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July 27, 2007
COACH ORGERON: Really proud to have two outstanding young men with us today representing Ole Miss in BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Marcus Tillman. I really feel Ben is going to have an outstanding season for us at runningback, is going to be our go-to guy. He's a great young man. We're very proud of him.
Marcus Tillman is a young defensive end, a freshman All-American, a big-time recruit for us at Ole Miss. He's a sophomore. I think he's an up-and-coming player in the SEC.
It's always good to be here. Seems like the start of the season when we come here, our players have a great attitude. We're looking forward to starting camp on next Saturday.
Some of the things I'm going to talk about in starting camp is we building a new team. We have new ideas. Our coaches have worked very hard in the spring in research and development to tweak some things on offense.
Excited to have John Thompson as my defensive coordinator. I think that you're going to see more of an attack style, more of a blitzing attitude on first and second down, some unorthodox stuff on third down that gives offensive protection problems.
We want to do a great job on defense of creating turnovers. I think John is excellent at that. With a lot of experience in the SEC as a defensive coordinator, I will lean on him a whole lot.
Things we want to accomplish in camp. We want to finish. We want to finish everything we do. We want to develop depth, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. Last year we were outscored the second half and in overtime 3-1. We want to develop rotations so we can finish those games we were very, very close to winning last year.
Our quarterback position is going to be open. We have had very inconsistent play at the quarterback position the last two years. We're looking for a consistent quarterback, a quarterback that can have a short, controlled passing game, that can make the right decisions along the line of scrimmage, that can be a leader in the huddle, someone can he with trust to direct the offense in the right way.
We're excited about that. I think it's healthy for our football team to have that competition going into fall camp. We need to find play-makers on offense. We need to score more points, especially in the red zone.
I'm really excited about Dexter McCluster coming back. I think he's an exciting young man, and we're going to use him as much as we possibly can, along with Marshay Green, Shay Hodge, Michael Wallace, guys that received experience last year for the first time in the SEC.
On defense, I talked about John Thompson. We have to replace a great player in Patrick Willis. I will say this: Patrick left a lot of things at Ole Miss for us. How to play with injuries, how to be a leader, how to be a great citizen, how to play in adversity, and hopefully that our team and our coaches learned a lot under Patrick.
I really feel that we're going to have a very good defensive line. I mentioned Marcus Tillman. We have Greg Hardy on the other side who I'm probably going to pray on offense and defense. He played a little bit last year and did very well on offense. He's a big target so we're going to find a place for him to play on offense.
Kentrell Lockett at defensive end. The thing I'm most excited about is we're going to finally have some 300 pounders in the middle with Peria Jerry, who is an excellent player who was hurt most of the season last year. Jeremy Garrett, Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott. We're going to build depth along our defensive line.
At cornerback is going to be with Dustin Mouzon. We recruited two great cornerbacks, going to be freshmen. I'm expected to see a lot of play out of those guys. John is going to do a great job of coaching the back end.
The thing I like about John Thompson is his expertise as the back end, and my expertise is the front end. I think it's going to be a great marriage. We want to have a great defensive team and I expect to have that.
On special teams we want to block kicks. We had success last year blocking kicks. Special games, special teams. We want to be even more aggressive this year. We want to fake punts, fake field goals, be creative in what we do.
I'm real excited about having Joshua Shene. I thought he had an excellent year last year. What we need to do is improve on our punting game.
Upcoming season, obviously we're going to focus on camp. That's all we're going to focus on. We love camp. We love the toughness of our football team, the attitude, the competition. But when it gets down to the season, we have to start fast.
We have five games in the month of September. We have Memphis, we have Missouri, we have Vanderbilt, we have Florida, and we have Georgia. We have a challenge ahead of us.
My last two seasons we won the first game and then we sloughed off and had to pick it up the rest of the season. My goal is for us to start fast in September and continue to improve throughout the season.
A couple of things I'm going to talk about, then open it up for questions. I really feel that we have a strong offensive line with Michael Oher, Corey Actis, John Jerry, Maurice Miller, and Reid Neely, who is an up-and-coming star on our team.
I'm really excited about my offensive line coach, assistant head coach, in Art Kehoe. I think he's one of the best in the business. I talked about the other positions.
Along with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, we have Bruce Hall, who is an excellent player, Cordera Eason who is an up-and-coming player, and Reggie Hicks. I think those guys are going to be fantastic. Fullback position is very sturdy with Jason Cook, Andy Hartmann and Derrick Davis.
This is always a good time for us, always a good time to see everybody. Today is my birthday. I feel better than I ever felt. I really feel this: that I can see some things on our team that I've seen on the championship teams that I've been a part of in the past. Now, are we there? No. Do we have the time of players we had? No. Are they starting to act the same way, they starting to compete the same way? Recruiting has been fantastic. We worked very hard at recruiting.
We're competing up there. We have a sophomore team, a freshmen team, juniors, a couple of seniors. There's only two starters on the starting 22 that I didn't recruit. This is our team and we expect them to play in that fashion.
Q. Can you talk about Ben? Do you think he's a bit of an underrated player? Do you think he flies under the radar a little bit?
COACH ORGERON: You know, last year was his first year. I think people are starting to notice Ben. I think that this year he's going to receive everything that he should. I think he's one of the best players in the SEC. He is by far one of the best players on our team.
We're excited about him. I think if we have a great season, he has the type of year that he's supposed to have, he'll receive all the attention that he needs.
Q. With A.J. Jackson not qualifying, looks like the same kind of group of receivers. What do you expect from them?
COACH ORGERON: Well, you know, they had a great -- I'm going to say a good spring. They caught the ball well. We installed a couple of new plays that I think will enable our receivers to catch the football and get yards after the catch.
But last year I think not many of them had many catches in the SEC and they were all new, so I think they're going to be an experienced group and improve this year.
Q. You talk about the disparity in the scoring of the second half of games last years. You had a first-round draft pick last year in Willis. Is the difference not having enough of them compared to other SEC teams? Do you feel you're closing the gap or need another class or two to get to where you want to be?
COACH ORGERON: I'm going to say this: we played 17 freshmen. We had 64 scholarship players last year. By the time we went to Baton Rouge we had about 57. We could have took one bus down there, but we wasn't going to do that.
I really feel that we're building depth. We looked at our depth chart this morning before I left. We actually have two offensive lines across the board, which is new for us. We have three defensive lines across the board. We're building depth, but it's going to take a while.
You know, the SEC is a tough conference. When I arrived at Ole Miss they had had success with the prior staff. But the talent level wasn't what I expected. We've had two great recruiting classes. I think that you can see our team is making improvement.
Those guys need to just have a little rest, have a rotation so we can play better in the third, fourth and overtime periods.
Q. You've been at some of the more storied college football programs. The two teams in the state of Mississippi have struggled the last five or so years. What did your previous teams have that the teams in Mississippi don't? Why has it been so hard for those teams to compete?
COACH ORGERON: Well, first of all, when I was at the University of Miami, it was rolling. They had some great teams there, so I was just happy to be there. They had great defensive lines. They had a great quarterback. That's where I learned from Coach Johnson. We had tremendous speed, great attitude. Those guys had won already.
When I was at USC, they were struggling. I was there with the staff under Coach Hackett. We had a couple of good players. Coach Carroll came in. We dominated California in recruiting, especially in Los Angeles.
We had a great quarterback in Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart. We had a defensive line, recruited play-makers such as Reggie Bush, had championships. We had a great coaching staff.
When I got to Mississippi, we had some things in place, but not other things. I think the big difference on our team right now is depth and the play of our quarterback.
Q. Could you talk about your relationship with John Thompson, how far back that goes, how close you guys are. You obviously know defense. Was it tough for you to hire a coordinator? Talk about what went into that decision, how it's worked out.
COACH ORGERON: Well, you know, just going into last season, I really felt that I needed help, especially on the back end. I wanted to hire a defensive backfield coach that could help me organize the defense when I wasn't there.
John Thompson's name came in mind. I called him, had to do a little recruiting. John was an athletic director, didn't plan on coming back to college football.
After a couple of great talks he decided to come. I think it was a great marriage. I really wanted somebody that would allow me to be the head football coach. John is going to call all the defenses but also keep the good things that we've done on defense intact and build off of that.
I am going to be in the defensive role most of the time. John is going to handle all the decisions about what we do on defense. I'm just going to be in there, be able to put my input, especially on the front seven, on what we need to do.
Q. Y'all have been recruiting very aggressively. How much, if at all, will the ban on text messaging affect the way you recruit? Could you use it very much? Does it matter to you?
COACH ORGERON: Yeah, we use it a bunch. First of all, we're going to take the attitude that we will not let it affect us. There's other methods. I think technology is always going to stay ahead of the rules. We just going to compete to find another way.
Q. Do you have a date in mind when you want to make a decision on quarterbacks, starting quarterback, and do you foresee the idea of a two-quarterback system on any level?
COACH ORGERON: I would like not to have a two-quarterback system. I'm not going to rule it out. I would like one guy to be our quarterback. I think the longer it goes, the better it is for our team. You have to go through camp, have those guys go through adversity, go through scrimmages, go through game-type atmosphere to see how they perform.
It's going to take a while. But hopefully the week of Memphis, we know who our starter is going into the Memphis game.
Q. Thus far in the SEC media days, only Bobby Johnson of Vanderbilt has been for an early signing period in recruiting. What is your opinion?
COACH ORGERON: I'm totally against it. I really like the process. I think there's a lot of things that go on between December and February when we can get to go into the homes. I like to compete all the way to the end.
I use Marcus Tillman, for example. Marcus Tillman was a young man committed to another SEC school. We competed to the bitter end and got him. I think there's a lot of great things that go on between December and February.
I think there's a lot of manpower that goes on in the signing date. If you're a team, you're going to the Bowl, you're playing for the national championship, you're preparing in December and have to sign someone in December, I think it's a distraction for your team and it's not fair.
Q. The NCAA keeps making rules that limit your contact with recruits. Considering your job's on the line if the kid you bring on campus go whacky on you, do you think something needs to be done to expand your ability to get to know the kid before he gets on your campus?
COACH ORGERON: Yeah, I think there's a way to be able to do that, and I think we should be allowed more contact.
I was for the contact in May. I think that would enable us to get a start. It would enable us to get to know the young man. You know, you fly to California, fly to Florida, you spend a bunch of money there. You'd like to be able to talk to the young man. I think there's a reason for that.
But I will say this: you have to compete to get the young men on campus to get an unofficial visit, to get his parents. Our recruiting philosophy is to start on them very early. We have a lot of unofficial visits with our young men on campus.
I believe in getting our young men in camp to find out in a tough situation how they're going to respond. So I really feel that you're on to something, contacts, getting to know the young man is very crucial.
Q. The two Mississippi schools are at the bottom of overall athletic budget in the SEC. How difficult is that to deal with? When is Jerrell Powe going to play for Ole Miss?
COACH ORGERON: Okay, first of all, I can't talk about anybody I didn't sign. I can't talk about any prospects out there. I think that clears up the question.
Second of all, it is what it is. Myself personally, I believe in hard work. I drive to most places I go to in recruiting. I fly coach in recruiting. I'm going to get the job done. There will never be a complaint about what it is.
I believe in competing, making the best out of what it is. You can see what we've done in recruiting. It's just a way of finding a way to get it done.
Q. Can you elaborate more about Schaeffer, Adams, the quarterback deal, the strengths of each of them?
COACH ORGERON: First of all, Brent is a great athlete. I think you can see in the Memphis game, the Alabama game, he's a guy that can change the game. He has some talent. He has a very strong arm want he's a very inconsistent player. He has an inconsistent lifestyle that leads to that.
Seth is not as good an athlete. Seth is always there. He's a leader. He makes great decisions on the line of scrimmage. I think that he can have a great year in a short controlled passing offense. Is he going to be a threat to go deep every down? I don't know that. We'll see.
His mobility is not such that you'd be afraid of as a defensive coach. Maybe sitting back in the pocket, guys may come after him a little more than they would a Brent.
But I think he brings a style that we can be consistent on offense and we can trust him.
Q. After the spring, you talked about the timing of the program, the life of the program, this being the time to have a winning season and go to a Bowl game. Is that still your evaluation? What's been your opinion as you've considered your program in the summer?
COACH ORGERON: You know, you look at last year, the very close games at LSU and Alabama, Georgia and Auburn. Those games could have went either way, and you have a winning season. Just looking at our program, I think we have a lot better team this year. So that's why I said that.
You know, I came here to win knowing that it's going to take time. I believe, looking at our schedule, we're going to be very competitive in each game and we need to find a way to finish and win the games that we're supposed to win, upset a couple of people, go to a Bowl and win it.
Our goal is always going to be to go to the Sugar Bowl and win it. I still believe and I still know that we can attain that goal, it's just going to take a little while.
Q. Talk about the improvement you made last year in special teams, both of your kickers, and are you excited about the rule changes in some of your return guys, what they can do?
COACH ORGERON: We're very excited about Joshua Shene. We have to find a guy that can kick off. Will Moseley was an excellent kickoff guy for us.
With the new rule changes, I think it's going to enable us to have a great return game, which we do have a pretty good return game. But I will challenge our young men that's going to kick off that it's only five yards. I won't make a big deal out of it.
I'm going to challenge our kickoff team to just run a little bit faster. I think the coaching staff or the team that's going to have a great kickoff team is going to have the advantage. We will still choose to defer and play defense when we want to. We will not enable this rule to change our thoughts.
Q. When you were talking about Schaeffer a minute ago, you said he led an inconsistent lifestyle. Could you elaborate what you mean by that.
COACH ORGERON: Just, you know, attending class, meetings, being the leader. Nothing that is any law-breaking activity or anything. He's been on his best behavior. I just think, you know, being the quarterback, you have to have some leadership qualities.
We tell our team everything that you do counts from the time you get up in the morning till the time you go to bed.
Whether it's attending class, attending tutors, whether it's going to weight workouts, how you act in meetings, how you make adjustments, how you treat coaches, everything you do counts.
If you're the quarterback at the University of Mississippi, you have to grade a hundred on all those things to be the type of quarterback that we expect.
Q. You were picked to finish fifth in the west. Is that where you thought you would be picked considering the teams above you?
COACH ORGERON: Let me say this to you, okay? My son is in the World Series, my twin boys. I spend a lot more time with them than reading that stuff, okay?
I don't know where we're picked. I don't know what it is. We have to play the game. Our focus is going to be on our football team. Our focus is going to be on camp, winning our first game. That's the kind of stuff that matters. All that other stuff I really don't pay much attention to.
Q. You had 17 redshirt freshmen I believe last year. Can you tell us which of those 17 you feel are going to step in and make a difference for you this year.
COACH ORGERON: Well, you know, I don't know if I totally understand your question. You're talking about the guys I redshirted that didn't play last year or the guys that played?
Q. That played.
COACH ORGERON: You look at Allen Walker, Markeith Summers, I think those are some of the guys that can help us . Two highly related recruits that come to mind.
Q. In retrospect, do you feel you made a mistake naming Schaeffer the starter the day you signed him? Is he academically eligible right now?
COACH ORGERON: Let me say this to you: The reason I named him the starter is because why I have another quarterback on campus, so it was kind of easy to name him starter (smiling). I wish I wouldn't have done it. I did it for recruiting purposes. That was a ploy, but I probably made a mistake in doing that.
You learn. I made some mistakes as a head coach in my first two years, and hopefully I'm correcting those things. I fully expect Brent to be academically eligible, yes.
Q. He did come in last year believing he was going to be the quarterback. How has he handled the competition this year with Seth? Have you seen him being more motivated this year?
COACH ORGERON: We're fixing to find out. In summer I cannot be with him. I'm not with him in the weight room. I'm not with him in the workouts. They do things on their own. I hear things. But I want them to come in with their coaches very competitive and see how they perform.
I expect him to perform at a high rate, I really do.
Q. Do you have any philosophical opposition to playing two quarterbacks?
COACH ORGERON: I would like not to. I really would like not to do that. I am from the school, like we had at Miami, like we had at USC: He's our guy. I'm not saying we won't do it. If we have to, we will. But I would like the starting quarterback to be the guy.
Q. Tony Fein, your linebacker coming in. What excites you about him?
COACH ORGERON: Well, he's 6'2", 250. He runs around a 4.8 40. That's nothing like Patrick. Patrick runs a 4.38. I think he is a tough, physical man, mature. He's 24 years old. I'll share a story with you I tell everyone. He spent some time in the Army. He was overseas. I told him in recruiting, I said, Playing defense for us is going to be similar to being at war. When the ball is snapped, you get in the backfield of the offense and do what they taught you to do in the Army. Only one difference. When the whistle blows, you got to come back.
I think he's a tough, mature young man. I expect him to have a good year for us. But, again, we have not worked with him. We have not seen him in a practice or nothing. But I think he's going to be able to do the job for us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH ORGERON: Thanks, guys.
End of FastScripts