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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.