Nutt: 'We're looking forward to tomorrow'

The following is Coach Houston Nutt's Monday press conference prior to Ole Miss' game against Tennessee.

Nutt: We had a good day Sunday. We're looking forward to tomorrow. They're an outstanding team right now. I'm very familiar with Monte Kiffin. He was a defensive coordinator in 1977 when I was playing. He's one of the greatest minds there is in football and a class act. Their defense plays his personality. They're very intense. Very sound. They play with speed. They do a good job mixing up blitzes. He disguises some things and just does a good job mixing things up. Offensively they've been very sound. They're handing that ball off more the last few weeks with some hard-nosed running backs. Quarterback does a good job taking care of the ball. Right now they're a very efficient team, offense, defense, special teams. It's why they've been winning of late.

Q: Talk about Eric Berry on defense for them.

Nutt: He's a difference maker. He's always around the football. He's a sure tackler. Good coverage guy. They mix it up. Sometimes he's like a linebacker and sometimes he's in coverage. It is what it is. We have to do a good job with what we do. If you worry about one guy, then you get in trouble. They've got a good defense. I'm more concerned about our guys. Let's execute, block and do a good job.

Q: UT has put up some huge points lately. Jonathan Crompton seems to be doing well. What's been the key for them?

Nutt: Whoever has worked with (Crompton) has done a good job. He's been very accurate. And when you have a running game, that's a quarterback's best friend. When you've got a running game, you've got it because it's play action, it's bootlegs, it's waggles, there are some easy throws he can make. They've got it going. When I say the running game is where they hang their hat on, it makes the quarterback bigger, makes his job that much easier. He executes. He doesn't throw interceptions. He's done a good job handling the entire offense.

Q: How much more intense has recruiting gotten in the past few years?

Nutt: It's unbelievable. Just going back the last 10-12-14 years, it's much more intense. It's year ‘round. There are no breaks now. It seems like in the 80s it was 'OK here is football season, here is fall recruiting, then spring recruiting and spring football.' There used to be groups of seasons. Recruiting is now constant, ongoing, it never stops. There's so much publicity. It seems like every day there's an entire show talking about who committed where. It's just so fast, it's unbelievable.

Q: What are your thoughts on UT RB Montario Hardesty?

Nutt: He's one of the most physical if you combine toughness, speed, quickness. One of the top three in our league. Understands the blocking schemes and runs down hill. We've got to do a good job of wrapping up and tackling. They do a good job of mixing in a lot of young guys.

Q: What were your initial thoughts on the talent here when you arrived?

Nutt: The thing that was impressive here was the defensive line. Powe, Lockett, Hardy, Laurent, Tillman. But I heard a lot of other things. Don't have any of this or that, APR going to lose a couple of scholarships. That's where my hat goes off to these guys. Impressive ground.

Q: What was the mindset when you first came in to where it is now.

Nutt: There was a lot of doubt. Lot of individuals. Lot of attitude. Lot of it's your fault not my fault. We tried to deal with it with unity and camaraderie. The group I have now is a lot of seniors. We asked Marshay to go play defensive back. Then there were the accolades, the praise. That was difficult for them. Especially when your bubble bursts early. Tough to being them back. I've been proud of that the most, their attitude, and how they continue to work hard in practice. It's not easy. That's the hardest thing is the world we live in that says you have not achieved what you're supposed to this year. We've seen glimpses. But we've got to put it all together.

Q: Did you talk to Ed Orgeron during the filming of The Blind Side?

Nutt: Yes, we sat down in the same room for about 30 minutes. Ed, Tommy Tuberville, myself, Lou Holtz, Phil Fulmer. We're all sitting there waiting to go do our acting part.

Q: Did you talk to Ed about football or about Ole Miss?

Nutt: We talked a little bit about different players. He commended me on the job that our staff did, and I commended him on bringing in those defensive linemen. So it went a little bit like that.

Q: Back to that mindset, do you have to guard against things creeping in when things don't go quite as well as you hope?

Nutt: You do. You have to watch that and hopefully keep that out of their mind. It's the next game. It's the most important game because it is the next game. Don't worry about something bad happening. Don't let doubt creep in. That's where you've got to have focus and be mentally strong. We ask our seniors to be the leaders and show the way. Have that attitude of going out there and doing your best and playing extremely hard.

Q: Did you feel offensively you made some progress against Northern Arizona?

Nutt: I think so. The thing that's tough is a different lineup offensively. Defensively we're much better than that and they know it. They showed us Sunday how they went about things, much, much better. Offensively Sunday we started with basically a different lineup. I was proud of the execution for the first time players. Jevan was very accurate and we executed in the passing game. Brandon Bolden made some nice runs for us. Andy Hartmann blocked well and caught the ball out of the backfield. Shay Hodge had a big night, and I was proud of that. Now let's go. We're back in real ball now.

Q: What is Bobby Massie's role the rest of the year?

Nutt: We don't know for sure, but we're definitely going to use him. We'll see what may be easier for him. Might be right tackle, might be right guard. I just know we're definitely going to have him ready to go, and we'll see how that plays out this week. He's kind of caught on to what we want now and understands things, especially in the running game. He's got to continue in the passing game, because sometimes it's very sophisticated with the blitzes and twists. That's difficult for any freshman. You love watching him play. He didn't look like a freshman Saturday in his effort and his finishes and knockdowns. He looked good.

Q: What one area on the team would you like to see the most improvement in this week, and how big are these last three games?

Nutt: I'll start with that second part - huge. It doesn't get any bigger than this. It's always about recruiting because as we mentioned it's year 'round. It's about bowl participation, which gives you extra practices. It's bigger than big. The biggest improvement, No. 1, I want to see a tremendous focus on everything. Attention to detail where nothing, not one step, do you just go through the motions. It is an all out effort and I've seen our guys do that before where they play at a very high level. We did that against Arkansas. We came out of the shoot with a tremendous focus. Play every play like it's your last one. That's how you play in this league to have a chance to win. I want that. Pass protection. Precision with routes. Throwing with accuracy. I want all those things tied in together. On defense, we've got to stop the run and be sure tacklers.

Q: Have you noticed any extra emotion from your players concerning this game?

Nutt: I think getting back into conference and they know when you turn the corner, it's the middle of November. You do see an excitement. A lot of them knew they didn't play very well. We got on them pretty hard. You can't just roll your helmets out there no matter who you play. You just can't say I'm going to suit up and everything's going to be OK. Not in today's football. Anybody can beat anybody. So that was the message when we went out there (Sunday).

Q: It appears the past couple of games your defense has been more susceptible to the big play. Is that a concern?

Nutt: It is. We work hard on that. All year they haven't given up big plays until the last couple of weeks. We're putting emphasis on that. We've got to make them go the long, hard way. Stop the run first and don't give up the big play. We came out with the right attitude Sunday, and we need to finish that up this week. Because when teams see that, naturally they're going to come after them.

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