The following is Coach Houston Nutt's Monday press conference, transcript-style, after the 21-7 Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma State.
Nutt's Opening Comment: There's nothing like winning a bowl game. It was great to see the faces of our seniors, who wanted it so badly. That was a special moment. I am really going to miss this group. In the last two years, they have won 18 ball games and gone to back-to-back January 1 bowls. That hasn't happened in a long time. It was really emotional and to do it in the greatest stadium in the world was doubly rewarding. They will never forget it - to practice where a lot of their heroes play and to get to play there was unbelievable.
I was proud our younger guys got to experience the week as well. Their eyes got big as they were getting all their gifts. The hospitality room, the food, the activities were great and we also got 21-22 extra practices. It just means so much.
It is a lot easier now to go into recruiting. It's going very, very well right now. I wish we had more scholarships. We will be in recruits' homes all this week starting tomorrow night. We'll be recruiting until we have to go to the coaches' convention next week and then finish hard in January.
I can't say enough about our defense and the way they played. Tyrone Nix's plan was awesome and nobody asked about the option after that game. Not one soul. It was stopped, by discipline, structure, assignment and responsibility. It might have been ugly on offense, but it was beautiful to win, especially with Dexter McCluster showing his skills. He will go down as one of the all-time greats to ever play here. The defense gave us opportunities and Dexter took advantage of them against a very good athletic team.
We stopped ourselves so many times. Marshay Green gave us great field position on a punt return and we didn't get points. We didn't get points from the six-inch line another time. The score should have been different. We just stopped ourselves but our special teams and defense bailed us out.
We can't wait to put our recruiting hats on full time.
Q: Would you run Jerrell Powe again twice down there if you had it to do over?
Nutt: It's easy to have 20-20 there, but we ran that play so many times in practice and I never dreamed they could stop it. It looked unstoppable in practice, but we missed a block and it was stopped. Maybe we should have done something else, but man I never thought that play would be stopped. Ever. We did get a three-and-out after that, so the momentum Oklahoma State gained was not taken advantage of. Again, the defense was awesome.
Q: How big was your own goalline stand?
Nutt: Huge. Plus the replay that took their TD away when he stepped out of bounds. Our inside guys were incredible there, and our linebackers. They would not give in. It was great to have Patrick Trahan full speed. He had been playing on one leg, courageously, but he was fine in the Cotton Bowl and it showed. It changed the game when we stopped them.
Q: You hearing anything about your draft eligible players?
Nutt: I met with Kentrell Lockett and he's almost 100% sure he's coming back. Same thing with Jerrell Powe. I am meeting with Jevan (Snead) tomorrow, but I think he will be back.
Q: Do you open up the QB slot in spring?
Nutt: Jevan will take the first snap in spring, but he will know he's got competition. Nathan Stanley and Raymond Cotton are coming. He'll have to be much better than he was this year and I think he understands that. The best guy will play.
Q: What did you think of Stanley's play?
Nutt: I was proud of him except for the pick he threw. I thought he was smooth and relaxed. He made a first down on a scramble. He should have made the same decision on the pick - to run - but again for the first time in a big game, I was pretty proud.
Q: Is your staff solid?
Nutt: I hope so. There are still some jobs open out there. Tyrone is a hot name right now. I have my guard up, but he's very happy here. Otherwise, he would have already left. He loves coaching here and he's excited about the future.
Q: Will you have more contact with the QBs this spring?
Nutt: Yes, probably so. We will put more pressure on them and be live with them more in third-down and pressure situations. We want to see who handles the pressure the best.
Q: What about Daverin Geralds and his request for a fifth year?
Nutt: We are turning that in tomorrow. We are going to push that hard. He deserves it. I feel better about it than I did a month or so ago. I think we will get LaMark Armour back for his sixth year pretty quickly. Daverin's request will take more time, I'm sure.
Q: Talk about Brandon Bolden.
Nutt: He played very hard for us and did some good things for us. When Dexter went to tailback, it limited him. I think Brandon understands everything now. He fought through some things. Everyone wants to play. This will help him and he will be better because of it. He will start out at TB in spring.
Q: Was the Cotton Bowl the best your defense has played since you came to Ole Miss?
Nutt: Yes, no question about it. The one thing about Tyrone is that when he is challenged or coming off a defeat, you better watch out the next game. All I had to say was 'Oklahoma State runs the option' and the look in his eyes was one that I knew we would be ready for it. Our defense played very good all year. Maybe one or two games we'd like to do better, but overall, I'd take that year every year on defense. Our corners came through thanks to Chris Vaughn and them getting better. Our front was very good and our philosophy was good. Our chemistry was excellent and Tyrone and his staff get the most out of them. Our structure was good and he called the right plays most of the time. They did one of the best jobs I have seen. I never felt threatened by the Cowboy offense and that's the way I felt in a lot of games. I always felt that we were going to have a chance offensively to get the ball and do something with hit.
Q: How have these two years helped the way you are received on the recruiting trail and how have the internal expectations of the current team changed?
Nutt: Winning. You can't say enough what it does to recruiting. We are getting love from young men that are now recruiting us. "Coach, you haven't forgotten me have you? I'm still on your list, right?' It's amazing how that works. We go into living rooms and high schools and there's a real excitement about Ole Miss. Right now, they talk about a movie (The Blind Side) and back-to-back Cotton Bowls and winning. It's all positive and we have everyone's attention. Everything keeps growing and that's what you want. We are getting a higher level of recruit. We are in on kids now we would not have been in the race with two years ago. It's all about what you do on the field and then what happens when they get here. Our number one ambassadors are our players. Our players are selling this program.
Q: What are you remaining needs?
Nutt: We'll have a big number at OL and DL and then we will get a little more specific. We need a great wideout. We need a tight end. We need corners. The only position we aren't recruiting is quarterback. I love the position we are in. I'm not talking about trying to sell a program that won 4-5-6 games. I'm talking about two years in a row at nine wins each. It makes a huge difference. We needed an older defensive end this spring and we got him. We needed an older safety and we got him for this spring. Now we need difference-makers.
Q: Is the third year a critical year for you?
Nutt: I'm really excited about the third year. Our first two years, we took Ed's and David's players and won. Now we will be working with a not-so strong class Ed's last year and our young guys. We have quality players here, but we have to develop them. Now we are missing a Dexter and a Shay and John Jerry and on and on. A Patrick Trahan, a Marcus Tillman, and so many more. Kendrick Lewis, Marshay Green and more and more. Andy Hartmann - what a soldier for us. He hammers for Dexter every play. We will be a lot younger in a difficult league but we love the challenge. Because of the recruiting and the momentum we have, I believe everything will be good. I don't like the word rebuilding because it gives your players a mindset of taking a year off or we can't get it done. No, no, no, no. We will be rebuilding in a lot of areas, but I expect us to keep taking off. We will have a hard offseason and more contact in spring, but we are not rebuilding.
Q: Are this offseason and spring your most critical here yet?
Nutt: Yes, but it started with 21-22 bowl practices. We got a head start. A lot of teams didn't get extra practices. Now Coach (Don) Decker is going to wear them out and get them bigger and stronger and faster. Then we have to take advantage of every practice rep in spring ball.
Q: Who stood out to you in those 22 practices that you will need to step up next year?
Nutt: Charles Sawyer, Mike Marry, Alex Williams, Emmanuel McCray, Michael Brown, Cotton and Stanley, Terrell Grant who we moved to safety, Tig Braksdale, Rodney Scott, Z. Mason, Ryan Campbell - they all looked good to me. Ja'Mes Logan looked good at wideout too.
Q: What is Tim Simon's status?
Nutt: He has to have one more surgery and it is set for this Thursday, but we may kick it back because he's in intersession. I am hoping he will be OK. He's a good person and a talented player. He can play TB or LB. We hope we can get him around mid-August - we think that is his best chance and earliest date of return.
Q: Will you over sign this year?
Nutt: We will try, but it is very difficult to talk a young man into greyshirting. We are very thankful Evan Swindall and Mike Marry did it last semester. They are quality players. We will try, but I hope we never have to lose those three scholarships again. Right now, our APR is good, so I feel we will get our scholarship allotment back.
Q: What do you expect from Markeith Summers, Lionel Breaux and Patrick Patterson?
Nutt: I cornered those three in the dressing room. I said 'you three have to go. You have to be at the front of the line, no lazy steps. Your work ethic has to go to another level. You have to live with a ball in your hands. You better go find a QB and be friends with him.' They can do it too. They have been inconsistent, but they will be fine, I believe. Patrick needs consistency, but I can see why he was ranked as high as he was in high school.
Q: What about Jesse Grandy?
Nutt: I forgot him, but if you lay it all out potential-wise and he could be one of the best to ever come through here. We have to get him bigger, but he is smooth. He's a good route runner and has very good hands.
Q: What is the state of recruiting in Mississippi now?
Nutt: We are at a completely different level now. This is the best I have felt about Mississippi since I have been here. We are getting a great response. Parents realize we are starting in this state and going out from here. It is false that we start outside and work in. That myth has been shattered. We start right here in this beautiful state. I'm excited about the Mississippi athletes and the commitments we already have. It's going to turn into two-three-four more, you watch.
Nutt feels recruiting momentum
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