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July 23, 2010
THE MODERATOR: We are ready to continue with the head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels, Houston Nutt. Welcome back to Media Days.
COACH NUTT: Thank you. Good to be back. 13th straight year. Good to be here.
Before I get going, I want to wish Bobby Johnson a happy retirement. I thought he was one of the finest coaches in the country. Great integrity. Seemed to me, he always had his guys ready to go, always had a good game plan. Just really appreciate him. Got close to him the last eight, nine years, whatever it was, when he joined. Just think a lot of him, really do.
Ole Miss. We're excited about our program. Last two years, to win Cotton Bowl, to be Cotton Bowl champions, finish in the old stadium and go into Jerry Jones' new stadium, that AT&T Cotton Bowl was something very special for our players. Before we got there, they had four previous losing seasons, hadn't won a conference game, they were so excited about going to that first Bowl. To go into that new Bowl with that stadium and that atmosphere, that arena, was really truly phenomenal. Excited about that.
That's really helped recruiting the last two signing classes, they've been outstanding. But as you look forward to this year, we lost a lot, we lost a lot. Dexter McCluster is the only person in SEC history to rush for a thousand yards, catch the ball for 500.
We had our first Ole Miss receiver to go over a thousand yards in receiving yards, Shay Hodge. He graduated.
Jevan Snead went out early. We didn't anticipate that. About 2500 yards, basically 18 wins in two seasons. Really miss that experience.
John Jerry is playing for the Miami Dolphins. He was very, very good.
Kendrick Lewis playing for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Two cover corners, Marshay Green and Cassius Vaughn are in camps right now.
We've lost a lot. But what I'm excited about starting with the guys I brought today for Media Days. Jerrell Powe, Kentrell Lockett, Bradley Sowell have really been our leaders along with Jonathan Cornell.
I want to start on defense, because our defense gives us a chance in every game because we're strong up the middle. Jerrell Powe, Lawon Scott, Teddy Laurent, Kentrell Lockett, all these guys played in the SEC, played a lot of snaps. I'm proud of their leadership, their work ethic. They've been outstanding.
Then at linebacker behind them, you have guys like Allen Walker, Jonathan Cornell. Jonathan has done a really good job of leading our team, especially our younger linebackers, D.T. Shackelford, Joel Kight, really setting a good example for those guys. So you're proud of that.
Johnny Brown, safety Fon, these guys have played. That gives you hope. I felt better about our secondary after the spring.
Marcus Temple, Jeremy McGee both have played nickel-and-dime packages. And then we had a guy, Charles Sawyer, really step up, a redshirt freshman, step up.
Offensively, a little bit different, because we lost so much. Offensive line I won't go through, you won't recognize their names. Basically we're playing with the guys, we signed except Bradley Sowell. Brought him here today. Much quicker, much more confidence, very excited about him.
But it all comes back to what you want to know about, is the quarterback. I'm really proud that we have Nathan Stanley. Had a really good spring, got better. I thought his decision-making process got better. Improved each time he went out on the field.
Hopefully Raymond Cotton will be back, make a good decision and be back with us. Randall Mackey, we signed. Just got on campus last month. He's a junior college All-American. Hopefully we'll get him going.
But as you can see, there are some holes. Tailback, Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis. Probably don't have that Dexter McCluster, so we're going to have to do that more by committee. I'm proud of our backs. I thought Enrique Davis and Brandon Bolden, thought those guys worked hard, performed well, much quicker. We need a receiver to step up. Markeith Summers, needs to step up. Lionel Breaux from New Orleans, these guys are older, seniors, showing good leadership, but we got to go to work.
Let's open it up to questions.
Q. Coach, you look at Arkansas, Auburn, two programs on the rise in the west. In your mind, where does Ole Miss fit into the Western Division?
COACH NUTT: Well, you know, again, been here 13 times. Most of the time I've been picked towards the bottom. I don't really worry about that. I never have. A lot of people say, You coach better when you're not under such high expectations.
I've always been under low expectations, so most of the time I don't really worry about that. I tell our young men, Doesn't matter. All the polls and Bowls, that's decided on the field, so it doesn't really matter. Doesn't matter where you put us.
I understand somebody told us y'all picked us last. Thank you. That's all right. It's good. It really doesn't matter.
Q. Are you disappointed there's not been more talk about stadium expansion at Vaught-Hemingway? Facilities play a role in recruiting. Can you talk about having one of the smaller stadiums in the conference? Also could you elaborate on Raymond Cotton's situation and his decision there?
COACH NUTT: The stadium, we have good facilities. Our indoor practice facility is very, very good. Just put brand-new turf in there. Locker room, training room, meeting room is all under one roof. I love that. There's a players' lounge. I love gym rats. As a coach's son, I love guys around the building. Our former players, Eli Manning, Terrence Metcalf, Jamarca Sanford, I see those guys in there. I want our guys to see these guys.
To answer your question, we have good facilities. I think that's coming. I really do. It wasn't too long ago where they weren't even half full. When we got there, we had our first sellout last year. I think we're on target to sellout again this year. It will be the first time ever in history for 'Ole Miss to sellout back-to-back seasons.
So I think you have to sellout what you have first on a consistent basis. I think that's coming. We'll keep that noise in there, make it a hostile environment.
As far as Raymond Cotton, as a former quarterback myself, you know, as a freshman, sometimes they get what I call 'freshmanitis,' where they feel like the walls are caving in on them, I should be doing this, doing that.
Then they get to listening to some of their buddies, somebody maybe texting, a blog, all this information about what you should be doing, where you should be playing.
The bottom line is, he's just been there a very, very short time. You're a freshman now. You have a chance to compete for a job. So there's no need to make one of these rash, bad decisions.
So hopefully, his mom and dad are totally behind me. They're pushing him hard to stay. Hopefully we'll get it all corrected and he'll get back onboard and we'll go from there.
Q. You said coming out of spring that your offensive line being young, going to have to have a really good off-season. What have you seen this summer out of them?
COACH NUTT: You know, I don't get to watch them that much. I don't watch them during the summer.
But during the spring, when I do get those 15 practices, the one thing that I saw was the attitude of, 'they want to.' They had good listening skills. They want to compete. They want to get better. Bradley Sowell really improved. I thought Bobby Massie came on. Those are two tackles on the edges that give us a chance because they played.
What concerns you, keeps you up at night, never had a center snap in the SEC, the inside folks. Makes me think of that story after the first week of spring, Evan Swindall was a gray shirt kind of that first of practice. After the end of the first week, we're walking off together, I said, How did it go today?
He said, Well, Coach, are all the nose guards in the SEC, are they all as big as Jerrell Powe?
I told him, Pretty much. But I said, You're going against one of the best. Keep your head up, keep going.
That's the kind of thing we've had. We got better. Towards the end, we got some plus-yards plays going where Powe wasn't in the backfield every play.
To answer your question, I feel like they've gotten better. We need these 29 opportunities to continue on. We've got to get much, much better.
Q. Momentum-wise, how important is it, you have four of your first five games in Oxford, to gain some momentum before you play Alabama, Arkansas, and Auburn?
COACH NUTT: You hit a real key point. Schedule is really in our favor early on. We got to take advantage of it. Jacksonville State, though, you could say, Oh, Jacksonville State, but Jacksonville State had Florida State beat. They have real athletes. Jack Crowe does a tremendous job for them.
It's not as easy as if -- I want to make sure our players understand, Just don't look at the schedule and look at it like maybe one of your relatives are looking at it, like, okay, one, two, three, four, five, six. You should win the first six.
Hold on now. Let's get these practices going, let's get better, let's get the snap from the center. We got a lot of work to do.
But you're exactly right. Got to take advantage of the schedule, especially early.
Q. On a 1 to 10 scale, how important is football to the identity of your school, Ole Miss?
COACH NUTT: It's hard to put a number on it. I know this, it's very important. You listen to our fans, who I just love their passion. I love their attitude towards football.
If you were to walk in The Grove before our game, you would say 10, because it's one of the best atmospheres in America before a football game. I've been trying to coach 'em for two years to make sure you leave The Grove and come to our stadium now and get in there, get in there early. They've done a much better job last year.
But I would say it's really passion, real enthusiasm. I'm just really proud of our fans, our people that support us.
Q. Is Randall Mackey a player that you guys would like to contribute somewhere else on the field if he can't make it on the field as a quarterback?
COACH NUTT: Probably so. We're going to give him a lot of attention at quarterback, especially if Raymond decides to leave. That will really boost the package. We'll really have to get him going quickly.
But to answer your question, you know, we had plans -- we want to put the best athletes on the field. He's one that can make things happen. He probably could play some wide receiver. He's been an outstanding quarterback. He was an All-American junior college quarterback. He has escape-ability. He can make things happen. Fun to watch.
We're excited about Randall, looking forward to working with him. He'll start out, though, mainly at quarterback.
Q. The 2011 Chick-Fil-A Classic kickoff game, it hasn't been booked yet. Would you make a case for moving the home game with Boise State to Atlanta, if you could, for the attention?
COACH NUTT: I'd like to play in that game. I'd like to come down there. Right now, I think our fans are all pumped up about that game. I had to remind them that we have a season now - not next year, now. I probably would like to leave everything like it is. But please give us a rain check. We want to come play. We want to come play down there.
Q. What does Dave Rader's experience bring to your staff? How are the coordinator positions going to work for you?
COACH NUTT: Dave Rader brings so much experience to the table. I've been so impressed with him. I've always watched him afar from the sideline. When I was at Oklahoma State, he was at Tulsa. We got to be very good friends from recruiting, to seeing each other different places, clinics. Just a quality, quality person. Couldn't be better timing to have a guy like that with two young quarterbacks. You have to get ready in this league. Just been awesome. So intelligent. Very, very good with teaching.
If you go back and did a study on his quarterbacks, Gus Frerotte, Brodie Croyle, T.J. Rubley, his quarterbacks always play good. He knows where to go with the ball. They take care of it. Good manager of the game. All those things.
As far as coordinating all that thing, Mike Marcus has been with me for 18 years. One of the finest offensive line coaches in America. Basically, Dave Rader, Mike Marcus, and myself, with the rest of the crew, we put together a game plan. I've been calling plays for the last -- since I got to Ole Miss. That doesn't necessarily mean it's just me. We really do a thorough study on first-and-10 starters, third-and-seven. Really, anybody could call the game.
To me, it's fun being in there, being part of it, getting in there with those young men. To me, it's the funnest time there is. SEC Saturday competing, there's nothing like it.
But from James Shibest to Ron Dickerson, Derrick Nix, we're all involved in it.
Q. A lot has been made about the search for Ole Miss' next mascot.
COACH NUTT: The next mascot? You know what, I haven't been worried about that too much. We're Ole Miss Rebels. That's what I go by. There's, again, a lot of passion. Our students are going to handle that. I'm going to let them handle that.
What I do know, we're the Ole Miss Rebels and they're going to pick a good one.
Q. Tell us about how Jerrell Powe has progressed since the first time you saw him.
COACH NUTT: Jerrell Powe is a wonderful story. To me, that's what college football is all about. What you love about him is his perseverance. Anybody could have gave up. Anybody could have stopped after the first time or second time or third time when he couldn't get in school. But this guy keeps going, keeps going.
When I first met him, he was 383 pounds. He's 316. He has a real drive. He has drive for excellence, whether it be in the classroom, on the football field, the weight room. This guy is a real leader. That's why he's here today. I just love that guy. I think he's going to be a real impact player this year. Hopefully he just continues to get better and better.
I can't explain to you the difference from the first time I met him fundamentally to where he is now. Big-time player.
Q. This time last year, lots of expectations for your club all over the place. Can you talk about the pitfalls that those kind of expectations have?
COACH NUTT: That's a good question. That's a really good question.
What you really want to guard against is you want to embrace it, but at the same time, you got to be ready to help your team if the bubble pops. The bubble bursted on us in South Carolina Thursday night. It was a very difficult schedule to go from Saturday to Thursday night, especially no matter where you play in the SEC, each stadium is the best in the country, the atmosphere. South Carolina is awesome on Thursday night.
When that bubble popped, that's where you better have some 'Dr. Feel' in ya. You better be ready to go, to help your team, because expectations are so high. Fans have this vision that you're going straight to Atlanta. You got to be ready to adjust. We all want to go there.
Ole Miss, we've never had one team go to the Atlanta championship game. That's where we want to go. That's where we want to get to. One day we're gonna be there. But it's very, very difficult.
But to answer your question, I would just say, Hey, embrace it. It's awesome. But you got to get ready, though, in case there's a little detour along the way.
Q. Can you talk about your decision to bring Jerrell Powe here, a guy that some people didn't think should even get in college. Today he's here speaking to all these media. That's a pretty big jump.
COACH NUTT: Well, because I've been with him now for two years. He's a class, class guy. He's got a heart bigger than Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. He loves Ole Miss. He loves his school. He's going to be a tremendous ambassador no matter what happens in the next 5, 10, 15, 20 years. He loves Ole Miss. He loves his teammates. There is no question in my mind he could stand right here in front of you and answer whatever you want to ask him. He deserves to be here.
That was really a no-brainer for me.
Q. What do you tell your players about what they post online or Facebook, these various social networking sites?
COACH NUTT: That's one of the very first things when we have our first meeting, when freshmen get on campus, that you got to realize your name. It's your name that's so important. Everybody can see you through Facebook, what you put out there. It's about your name, it's about our name, it's about your family name, our family name, Ole Miss. We want you representing us the right way.
We tell them to be extremely cautious of what they put out there, the words they use. I had to, in fact, talk to a couple of our players last year. I didn't like some of the things that were on there. They said, Coach, it's the name of a song.
I said, I don't like the name of the song then. It's just that deal.
We're in a different world. Everybody can get to know you pretty quick. You need to be very, very cautious.
Q. You said starting off with defense, with your remarks, you feel that defense gives your team a chance to win every game this season. Realistic to think that unit can be better as a unit than it was last year?
COACH NUTT: I think it can. I know we lost a lot. I know what you're thinking, because the secondary, two cover corners, safety like Kendrick Lewis with the Kansas City Chiefs right now. I know what you're thinking.
After spring, I have a lot of confidence in Tyrone Nix. One of the best defensive coordinators in the country. They love playing for him. We're going to play hard. If we can stay healthy, I think we can, I think we can be.
Q. What do you think about playing Jack Crowe, a guy that hired you at Arkansas? Dan Mullen, he doesn't say Ole Miss, he says 'that school to the north.' What is your take on that?
COACH NUTT: Jack Crowe, I have a tremendous respect for. Actually, gotten very, very close with Jack. We've stayed in touch after our years at Arkansas. Probably two, three years there, we didn't have much of a relationship. But after that, we talked periodically.
I really don't know how that game came about. I really don't. I don't do the schedule. John Hartwell and Pete Boone make the schedule. That's how that came about. I was surprised.
But I have an awesome respect for Coach Crowe. He's done a tremendous job down there. He's really turned that program around. Just a good man and does a good job.
What was your other question?
Q. Dave Mullen says 'that school to the north.'
COACH NUTT: I don't know. Somebody keeps telling me about that. I don't know too much about that (smiling).
Q. Could you talk a little bit about Kentrell, what he brings to your defense, the importance he plays? Could you also talk about the offensive line, what you're expecting from them?
COACH NUTT: Kentrell, if he walked in right now, you'd say that's what a defensive end looks like. 6'6", close to 255, 260. He might even have more weight than that, maybe 265. He's a guy that brings real energy to our defense. He can really put pressure on a quarterback. He can rush the passer. He's been a play-maker. He helped block the field goal extra point against Florida in the Swamp. He's a play-maker. This guy is a real play-maker.
I love his attitude. I love what he brings to us in the locker room. His attitude is contagious. He's a winner. He knows how to do it the right way. I'm glad he's here with us today.
As far as the offensive line, again, that's our biggest concern, what keeps you up at night. It's the middle. It's the center. It's the guards. They haven't played. Feel good about our tackles because they have played.
But after the spring, I know in my heart, I know we can be a good football team. They gotta pick up right where they left off. Coach Markuson, I have a lot of confidence in what he can do with these guys. I feel like they'll get there. It's just that they're very young and inexperienced.
Q. Boise State was brought up. It was used in the same sentence as moving that game to Atlanta possibly. It's a true testament to yourself that Boise State is the team that it is, that we've seen this past decade. Talk about your experience at Boise State and do you think you pretty much laid the foundation to get that thing going?
COACH NUTT: No, I appreciate Gene Bleimeyer, the athletic director that gave me a chance. I was at Murray State. They just moved up to Division I. When I went out there for the interview, I knew they had real passion. The people, the fans, they love football in Boise, Idaho. Beautiful place, mountains, everything. Yes, they do have blue turf. It was an awesome experience.
But as far as us having that much to do with it, Boise State, if you check the record, they've won a lot of games, even when they won AA, before now that they've taken off. I don't know if we had that much to do with it. I think we did maybe help with a few things. Just had one year there. Pokey Allen did a very good job. He had passed away when I got there. They had a bad season the year before. Then they make that move to Division I. Gene Bleimeyer added seats to the stadium. So the atmosphere was just awesome.
So you could see it. You could really see this thing is going to be very special. You could see it coming. Coach Peterson has just done an awesome job.
Q. Last year with the expectations and everything, you still had a great season. Were there any things that you saw scheme-wise maybe offensively or defensively during play that you didn't execute on that you feel like you can improve on this year and still have a good season despite the loss of your talent from last year's team?
COACH NUTT: Absolutely. I think it always starts with protecting the most important thing that you have, and that's the ball. Win the turnover margin. We had 20 interceptions last year. That and the fumbles, you're putting your defense in a very difficult situation.
We can always do better with that. You play good defense, you cover kicks, you take care of the ball, you got a chance to be in every ballgame and win it, especially in the fourth quarter. That's the main thing.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thank you.
COACH NUTT: Thank you.
End of FastScripts