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November 9, 2009

Nutt/Snead press conference transcript

Houston Nutt - Opening Statement

We had a good day Sunday and are looking forward to tomorrow. (Tennessee) is an outstanding team right now. They are doing an excellent job on defense. Of course, I am very familiar with Monte Kiffin. It is hard to believe that he was a defensive coordinator in 1977 when I was playing. He is one of the greatest minds that there is in football and is a class act. His defense plays like his personality. They are intense, very sound and they play with speed. They do a good job mixing up blitzes. He disguises things and does a good job of mixing things up. Offensively, they are very sound. They are handing the ball off a little bit more the last few weeks then they did starting off. They have some very hard-nosed running backs. Their quarterback has really done a good job of taking care of the ball. Right now they are just a very efficient team. That is why they have been winning here of late.

Q: How big of an impact does Eric Berry make on Tennessee's defense?

He is a difference maker. He is a player that is always around the football, is a sure tackler and is a good coverage guy. They mix it up - sometimes he is almost a linebacker and other times he is in coverage. It is what it is. We have to do a good job of trying to block him a little bit. Our routes have to be very good and we have to do a good job with what we do. If you worry about one guy, I think you get in trouble. I am more worried about our guys doing what they are supposed to do. Let's execute, block and do a good job.

Q: How much has Jonathan Crompton's improvement helped Tennessee's offense?

It seems like whoever has worked with him has done an excellent job. He knows where he wants to go with the ball and he has been very accurate. When you have a running game, then you've got it because you can mix it up and give him some easy throws. Their running game has really been what they hang their hat on, and now that makes the quarterback that much bigger. It makes his job that much easier and he executes. He throws it to his guys and doesn't throw interceptions. He just does a good job handling the entire offense.

Q: How much more intense has recruiting become in recent years?

It is unbelievable. Going back to just the last 12-14 years, it is so much faster and so much more intense. Everything has sped up. We recruit now year-round. There is never an off day. In the 1980's there were groups of seasons. Now you erase that because recruiting is constant. It never stops. There is so much publicity when you have recruiting shows on every time you turn on the television. It is unbelievable.

Q; What have you seen from Tennessee RB Montario Hardesty?

He is one of the most physical. If you combine the toughness, speed, quickness and his spin move - he is probably top three in our league. He is very physical and hits the holes. He understands the blocking schemes and hits it downhill. Every time you turn on the film, you see a big-time SEC back that is gaining positive yards. We have to do a good job of tackling and wrapping up. We have to be fundamentally sound with a guy like him. They can sprinkle in Bryce Brown and a couple young backs that are very talented as well. Maybe not with Hardesty's experience but they are fast and bring different things to the table.

Q: How much talent was in place when you arrived at Ole Miss?

When I walked in, I was very impressed with the defensive linemen. That's where my hat goes off to (the former staff). When you see Jerrell Powe, Kentrell Lockett, Greg Hardy, Ted Laurent, Marcus Tillman and Lawon Scott - it was awesome. At the same time, I was told that I didn't have any secondary players, linebackers and this and that. We were also going to lose two or three scholarships based on APR. You heard a lot of things when there were four previous losing seasons. The thing that was impressive was when you walk in and see how excited they were - class guys. They were all hungry and wanting to win. They are just super guys with character. That is where my hat goes off to those guys - just an impressive group.

Q: What was the team's mindset like when you arrived at Ole Miss?

There was a lot of doubt and a lot of individuals. There were a lot of guys that had the wrong attitude. We tried to build that camaraderie - a family - and you did it with many of the seniors last year. They took hold of it and did a good job. The group that I have now - Kendrick Lewis and Marshay Green - you love that those guys really took the baton. They were in some uncharted waters with all of the praise and accolades. They were highly ranked before we even kicked it off. That was difficult for them. Especially when your bubble bursts early against South Carolina, it is tough to bring them back and know that we still have a good football team. That is what I have been proud of the most - how hard they've kept working in practice and their attitudes. It's not easy when people think that the season has been a disappointment. That is what has been the hardest thing. When other people say that we haven't achieved what we are supposed to be achieving. To realize that we still have a lot of football left and a good team - we just have to put it all together.

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

Yes. We sat in the same room for about 30 minutes. It was Ed, Tommy Tuberville, myself, Lou Holtz and Phillip Fulmer. We were all sitting there waiting to go do our acting parts.

Q: What exactly did you speak with him about?

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. It went a little bit like that.

Q: Do you have to make sure those old feelings of doubt don't come back to the player's minds?

You do. You have to watch out and hopefully keep that out of their minds. (Tennessee) is that next game and this is an important game. It is the biggest game of the year because it is the next game. Let's go be at our best. Let's not worry about something bad happening. That is where focus comes in and you have to be mentally strong. We ask our seniors to be the leaders and show them the way. It starts in practice. It is having that attitude of going out, doing your best and playing extremely hard.

Q: Did you see much improvement in overall execution against Northern Arizona?

I think so. The thing that's tough is that it is a whole different lineup in the offensive line. Defensively - we are much better than that and they know it. They showed us Sunday and went about things much better. Offensively - we stated Sunday with basically a different lineup (on the line). I was proud of the execution from the first-time players. Jevan (Snead) was very accurate. We executed in the passing game and Brandon Bolden made some nice runs for us. Andy Hartmann blocked well and caught the ball out of the backfield well. Shay Hodge had a big night, so I was proud of all that. Let's go - we are back in real ball.

Q: What is Bobby's Massie's role going to be the rest of the season?

We don't know for sure just yet but we are definitely going to use him. We are going to see what might be easiest for him. It could be right tackle or right guard. I just know we are definitely going to have him ready to go. We will see how that plays out this week. He is just too big of a body. He has kind of caught on to things and understands what we want - especially in the running game. He's got to continue to improve in the passing game. The passing game is often very sophisticated with the blitzes and twists. That would be difficult for any freshmen. When you watch him play, he didn't look like a freshman. His effort, finishes and knockdowns looked good.

Q: How are Dexter McCluster and Jesse Grandy?

They should be ready to go. You keep looking for them on the sidelines on Saturday. Those are guys that have real speed and quickness. You want those guys on the field. (Jesse) Grandy has just lifted our entire kickoff return team. You saw it against Northern Arizona, they started sky kicking and squib kicking. Those two guys will hopefully be ready to go at full speed.

Q: How big is finishing out the season strong?

It is huge. It doesn't get any bigger than this. It is always about recruiting because it is year-round. It is about bowl participation because it gives you extra practice. It is big - bigger than big.

Q: What area do you want to see the most improvement in this week?

The biggest improvement I want to see is tremendous focus from the entire team - paying attention to detail and them not going through the motions for one step - an all-out effort. I have seen our guys do that before where they are in a frenzy and play at a very high level. We did it against Arkansas. We came out with a tremendous focus and we played every play like it was our last one. That is how you play in this league if you want a chance to win. I want all parts of our offense tied together and us to stop the run on defense.

Q: Have you noticed your team bring extra emotional with Ed Orgeron coming back to town?

I think (it is more about) getting back in the conference. It is the middle of November and you do see an excitement. Our guys were moving around and a lot of them knew they didn't play very well (against Northern Arizona). We got on them pretty hard. You just can't roll your helmets out there no matter who you play. You just can't suit up and think that everything is going to take care of itself. It just doesn't happen that way in today's football. Anybody can beat anybody. That was really the message when we went out there (Sunday). You have to be excited.

Q: Where did you initially see Bobby Massie playing and has that changed?

He had a hard time at left tackle. Of course (Greg) Hardy, (Marcus) Tillman and (Kentrell) Lockett going against you in the first scrimmage is hard. He has always played right tackle and he asked us to go back there. Right now, we have him projected at right tackle.

Q: Are you concerned with your defense giving up the big play?

We work hard on that. All throughout the year they hadn't given up big plays until the last couple of weeks. We are putting a lot of emphasis on that. We can't give up the big play. We have to make them go the hard way - stop the run first and don't give up the big play. Marshay (Green) and Cassius (Vaughn) both know they are better than that and came out with the right attitudes Sunday. Now we've got to finish it up this week.

Jevan Snead

Q: What was your relationship with Ed Orgeron like?

Of course I didn't have the opportunity to play under him. I was with the scout team the whole time, so I was trying to do the best I could to help out the defense. As far as Coach O goes, he was always good to me. He was one of the people that helped get me to Ole Miss, so I'm grateful for that.

Q: Are any of your teammates extra excited for this game with Orgeron coming back to town?

I think for some of the guys that might be the case. There may be a little more build up for this game, but I think when it comes down to it it's just another game. We are going to come out and prepare the same way we do any other SEC game.

Q: What have you seen from Tennessee's defense and Eric Berry?

I think there defense as a whole flies around. Eric Berry is just a great player - that's no secret. He's definitely a guy you have to watch out for. He can come in and make plays against the running game and in the passing game as well. He's definitely a guy that you need to know where he is on the field.

Q: What have you seen from Monte Kiffin's defense?

They do some different stuff on defense. Some variations of how they go about out-flanking guys or the depth or width they may push some of their guys. The concepts they use are similar (to traditional college) but they may do things a little differently in some cases.

Q: Where do you expect Eric Berry to lineup on the field?

It's tough to say what they'll do. I think they will definitely be watching out for Shay (Hodge) and for good reason. He's been a great player for us and we count on him to make big plays. We're just going to have to be ready for whatever they throw at us.

Q: Did you plan getting your receivers involved so much against Northern Arizona?

That's just kind of how it worked out. We really just kind of watered down our offense a little bit and went back to the basics of throwing, catching, blocking and running. We had a chance to get some different guys the ball and I think that was good for them and good for the whole offense.

Q: Why do most of the passes seem to be going to receivers outside of the hash marks?

I think it's just kind of the flow of the game and adjusting to what the defense is giving us. Whatever they give us we're going to take. If they're giving us the outside open that's where we are going to go to and if the middle of the field is open we're going to adjust and try to take advantage of that.


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