Nutt: 'Back to work after a victory'

The following is Coach Houston Nutt's Monday press conference prior to the Ole Miss-Alabama game.

Nutt: Got off to a good start Sunday. Coming back to work after a victory is always better than like the previous week. We're playing an outstanding team. As for Alabama, I don't see many weaknesses. They're an outstanding football right now. They have excellent athletes. Don't makes mistakes. They're physical. They've got guys that can run. They're a good football team. We look forward to preparations starting tomorrow.

Q: What does Saban do on defense that makes him so good?

Nutt: He would be a good basketball coach as well. He knows how to match things up. He takea away what you do best. Run, pass play-action, whatever it is. He knows what you do and he takes away from you and discourages you from doing it. And he's got some real players who play like he wants them to play. They're fundamentally sound. I also think it's his blitz package. He's kind of ahead of the game. He gets you behind the count. He keeps you off balance with those blitzes.

Q: Do you have to do a self scout with your team at this point in the season?

Nutt: We do a self scout each week. It's very common. Most teams do it. I think it's especially important this week. I've gone against Saban enough to know how he approaches the game. His teams are very well coached. They know your tendencies.

Q: There's been a lot of national media attention and many have been looking forward to this game. Have y'all looked forward to it all year?

Nutt: Every week we look forward to it. We did last week. We are this week. That's what makes the SEC very special. Real ballgames with a real atmostphere. I expect our atmosphere to be one of the best in the country. You want that home field advantage. It's that way in the SEC. Always a great atmosphere.

Q: Your thoughts on Patrick Trahan so far.

Nutt: I've been nothing but pleased with Patrick since he's been here. He loves the game. He plays with a real passion. He's in there watching film now. That's the kind of guys you want to sign He's a real playmaker.

Q: You've had a lot of third and shorts. How does that help and what does that mean?

Nutt: Nothing like it. Nothing like it. It means you're doing a good job on first down. It gives you a real chance. You don't want to be in third and long. It makes it too difficult.

Q: As a head coach, you've done well against top 5 teams. Why is that?

Nutt: This type game always brings out your best, whether you're a manager, fan, trainer, coach, player. You have that competing spirit, and there's nothing like getting ready for a ballgame like this. Of course you should be ready for every ballgame. You can't make mistakes in games like this. Every tipped ball they get. You want to stay away from those. It's about preparation and attitude. It's about how you approach it. I've always been about approach and about getting your guys to believe.

Q: What makes Alabama so good?

Nutt: Defense, special teams, offense. They lost some offensive lineman but they are physical and they run the ball. You see teams get down there and can't score. That's not Alabama. Their defense gets three and outs, and then here comes their offense again to pound you. They're a very physical bunch.

Q: How is your team's confidence right now?

Nutt: It really helped to win a road game in the SEC. We have some confidence going right now and we have to build off that.

Q: Is your linebacker unit improving or treading water right now?

Nutt: I don't think they're treading water. Patrick Trahan, Jonathan Cornell, Allen Walker. Our problem is depth. D.T. Shackelford, Joel Kight, Lamar Brumfield are valuable. Joel Kight's the only one that's healthy. Trahan is on our kickoff team. Walker is on our kickoff team. They are making plays. Our defense has made plays all year. They've got a challenge this week.

Q: How good is Rolando McClain.

Nutt: He's 6-foot-4 and a quarter and as fast as he wants to be. He gets to the ball carrier and arrives in a bad mood. Looks like a running back. You can tell those guys have fun playing the game. He's the heartbeat of their team. He stays unblocked, refuses to get blocked and then makes the play. He's big and strong and fast.

Q: Has their QB, McElroy, surprised you?

Nutt: I really didn't know what to expect from him. I thought there'd be more learning curve. He's got a supporting cast, but don't take anything away from what he's done. He's been highly efficient. He doesn't make mistakes. He takes care of the ball.

Q: After leading 23-0 early in the third quarter against Vanderbilt, your team seemed to have trouble doing much, especially offensively.

Nutt: I thought our guys felt they had the game handled and were feeling good. Then we turned the ball over twice. I basically got in a lock down mode and let the defense play, since they were playing so good. Jevan was probably feeling pretty good right there and probably forced a couple of balls. I think you learn from that. I was really proud of the way Jevan played. I felt he executed well, especially the first two quarters and the first two drives of the second half. Very good.

Q: Players say you give great speeches. Did you develop that? Were you ever on a high school speech team or something?

Nutt: Never on a speech team. Probably a little overrated. You want to make it fun and give them something to carry into each game. I don't like to talk just to talk. I want them to hear something that's very real. As a former player I feel I know what they're thinking sometimes. I had great coaches. My father, Frank Broyles, Lou Holtz, Jimmy Johnson, Pat Jones, Jack Crowe. You want to that button of each guy. It's every day. You can't be counterfeit. They know when you're being false. Give them something every day. The pregame speech is probably overrated. After the kickoff, it's over and they've forgotten what you said. But I wasn't on any speech team, no.

Q: How is Bama's defense different without Hightower?

Nutt: I didn't notice any difference. They may have had one or two plays where they hit a run or something. Nothing real big. Hightower is a much bigger guy, built kind of like Rolando McClain, 250, 260. The guy they put in there may not be as big but may be a little quicker. He looks pretty good to me.

Q: Arenas didn't hurt you last year. But he's got to be somebody you have to be constantly aware of.

Nutt: He is. I think he's better this year. They're blocking better for him. He's a scary guy. We've got to do an excellent job on punt return and kickoff return. He's gotten a long run on everybody. We've got to do a better job. Just because we covered him up last year, that doesn't mean a thing. We've got to do better even though we did a good job on him last year. We're not there yet.

Q: What makes your offense first in the SEC in red zone?

Nutt: Our guys smell that end zone 25 yards going in. We've always put emphasis on that. Just like third down. We put emphasis on that as well. We've been doing well in the red zone. We've got to keep that up. We're executing. We're focused in that red zone.

Q: Do you like it when a team or a defense takes on an identity like the Landshark defense or whatever?

Nutt: I like the identity. I like it more that they make the tackle or the play and that they have energy. I don't want to keep them from having fun. I tell them it better not ever be a penalty. Don't do that Landshark by yourself out on the 50-yard line. You'd better be doing it with your teammates. Just make the play. Let's play ball.

Q: In that same regard, did you see the penalties at the end of the Georgia-LSU game for celebrating? Has that become a problem?

Nutt: Just saw a flash of it on a replay, and it didn't look to bad. I thought he was celebrating with his teammate, but I didn't look real hard. I tell the players to celebrate together. That's the rule. Hand the ball to the official. It's when you bring attention to yourself is what I can't stand. I really coach hard against that. Me, me, me. It's not about you. You made the tackle, because somebody helped you on the field, and that's your teammates. Nothing wrong about getting excited about a play. You made a play. Don't take away the enthusiasm and passion for the game. Let them enjoy the game. To me there's a direct difference between bringing attention to yourself and celebrating with your teammates.

Q: How did having Gerald Harris back help?

Nutt: He was outstanding. He had so much effort on every play He finished his block. Talk about a guy who missed football, and we missed him. He was rusty. He'll be the first to tell you he should have caught it (the missed TD pass early). Good to have him back.

Q: How are Andy Hartmann and D.T. Shackelford?

Nutt: They both jogged around a little better yesterday. We're hoping they'll be better tomorrow. We're planning on them practice. Don't know how close they are to full speed yet. We had planned on playing D.T. (at Vandy), but he couldn't cut.

Q: How is Justin Smith?

Nutt: Probably another week away.

Q: What about Justin Sparks?

Nutt: That happened Thursday in shorts. Very fluke. He was helping with the scout team punter. We'd already gone through PAT and field goals. He's the holder there. He was doing a demonstration of the rugby punt for our defense. Runs to the right, ball falls out of his hand, and he goes to pick up the ball. He pops his patella. Dislocated it. It goes back in but was very swollen and he had to be put on crutches. Just a fluke incident and bad timing. Justin's very valuable. He's our holder. Richie did a good job coming in and relieving him. But there's that kickers psyche' with the holder and all that, you know how that goes. (On the missed extra point by Shene) I think the ball was kicked a little too low.

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