The Day Before

The SEC coaches held their weekly teleconference Wednesday morning. Ole Miss' Houston Nutt was first up among the 12 as the Rebels headed to South Carolina today. Topics ranged from facing Steve Spurrier to Greg Hardy's potential appearance in the contest. Read more here.

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said he knows anytime you face a Steve Spurrier-coached team, you're in for a real battle.

"I've gone against him enough times. It's always going to be a tough game," said Nutt, in his second year at Ole Miss after 10 years as head coach at Arkansas.

Nutt, speaking to reporters via SEC teleconference Wednesday morning, said South Carolina is a team that is impressive. The Gamecocks beat North Carolina State 7-3 in the season opener, and followed that up with a 41-37 loss to Georgia and a 38-16 win against Florida Atlantic.

"I think they've improved offensively," he said. "They've gotten better each week."

The fourth-ranked Rebels want to play better than they have the first two games, even though they've beaten Memphis and Southeastern Louisiana by combined scores of 97-20. Nutt was asked about his team's play so far given the Rebels' unusual schedule to date.

"We've had a tough start simply because of the routine," he said. "Normally we play on Saturday. We played on Sunday the first game, and then we had 31 guys with flu symptoms and they're out. Usually your most improvement is made from week one to week two, and you don't have them. Then we have everybody three days before the second ballgame. So it's really been two complete, different camps.

"We had a good camp, and then we noticed some guys getting sick the night before the Memphis game," he continued. "We were looking forward to getting back on the field the next day to correct, and you don't have them for a week. That's what's been difficult for us. But I think our guys have handled it well."

The Rebels begin Southeastern Conference play against two teams from the SEC East on the road. But the SEC West is well thought of across the country, according to the rankings, with three of its teams (Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU) ranked in the top seven.

"Of course I'm partial, but it's always tough every year," Nutt said. "If you travel and play on anybody's campus, it's a full 60-minute game. It's very, very difficult to win."

Nutt said it doesn't get any bigger or better than the SEC.

"Our stadiums are full. The tailgate parking lots are full. The atmosphere is unbelievable. Football is very, very important. So it just creates that passion, it creates that enthusiasm, the anticipation of a game. There's nothing like it. It's just like the one that's coming up Thursday night. The competition it creates is unbelievable. It's at a very high level. It just brings the best out of everybody. There's just nothing like it.

"I know I'm partial, but I've been in this league long enough to know that when I look at these defensive ends and receivers, these skill guys and linemen that can run, it's just tremendous athleticism top to bottom on the field."

Nutt said he believes his players have done well dealing with the high expectations placed upon them this season.

"I've been proud of them. The things I can go by are their attitude and their work ethic. Our antennas have been up ever since our guys started to get a little bit of attention from the Cotton Bowl on. It's about work ethic. It's about attitude, how you attack meetings and practice. Our guys have done that the right way, and I've been proud of them."

Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix used to be at South Carolina before joining the Rebels. Nutt said having him on board has been a real positive.

"I've always watched Tyrone from across the field, whether I've gone against him or witnessed the way his teams played at Southern Miss when he coached for Coach (Jeff) Bower. I got to know him a little bit better when he got to South Carolina, because we'd recruit the same areas and we'd run into each other. But the one thing about Tyrone that I always loved about his teams, No. 1 they had real, real passion and energy. I think he hit the button to manufacture that. I love the way his defenses play so hard.

"I think Tyrone is really a very, very underrated coordinator. I think he's one of the best in the country. Tremendous mind but it goes a little bit further than that. He gets close to a player but yet he knows when to draw that line. He knows there's a fine line between being a friend and then holding them accountable. He turns them into men. I love his style. I love the way he handles things. He gets on them at the right time. I call it old school, really it's the way my dad coached. He will get on one, but he will be in the locker room after practice to hug him. So I just think he has it. He knows what he wants to do. He's an excellent coordinator."

Reporters continue to ask Nutt about the Wild Rebel formation and how that particular aspect of the offense continues to grow throughout football.

"A lot of times we're getting way too much credit for that formation," he said. "That formation was way back in the single-wing days. Pop Warner and all those guys. The thing that we did do, and my brother (Danny) deserves a lot of credit when he was coaching running backs, he came into a meeting and said ‘Hey. You want to make this thing go, let a quarterback have the direct snap.' We looked at him funny. The guy who had played quarterback in high school was Darren McFadden. He was a true triple threat, and what I mean by that is that he could hand it, he could run it, he could throw it. He had a beautiful throwing motion. He could throw the deep ball, he could throw the intermediate, he could throw it uncovered. Boy, it really took off.

"And then you'd have Felix Jones come flying by. Now it does put the defense on their heels. Most people don't have all three phases. It is surprising, though. David Lee who worked for me said he was going to talk Dan Henning into doing it. I didn't believe him. Then one day last year he left a message to watch the NFL highlights. Sure enough you turn it on and they're running the Wild Rebel."

As for Greg Hardy making an appearance in the South Carolina game, Nutt remains hopeful.

"He's a little bit better, and we expect to get a few plays out of him. I don't know how many. But he's getting there. I'm excited that he was on the field this week."


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