The following is Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt's press conference following the Red-Blue Game Saturday in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Nutt: We had a very good spring. I was proud of what we got accomplished. We knew we were going to have to work very, very hard with the offense with all the people we lost. Our young people made some strides. Did we improve? A lot. Are were there yet? No, we have a long way to go. In the meantime, what gives us a chance is our defense. Our defensive front is going to be good - they give us a chance. Our linebackers are very good, with Jonathan Cornell and Allen Walker as our leaders. Our young ones are coming along too. The secondary is much better than I thought. I think we will be better than I anticipated heading into spring. They have to keep getting better, but they have done a good job.
Offensively, our tackles give us a chance because of their experience and progress. The inside guys have got a ways to go. We've got to get better. Our center, A.J. Hawkins, is being manufactured a little - he's probably a better guard. Evan Swindall is right there but he's young and got welcomed to SEC football going against Jerrell Powe every day. Rishaw Johnson is doing OK, but he's got to keep coming. Our inside OL guys are our weakness coming out of spring, but they got better during spring. At wideout, Jesse Grandy has to continue to be our go-to guy. Markeith Summers and Lionel Breaux have to keep coming, but Markeith can be a big-play threat for us. Ja-Mes Logan is doing a good job. Melvin Harris shows spurts, but he's got to get more consistent. At RB, I feel good because we have numbers. Maybe we don't have a guy who takes your breath away like Dexter McCluster, but we have three guys who are a load and a couple of speed backs who make progress. Enrique Davis had a real good spring, as did Brandon Bolden and Rodney Scott, who hurt his ankle today. Korvic Neat and Derrick Herman add speed.
At quarterback, it's the position where we have the least experience except center. Nathan Stanley would go out there first right now, but we are not afraid to play Raymond Cotton and he will have a package. We could play both.
The kickers have to do a better job with field goals. They were inconsistent. I think Tyler Campbell will be fine with punts and Andrew Ritter and David Hankins are good in kickoffs. We did not do a good job with our field goals - it's a concern.
Q: Were you surprised Raymond Cotton looked as good as he did today?
Nutt: Not really. He said his arm/shoulder felt good today and he's always been a gamer before. He probably got those juices going with the crowd and performed. He's an athletic guy. We just have to keep him going and keep checking with the doctors and rehabbing. The MRI showed a tear in the labrum.
Q: How big a difference is there right now between Stanley and Cotton?
Nutt: Nathan is ahead of Raymond in the playbook because Ray missed some time this spring. That hurt him. But the thing about Raymond is that he can run the option, he can spring out and he can do some things Nathan can't as well. I would not be opposed to having different packages for each one. Nathan can do everything right now and we would shorten Raymond's, but Raymond is very effective in what he can do.
Q: Did you see what you wanted to see in the spring game?
Nutt: I saw what I needed to before today. I didn't want a lot of the veterans like Powe and Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott and Kentrell Lockett out there much. I know what they can do. We've had a physical spring, they didn't need any more. What I was watching was how the young players responded. For instance, Ja-Mes can't drop the ball he did early on. Jesse Grandy can't have the drop like he did today.
Q: Melvin Harris jumps out at you some. . . .
Nutt: You can't coach being 6-6. You see flashes of excellence. He's faster than you think and he can make plays. He's just got to keep working on catching the ball because he could be very important for us.
Q: Enrique Davis finished spring real strong it seemed. Comment?
Nutt: He looked like the quickest back on the field today. He was running behind his pads and going downhill. The first tackler was not knocking him down either.
Q: Charles Sawyer had two picks today. Is he competing to start?
Nutt: Yes. He's one of the finest freshmen we've ever had. He's still got work to do, but his ball skills, his awareness of the ball in the air, playing it in the air is outstanding and he is physical. He will hit you.
Q: Did you have a lot of questions answered?
Nutt: Yes, but I am thankful we had spring. I am still worried and concerned about the OL - these are young, young guys at key positions. They are about to see DL like they face every day in practice in every game. What we did in spring, to get them ready, was go good against good every day. Ones versus ones every day until today. We had very little success when the defense was moving or blitzing or twisting, so that worries me, but even they have improved and progressed. John Jerry, Daverin Geralds and Reid Neely had seen all that. Our guys now have not. We have to run 1,000 plays a day to catch up. That's all I am worried about.
Q: How do you feel about the personality of the team?
Nutt: I love their personality. This is a good, young, listening team. They just don't know, and sometimes they don't know that they don't know. But they are listening and taking baby steps. That's what I look for. Are you paying attention? Are you listening? Are you trying to correct and get better? They did all those things. They aren't where we want them to be, but they stepped forward.
Q: What about your leadership? Has it emerged?
Nutt: On defense, it has. Jonathan Cornell, Kentrell Lockett, Jerrell Powe, Johnny Brown has said more than he's ever said - I don't worry about the defense at all. Offensively, they are so worried about the playbook and other things that they don't know about leading right now. Nathan will be there very soon - I saw some of him lifting the team this spring and that was exciting.
Q: Can you be better at QB than you have been?
Nutt: We aren't yet, but we could be. Jevan Snead helped win 18 games in some hostile arenas. We don't know how our two now will respond in Knoxville or Baton Rouge. We think we do, but we haven't seen them there yet.
Q: Talk more about Cotton's shoulder.
Nutt: We will continue to evaluate things and talk to doctors. I will never put a player out there who is hurt or has a chance to get hurt worse by playing and the Cotton family believes that about me. We just want to make sure it won't hurt him more to keep playing. We will not take a chance on permanently damaging him or damaging him for the future. He had had a sore arm in high school and played through it. Today, you couldn't tell if it was hurt. We'll try to move quickly on it the next couple of weeks. What I am hoping is we can rehab him and play him next season and I think that is what he wants to do.
Q: Who is further along, Neat or Herman?
Nutt: Good question. I don't know yet. Both of them are young and still finding their way, but they are coming and are fun to watch. Their quickness is the difference. Derrick may be in the Wild Rebel mix.
Q: How did your coaching clinic go yesterday?
Nutt: It was the best we have had. Young coaches coming here to hone their craft and learn. It was very good, especially when they can learn from great coaches like Bobby Hall and Lance Pogue. It was a special day and I just want to see it get bigger and better every year.
Nutt liked spring results
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