We are excited for it to be game week. Obviously this is our
first game together. We are pumped up and pleased with the way camp went. Our
guys competed. We had a very tough camp. As we have a saying here, `The cream
rose to the top' at most positions.
I would also like to add that our thoughts and prayers are
with the families of any of our football players and other athletic department
personnel from the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in the path of
the Hurricane. We hope that they are safe. They are very important to us, and we
hope that everything goes well for them.
We are very excited going into the season opener against
Memphis for our football team and the Ole Miss family. The most important thing
for us to do is establish who we are and the type of program we are bringing to
During camp I was really pleased with the development of the
offense under coach (Noel) Mazzone. Our running back position has been improving
a lot lately with Jamal Pittman, Brandon Jacobs and [db]Mico
McSwain[/db]. We have let Alan Abrams back on the football team under
circumstances, which I believe he will follow.
Our offensive line has progressed well. George DeLeone has
done a fine job of working with the offensive line. That was a question mark
going into camp. Hopefully this week, we'll get David Traxler back,
which will help us out.
The wide receiver position is very strong. They have come into
their own. Matt Lubick has done a great job of coaching them. We have three
tight ends that are able to play, and I feel good about that.
As far as the quarterback position, we thought that
we would be naming a starter today. Due to the competition level of [db]Robert
Lane, who has come on very strong, especially in the last scrimmage, we are
going to keep it open until right before the game. We will go into the game with
one starting quarterback. We feel as a staff, that both quarterbacks could play
for us. In the event one guy is not doing the job, we feel comfortable putting
the other guy in.
Defensively, we have three seniors returning up front. Michael
Bozeman had an excellent camp. We named Michael one of the team captains.
He is an excellent young man. He is very representative of our defense, tough
and strong in the middle. On offense we named Tre' Stallings as a
permanent team captain. I wanted to name two linemen, because we have to be
physical and strong on the offensive and defensive lines. Those two guys
represent our program well. McKinley Boykin is coming along. He has not
progressed at the speed with which I was hoping. His knee injury is not 100
percent, so we put Jeremy Garrett, who has had an excellent camp,
behind him. He will be in the rotation. Jayme Mitchell has come along
at defensive end. LaMark Armour will back him up. Corvelli
Haynes has earned a starting spot at the `Leo' position. He has become an
excellent pass rusher. Chris Bowers is going to back Haynes up. We are
going to be strong on the line.
At the linebacker position, we are excited about Patrick
Willis and the rest of the linebackers we have. We have built some depth
there with our young guys. A guy who has come along who you may see play this
year, is LeRon King. We moved him from defensive end to linebacker.
In the kicking game, Will Moseley has shown that he
can perform all three duties. He's not going to perform all three duties. Matt
Hinkle will perform some of the kicking. I am really pleased with the
system that Chris Rippon has put in. He's an excellent special teams coach. We
have our best players at the best spots available, and we are looking for
exciting things on special teams.
Looking at Memphis, they return 10 starters on their defense
with Joe Lee Dunn. They can present a lot of problems with their blitzes. They
are very effective with their blitzes, so we need to be able to protect our
quarterback and run the football. On offense it starts with DeAngelo Williams,
who is an excellent player. He is one of the best we will face all year. He's an
all-purpose back, who in addition to running the football for 1,948 yards last
year, caught a lot of passes in the backfield and some reverses, which creates a
lot of mismatches. He is a very good football player. Maurice Avery, their
leading receiver coming back is a good player as well as a good blocker. We
don't know a lot about the quarterback (Patrick Byrne) since he was a kicker
last year. We still expect him to be ready. They have four new offensive
linemen. Tommy West has done a great job with the Memphis program, and we are
looking forward to the game on Sept. 5.
Q: You said the offensive line is
progressing, but there have been a number of injuries. Is there anybody you
expect back other than Traxler?
A: Darryl Harris is questionable. We are going to push him, but I don't
think it will happen. Andrew Wicker will be back. I expect him to
be back at practice on Wednesday.
Q: Does not naming a starting quarterback today alter your
A: It may alter practice a little bit, but we are
going to continue the same way we've been doing things. I see this as a
positive. We like to push things to the end here. I thought it was going to be
very obvious, but I have to credit Lane for what he's done. However, I also have
to say Micheal Spurlock has gone out everyday and competed well. It's a
very close race in the coaching staff's eyes.
Q: You said earlier in camp, that the freshmen running
backs were going to play. Where do you stand on that and how much will they
A: We moved Kendrick Perry to fullback, so
it's a little late for him to play in the first game. It's more of an assignment
thing with Kendrick, but eventually he and Antonio Turner will play.
They aren't ready to play right now.
Q: What exactly has Lane done to make this a race?
A: Every time he goes in, he moves the offense. I feel
good with him out there. I like his stature and his demeanor. Mazzone has
been impressed with how he has learned the offense. Obviously not being there
much in the spring hurt him. His grasp of the offense, the way he's picking up
his reads and the way he is throwing the football are all a lot better.
Q: How is your family and are they out of the path of the
A: They are currently at my house, and the gumbo is
cooking. Thank you for asking. We were concerned for all the families involved
last night and we wish them the best.
Q: What makes (DeAngelo) Williams such a talented back?
A: He's really low to the ground. He breaks a lot of
tackles. He's in the perfect scheme for the type of running back he is. He
usually makes the first guy miss. He's extremely quick. He has great lower body
strength and good balance.
Q: Have you changed your practice schedule with the
A: Not at all. We are practicing inside in our
beautiful indoor practice facility. I don't think we'll feel the weather any.
Q: Memphis ran a lot of misdirections and trick plays the
last couple of years. What do you have to do defensively against that?
A: Those are a matter of recognition. You cannot sit
there and play the reverse or miss direction or you'll miss tackling DeAngelo
Williams. It's a matter of recognition and having the right calls at the right
Q: You mentioned that Robert and Micheal could both play
Monday. What kind of rotation do you expect that to be?
A: If I could correct that, I think they both could
play. We will name a starting quarterback right before the game, and we expect
that guy to go the entire game. But, if something should happen, we feel good
about putting the other guy in the game. That's the approach that we are taking.
Q: You are playing a quarterback that's never been in the
game before. Do you view that as an advantage?
A: It's an advantage if he doesn't play well. If he
plays well and does some things that I wasn't prepared for, it's their
advantage. It can work both ways. We don't know what type of quarterback he is
and what plays he's strong at. It makes it hard to defend him. It will probably
take us the first and second quarter to figure out what they are doing with him.
Q: What are the keys to containing a back like DeAngelo
A: You have to tackle him. You have to be in the right
spots at the right times. We see people playing the right defenses against him,
but he makes them miss. Players are not making the plays that they are supposed
Q: Do you see any similarities in DeAngelo and Reggie Bush?
A: Sometimes. Reggie is probably faster than DeAngelo,
but DeAngelo is a lot stronger than Reggie. He is a different style of runner.
He can get it up inside and make you miss. His lower body strength is a lot
stronger than Reggie.
Q: Talk about the linebacking corps, how they've progressed
and how important it will be for them to play well against DeAngelo.
A: There are a lot of perimeter plays and a lot of
reverses that they are responsible for. Plus, DeAngelo will get on the edge. By
that, I mean he'll cut back and they'll have to make a tackle in the open field.
It's going to be really important for them to be able to make a one-on-one
tackle on DeAngelo. Garry Pack and has done a tremendous job. Dontae
Reed has had an okay camp. We are expecting a big game from Willis.
Robinson has had a good camp. He wore down a little at the end. Quentin
Taylor has really come up, so those guys are going to rotate at the `Will'
Q: You didn't mention Brandon Jenkins on the
defensive front. Has he dropped off some, and two, is Abrams eligible to play
against Memphis?A: Abrams is eligible to play the
first game provided he practices well. Jenkins has dropped off a little bit. We
are still going to play Brandon. He has to have a good week of practice. We are
trying to find out if Brandon is more suitable to play for us outside or inside.
Q: Robert Russell was getting a lot of snaps
for you. Where does he fit in the mix?
A: Physically he's ready to play, mentally he's not.
We may be able to get him a couple of snaps, but Patrick is going to have to
play most of the snaps. Hopefully we can spell Patrick once in awhile with him,
but Robert's not ready to run our whole defense yet.
Q: Has Robert Hough maintained first-team at tight
A:Lawrence Lilly is moving ahead. We'll find
out this week. Lilly has done a tremendous job in camp. He got moved down and
with the competition, he's coming up. We may need a bigger tight end there than
Hough is. All three of those guys should be considered starters. We'll name a
starter at the end of the week, and it may be Lilly. We'll have to see the way
the game plan according to what we want to run on offense.
Q: You played seven freshmen at USC. I count five right
here. Is there anything you can say to freshmen to settle their nerves and how
long does it take them to get adjusted to the speed of the game.
A: Hopefully our practices have simulated toughness
and speed with a little bit of adversity. We'll settle them down. I'll probably
tell them something funny right before they go in. I'll put my hand around them
and tell them I know they are going to do the right thing when I put them in
there. You just have to coddle them a little more.
Q: Talk about Gary Riggs.
A: He's coming along. He's on second team right now.
He's a really good athlete. He's exactly what we thought when we recruited him.
The more he learns the defense, the more we can trust him back there to be able
to play the deep ball, the more he's going to play.
Q: Talk about Kendrick.
A: We still want Larry to make plays for us. He has
had an inconsistent camp. He had a very good spring. He missed a ball down there
on the goal line during the last scrimmage, which was disappointing. He has come
along the last couple of days. He has to have an outstanding week.
Q: What about Mico McSwain?
A: Mico needs to get some snaps. We need to find some
plays for him in our offense. He's explosive and very quick. He gives us an
extra dimension on offense. We are going to fit him into our game plan.
Q: Is there any clarification on who'll be kicking off and
kicking field goals, etc. or do you still need this week to determine that?
A: Moseley will be the kickoff guy. He will kick our
long field goals, and Hinkle will kick the short field goals. As of right now,
Moseley will be our punter.