Nutt: 'Always Good To Win The First One'

Coach Houston Nutt met the press Labor Day Monday afternoon. Here is what he had to say.

Nutt: It's always good to win the first one. Pleased overall with the effort of our team. We're going to take this week to get much better. We got better offensively. There were some missed assignments. There were some protection breakdowns and some decisions that were not that good. I loved our effort, especially defensively to snuff out two trick plays right off the bat. Special teams, I was proud of. Andrew Ritter put the ball in the end zone numerous times. That's a real weapon. Offensively we executed at times. We were six of six in the red zone, and we finished strong. Give Memphis credit. They're improved from a year ago. They've got some good looking athletes. I expect them to win a lot of games. Jason Jones may have torn an ACL. Greg Hardy has a swollen ankle. I appreciate his efforts to get back on the field. Ted Laurent has a turned ankle.

Q: You ran Rishaw Johnson in on a 3rd and goal. Why was that?

Nutt: Against a 300-something pound guy about 6-6 or 6-7, that gave us a little bigger body in there. I thought Brandon Green was physical and did some good things. In the trenches in there against a tight formation, we just added a bigger guy.

Q: What is Rishaw's status?

Nutt: There are games we will hold him out, but we get to determine that.

Q: What about the freshmen who played?

Awesome. Proud of them. Andrew Ritter, Grandy, D.T. Shackelford, Joel Kight, Patrick Patterson. Patrick will continue to get more and more time. Ferbia Allen first time to play. Redshirt freshman. Outstanding. They'll continue to get more and more. This is a good group, which we knew. I'm excited about how far they'll grow. We'll be talking about them as the season progresses.

Q: How was Bradley Sowell's performance?

Good and bad. He did some good things, but he's got to be more physical. The pocket collapsed at times. It's a tough assignment. That was his first go-around. It's not easy. Just got to get better, especially at pass protection. His run blocking was better. He's got to be more physical. It was a hot day. I think he'll improve and get better.

Q: Several guys were throwing up. Is there a little flu going around?

Nutt: We've got probably 12-14 guys. Jevan Snead. Joel Kight. It's kinda going through our team right now. It's one of the things we're scared of. It's fever, which is not a good sign. Jacarious got sick. Clayton Moore got sick. It's a spreading deal. Hopefully get it done this week. Good timing really.

Q: Your thoughts on Johnny Brown?

Nutt: He's been a little sick. He was outstanding in a lot of areas. We expect that from Johnny and Kendrick, two veteran guys. Johnny's played a lot of football for us. He was outstanding. He had an interception which was a big turnaround there. We didn't get it but it kept them backed up. Had to get an IV at halftime. He's a warrior. He fought through it.

Q: Fon Ingram played well for you.

Nutt: He's the guy we really needed to come through since the two guys we signed are not here. He, along with Derrick Herman. His (Fon's) play was the play of the game, to get that momentum when we were struggling. Huge play going into the half. He got much more comfortable as the game went on.

Q: Expand on Sowell a bit and what about Bobby Massie?:

The thing that concerned us (with Sowell) was just experience. When you're out there on the left side, it's a man's job. It's not easy. He's got to continue to get better. He'll work hard. Lot of good one on one time this week. Nothing like going against our guys. Bobby Massie has come a thousand miles. We'd give anything if he had been here more this summer and gotten more of a head start. He's coming. We'll keep working him hard and he'll keep developing. We'll need him. He didn't play but about six or seven plays, and he's on the PAT-field goal team.

Q: Talk about Greg Hardy coming back into the game.

Nutt: It was a discussion about how bad is your ankle and can you go? He was wanting back in the ballgame. He kept telling Coach Price he wanted back in there and that's a great sign. He's a playmaker for us and has a great attitude. Got to keep him healthy.

Q: How did your corners do?

Nutt: They did a good job. Cassius and Marshay. Jeremy McGee. Temple. They all did a good job. They had some tall weapons. Our goal was not to give up the big play and they didn't. Staying in position. Fighting to compete for the ball when it's in the air. I was really proud of them.

Q: When Jevan was struggling, what was going on?

Nutt: Here's exactly what happened. It was a combination of everybody. The pocket collapses. There's not a full focus on the downfield reads. The routes not exactly where they're supposed to be. It comes back to all of us. All 11 of us. When we get 11 of us working together, we can be an explosive unit. When we have seven people doing it, it doesn't work. Don't compound the problems. With Jevan, we miss a block on the edge, he escapes and throws to Markeith for a touchdown. We don't want him to lose that. But what we do want him to lose is that when we do miss a block or the pocket collapses and it's not clear, then don't add to the problem. Don't force it. What you love about Jevan is he never hangs his head, never loses his focus. He led our team. That last quarter was awesome. He did an excellent job. But it takes all of them. It's just not one guy, it's a little bit of all of us. When you get 11 guys doing it right, that's when you get into the end zone. We'll take a 31-point road win. I've seen a lot of teams struggle in Memphis. When I was at the other school, there were times when it wasn't easy. It's a Super Bowl. Conference USA getting to play the No. 8 team. I like how our guys handled it. Never hit a panic button and performed well at the end. There's still a lot of room for improvement.

Q: How many will miss practice today?

Nutt: Probably 10-12 will miss this afternoon's practice. Tim (Mullin)'s done a good job isolating people. I'm worried about how this thing spreads, closeness, in the locker room. Jecarious had a room to himself. Clayton Moore didn't make the trip. Give Clayton Moore credit. He really prepared us well with the scout team getting us ready. Those guys did well. That's not an easy job.

Q: Are they checking for swine flu?

Nutt: Yes. We know there is fever. We know there is sickness. They're just checking to see what we have.

Q: Given that you have two games in five days after this open weekend, how does this week play out?

Nutt: Good question. We'll see who is bumped and bruised and how bumped and bruised. How sick are we? All those things come into play now. I do want our guys to be much more hydrated this week. We did a good job 48 hours prior to. It was the hottest day in our entire camp. I understand some people in the stands had to go to the hospital, just sitting there watching the game. We'll look at all those things this week. We've got 11 straight weeks after this open date. Eleven straight ballgames.

Q: Your thoughts on the linebackers?

Nutt: I expect so much more from Jonathan Cornell, Allen Walker, Patrick Trahan, Lamar Brumfield. They didn't do bad. I just expect them to be more physical. They've been around. When you do move them out, and do that spread game, and it's basketball on grass, it takes them out of their deal a little. Not that I'm displeased with them. D.T. Shackelford and Joel Kight for the first time, I'm excited about their play. They're young. First time. I'm not down on the others. I know the others are so much better. It's not like they had a lot of busts. They did make some plays. We expect that from them. They're veterans. Older guys. Been in the system. We expect them to always be at their best.

Q: Jerrell Powe was in the backfield a lot.

Nutt: Outstanding. He's in best shape he's ever been in. He gets vertical push and that's a bad headache for that center or guard. I love his passion and energy and the way he sprinted down the field to begin the fourth quarter, leading the pack. I loved that. He didn't realize he took a couple of plays off until he watched the film today. We don't want him to take a play off. When he does play, he's good. He's a real threat for us in the trenches.

Q: Seemed like your second team defensive line got a lot of play.

Nutt: It's just a feel thing Coach Price and Coach Nix work out through the week. We know who those eight guys are. When you look at it, it is pretty much even. Greg Hardy had 36. Lockett 40. It's pretty close when you look at it. Tillman 52. Emmanuel Stephens 30. Powe 40. Ted Laurent 36. Tillman had the most but other than that fairly even.

Q: Was that the most plays for Powe so far?

Nutt: Oh yes. As far as I know.

Q: Is Greg Hardy out of practice?

Nutt: At least today. Maybe a couple of days.

Q: We didn't see all the wrinkles in the Wild Rebel, did we?

Nutt: You want to use this as a formation that creates a diversion and creates some problems that slow defenses that run fast. Want to slow them down. There are some things we'll continue to work on. We'll pick and choose our spots. Couple of times we thought about it yesterday, but we decided not to. Just execute and we'll be fine. You see why pros have four preseason games, to work out the kinks and all the little things. We don't have that. Can't scrimmage that much. We don't want to lose them to injury. We feel good about it with Dexter, Bolden, Grandy, guys like that, and you'll see it as it goes.

Q: You're ahead of the curve on the Wild Rebel since you are one of the first to do it. Do you spend a lot of time in the offseason tweaking it to stay ahead of defensive coordinators?

Nutt: This year 7 NFL teams called us and wanted to spend time on it. This formation goes back to Pop Warner. It was invented a long time before us. Now people are using it to their benefit. Naturally you can't help sitting in the summer and watching film and seeing that we do this, they do that. They do that, we do this. You're always playing with it; it's a chess game. Can't help but work on it. It comes back to personnel. And when you have speed, it makes a difference.

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