 yards, threw 26 touchdown passes. So you have that ability to say, Don't overcrowd us now. Then you mix in that wild rebel with a Dexter McCluster at the direct snap, it gives you a lot of variety.
On LSU possibly being under the radar:
"I don't want to ever look at it like that. I know this. I know LSU is going to be good. I can tell you right now when I look down at their stretch lines, they're going to be three deep and they're going to look beautiful. I know they can play. I have an awesome respect for them.
"Alabama, I know their defense can play. I know that. Everybody in this league, Vanderbilt. I mean, Vanderbilt, you just can't say Vanderbilt, homecoming game. Those days are over. Bobby Johnson does too good a job. That guy can win football games.
"When you say LSU is underneath the radar, they're not underneath the radar in my book. They're way, way up there. So I respect everybody in this league, and especially LSU or anybody else who thinks that they may be underneath the radar. I've been underneath the radar a lot of times and you know what can happen."
On his trip to Iraq:
"I do want to say this real quick. I had the privilege to go with Mack Brown, Jim Tressel, Troy Calhoun, Jim Grobe, and Tommy Tuberville, Rick Neuheisel to Iraq, to Baghdad, to Kuwait, Africa, Ramstein, Germany, where they take our soldiers back. I can't wait to show a video. I have a video I'm going a show our team on August the 9th. I can't wait for them to see it, the work that our people do. They're the same ages really of my football players, a lot of 'em are. To look at our men and women, what they do for our country so we can have freedom, so we can sit here and talk about college football is awesome. I just really respect.
We have the best Air Force in the world. We have the best Army in the world. We have the best Navy in the world. We just got great people that are protecting us every day. I just want to thank 'em."
On entering year two at Ole Miss:
"Well, we know each other well. Tyrone Nix, I just love him. I love the way he prepares for a game, the way he calls the game. He keeps offenses off balance. He's aggressive, but yet he's sound. He knows when to blitz. He knows when to pull back. Kim Dameron, Chris Vaughn, they've all been together.
"When you have success, a lot of people come after your coaches. Tyrone Nix had a chance to go to a lot of places. He elected to stay. I only lost one coach. I got Terry Price, who had been at Auburn. I'm thankful we have him. He's done an outstanding job with our defensive line. He's been in the league.
"So to answer your question, there's camaraderie, there's chemistry. There's no egos. Nobody worries about who's doing what. They go to work and have fun doing it. Offensive line coach, Mike Markuson, one of the best in the country, been with me 16 years. Jim Shibest. Runningback coach is Derrick Nix, outstanding teacher. Ron Dickerson, receiver coach. Kent Austin is a brilliant guy. Rhodes scholar, brilliant. Makes it easier to call plays when you have guys like that.
"To answer your question, I think we know each other better, we didn't have to stop, relearn, reteach terminology, name. It just carried right on. It will be much smoother."
SEC Media Days Press Conference
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