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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Day 2 Wrap: Ole Miss

Continuing the Day 2 Wraps, here's Ole Miss (Alabama and Georgia are in previous posts):
  • Head coach Houston Nutt on last year's success: "As we went on through the season, our guys really started believing. When you start believin', that's when you start achievin'." Got to love that Southern drawl.
  • Nutt said he has a 600-pound problem. Namely, losing left tackle Michael Oher and defensive tackle Peria Jerry.
  • Great stat here: before Ole Miss upset Florida in Gainesville last year, it had been 727 since the Rebels last won an SEC game. Ladies and gentlemen, the Ed Orgeron era!
  • Quarterback Jevan Snead is going to be good. But Nutt doesn't want him feeling like he has to out-do Tim Tebow. "I want Jevan to keep being Jevan," Nutt said. "I had a good visit with Eli Manning yesterday. Jevan went to Eli's camp with Archie and Peyton. They watch pros, they watch professionals work. It's their work ethic, how you study the game. You just don't show up for practice. You just don't go through the motions. You really attack and work at your craft. To me, that's what Jevan has done I think in the weight room, film study. As far as a (rivalry with Tebow), we won't get caught up in all that. We have an awesome respect for Tim. Jevan has done some good things. You have to remember, Jevan laid out the previous year. So it took him a while. Those first three or four games, he wanted to be Superman every play. Strong arm quarterbacks think they can throw it anywhere. So it took him about four, five games to really get going. I tell you, he's been very, very good."
  • It should be noted that Florida is not on Ole Miss' schedule, so if the teams are going to square off, it will be in Atlanta at the SEC championship game.
  • Ole Miss might be the favorite to win the SEC West when the media's predictions are released tomorrow. The Rebels have never made an SEC title game in Atlanta, the only SEC West team that hasn't. Naturally, there are questions about the team being able to handle the burden of expectations. "As far as the team goes, I don't think we're handling it any differently," Snead said. "People said we weren't going to do well last year. We ignored them and kept working hard. We're going to follow that same formula and keep doing everything we can to improve."
  • Much of that skepticism stems from Nutt, whose best SEC teams at Arkansas (particularly the 2007 squad with future NFL backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones that finished 8-5) always seemed to fall short of expectations. "I think if you go back and look at the times we were picked high, we had some major injuries. Major," Nutt said. "Not as an excuse, but part of it. It's a blow." Regardless of how the season plays out, the Rebels aren't viewing this season as Atlanta-or-bust. "I think this: you're in the toughest conference in America," Nutt said. "I believe that with all my heart. If you look at our teams 1 through 12, very, very tough. Our staff has been to Atlanta before. Been there twice. That's a difficult journey. It's very hard to get there. Things have to go right. ... I wouldn't say, 'OK, Atlanta or it's really a downer.' I don't believe that."
  • How do you beat Florida? Simple. Control turnovers. (OK, maybe it's not that simple, but it's necessary) "We didn't turn the ball over for the most part and we got three turnovers," Nutt said of last year's game. "I think that's key. Win the turnover margin, gives you a chance."
  • Nutt has handled a Heisman candidate before, with McFadden, who was twice the runner-up. He's give Snead, who could play his way into the mix, some advice. "You know, Jevan and I have talked this summer about that, that there's going to be a lot more attention on him. When you play the way you play, at the end of the year, there's going to be attention. It's how you handle the attention. ... I think the biggest thing, learning what we went through with Darren McFadden, there's going to be attention, there's going to be a lot more media, a lot more TV interviewers. There's going to be more and more demands on your time. You have to stay focused and keep priorities priorities. What that means is managing that time. It's school, it's football, and then handle all the extracurricular activities that's gonna happen with all this attention."
  • Snead brushed off any Heisman talk. "I try not to put too much into it. When you're a kid you dream of stuff like that. I've had a rocky road getting to where I am. Just to be mentioned with all the great players and for the Heisman is a great honor for me. At the same time, I'm not focused on that. That's not my main goal. My main goal is to do everything I can to improve so I can help my team get some wins." Very PC answer. He's been trained well.
  • One of Nutt's biggest tasks is to keep a confident team that won six straight to finish last season from getting cocky. "There's nothing wrong with hitting somebody right in the mouth, pick 'em up, get back. You don't have to worry about reeling off your stats. You don't have to worry about, 'Look at me.' There's going to be enough attention on you. There's going to be enough attention. That's one of the reasons why we did this TV, what y'all call a reality show. I don't like using that word. But I want the cameras on 'em. I want them to get used to it. I want them not to flinch. I want them to not draw attention to themselves. 'Hey, look at me.' You don't have to do that. If you're playing hard, making plays, you'll get enough attention."
  • Nutt was part of a goodwill tour of the Middle East this summer. He had great things to say about it: "I had the privilege to go with Mack Brown, Jim Tressel, Troy Calhoun, Jim Grobe, Tommy Tuberville and Rick Neuheisel to Iraq, to Baghdad, to Kuwait, Africa, Ramstein, Germany, where they take our soldiers back. I can't wait to show a video. I have a video I'm going a show our team on August the 9th. I can't wait for them to see it, the work that our people do. They're the same ages really of my football players, a lot of 'em are. To look at our men and women, what they do for our country so we can have freedom, so we can sit here and talk about college football is awesome. I just really respect. We have the best Air Force in the world. We have the best Army in the world. We have the best Navy in the world. We just got great people that are protecting us every day. I just want to thank 'em."

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