Nov. 8, 2010
"Well, obviously a dominating team win. I was real proud of our football team for how we came out and our approach to the game. I told them beforehand it was time we came out and made our mark and quit making excuses for our youth and inexperience, and they did that.
"You look at some of the big things in the game, first of all defensively -- five turnovers and five sacks. I don't care who you play, when you have that kind of stat line you're probably going to have a lot of success.
"On offense, it was a lot of big plays. We averaged 10 yards an attempt, which is phenomenal, and 50 points in the game, and we were good on third downs. Just a real productive performance on offense. Good kickoff coverage, field goals. A lot of good things in the game.
"But in any game, and like I told our team, there are lessons in wins and losses. You can't feel too good when you win or get too down when you lose because we had a lot of problems in the game too. Our pass protection was a struggle all night, and our efficiency in the run game continues to be well below standard and we've got to get better at that.
"On defense, we really struggled playing man-to-man coverage, and you saw it the first drive. Early in the game, we had to just quit playing man because we couldn't cover their guys. Our run fits weren't consistent enough, and that's why they popped a few runs. And tackling in space needs to get better. I think we gave up three plays over 25 yards again. It's not going to bode well the better offense you play.
"Personnel-wise, let me just give you the rundown. (Zach) Fulton is doubtful for this game. He's got an ankle injury. It used to be ankles were day-to-day. I don't know. We put them in big boots now, and you don't see them for awhile.
"It's really hurt us up front. We haven't had any continuity all year. We've had a lot of progress individually with our offensive linemen. But you go through the season, we've played with two left tackles, three left guards, three centers and two right guards. And it's hard to get continuity. It hurt us the other night when Fulton goes down, we have to pop (Jarrod) Shaw over and he hasn't played right guard in a long time. Then you've got a new center next him. We were starting to get settled in there on the right side with Zach and Ja'Wuan (James), then everything gets sent for a loop. Those guys have to work together, and it's just hard. It's challenging.
"Luke (Stocker) is day-to-day. He had a concussion. So it's one of those deals, you've got to test him every day to see if he's recovered.
"Our usuals, no new news on them -- (Cody) Pope, (Ben) Martin and (Marlon) Walls. Daniel Lincoln, there's a good chance he may kick this week. We'll find out probably more on Tuesday.
"(Naz) Oliver's full-go, but he's really not ready so even though it looks good on paper - man, he can really help you in the secondary - I think it's unrealistic to think that he will. (Marsalis) Teague is day-to-day. We need Teague to be back. We'll find out more tomorrow. There's no new news on Art (Evans). He's still working on clearing up his stuff. We anticipate him clearing up his stuff. But I don't know how long that's going to take.
"Ole Miss, it's a big game for both teams. Both teams have probably not had the wins they both wanted or expected coming into the year. There's a lot of implications here in November for both squads. We're going to get their best shot, I know. They've scored a lot of points and run for a lot of yards. That's the thing that frightens you the most from our defensive standpoint.
"We haven't really done a very good job of keeping points down. That's going to be a challenge. They lead the conference in punt returns. That's helped them on field position. And the big thing you notice on their defense is they've gotten 25 sacks. Their two interior guys, I would say, are playing as well as anybody in the league, the two defensive tackles. Down-to-down, game-to-game, play-to-play, they are absolutely relentless and disruptive. I'm sure they will be ready for this game when they watch the film. Big challenge for us, and what we have to do is continue to build on some of the success we had last week. I'm sure our team will be energized because of it. We'll see how we do.
"You guys take it away."
You're giving the team the day off from practice today?
"It's another one of those, you know, we have a six-game stretch in a row. At some point in the middle, you want to give them the Monday, so it kind of fits with what we did early in the year."
You said you were waiting for one of the QBs to prove they could be the starter. Did Tyler (Bray) do that, and how do you evaluate it knowing you went up against a weak secondary?
"It's hard to say he didn't do enough. To make a statement, that'd be kind of a ridiculous comment by me because he had a phenomenal first half. I made the statement last night, it pains me a little bit to say he played well because he's a freshman and went in there in his first game. But he played really well. He made some great throws. He avoided the rush really well. He got rid of the ball and took some hard shots.
"If you didn't watch the game, you'd think it was probably easy. We had them mismatched on the back end, but up front we didn't block them. So guys were in his face all night. That was good to see. It wasn't like he was back there all day, and I think that's a good evaluation getting to your point of how do you evaluate them. I think it was a decent evaluation for what lies ahead.
"But you have to keep it in perspective. It's one game. One game has never made a quarterback. It's never made a team. And it certainly won't in this case. We go week-to-week, and that's all we can do with Tyler."
Will you give him more first-team practice snaps at this point?
"We'll make that decision tomorrow, but he's getting adequate reps. We've got to keep repping Matt (Simms). We're going to need Matt. The minute you think you don't, you're going to be in a game and, `OK, let's go.'
"I'm going to tell you, Matt's been great. We take for granted a lot how things like this affect a young man. We take it for granted even in the professional ranks. We just become so -- I don't want to use the word `insensitive' because it's a soft term, and we're talking football here. But when guys get moved, it's hard.
"I was proud of Matt. Matt was great when he went in the game. His demeanor was great. He was supportive. And that's not something you should take for granted. That's a hard thing."
Over course the course of your career are you one who likes to split first-team quarterback snaps pretty evenly? We were talking to Coach Chaney about that, and he said about 90 percent first-team guy and then the other gets the rest of them. He said you're more 50-50.
"I think what he's referring to is the reps with the twos. So when the two line goes in and two receivers and everything, some people just keep repping the first team quarterback. It's kind of the NFL model. In the NFL, the backup gets zero reps. He doesn't get any reps.
"To me, college is more player development. I think there's a greater chance you play a second quarterback in college. It's rare for a starting quarterback to go through the season without getting dinged up, hurt, doesn't perform well, something. So you better keep the other guy developing. Plus, because quarterback takes so much development, they need the reps. We're going to continue to rep Matt. The way we've been doing it, I've just been doing it the same for the last 10 years short of the NFL time. I think it's important.
"I think that's what Jim was referring to. I don't know. I'll have to ask him."
Do you think Tyler has done a better job with his film study lately, or has he been good about that all the way?
"I think he's taken a lot better approach week-to-week in understanding a game plan, that sort of thing. I still don't know if he knows what coverage the other team plays. It drives Coach (Darin) Hinshaw crazy, but it doesn't bother me at all. He just sees an open guy or a covered guy and knows where to place the ball. I'm good with that. I think we can over-coach things sometimes.
"I think that will come in time. The last month was when we started seeing a lot more professional approach to the week, maybe that's a better way to say it, as far as how he practiced and how he studied the game plan so he could go out and have a good practice. Understand where the other guys are supposed be lined up, not just take a snap and wing it."
What was the catalyst? Did you have a meeting with him or anything?
"Yeah, I've been having them for eight months. Those didn't help. Eventually, I think what happens is, it's called maturity and everybody does it at a different pace. Some guys it takes them three years. It doesn't mean he's where he needs to be. So let's don't think he's in there grinding away. But it just means he acknowledges it might be a little more difficult than what it was like in high school."
Does he see the field well? Is that one of his strengths?
"Yes, I think he's just an instinctive thrower. He has a good feel for the rush and where the breakdowns are starting to occur. He has an ability to get rid of it quickly, which you need to have when you play quarterback to avoid negative plays. I think he's got a good feel for where to place the ball. There's an old saying, it's not the coverage they're in, it's how they play the coverage. So many people get caught up in throw it to that guy in this coverage, throw it this guy in that coverage. It really doesn't matter because when you play good teams they're all covered at some point. But it's where to do you place the ball to give your receivers a chance. You saw a lot of those balls the other night where it looks like receivers are making really good plays, but it makes it easy for them to make that play because you're placing the ball away from the defender's leverage."
The players seemed really excited about how Tyler did. Why do you think the players were so impressed with what Tyler did Saturday?
"I think it has to do with probably the same reason a lot of the fans are excited -- because we scored a lot of points. Anytime you score a lot of points, it brings a lot of hope for where we're headed. But I also caution them all to not get too excited, because like I said it's one game. But it's fun to sit there and you put 40 in a half. It's fun to watch. It was fun to watch on the sidelines. It energized the players. I think it energized the receivers. They were running faster and faster as the game went on.
"But we out-personneled them too. I'm just a little cautious to be sitting here saying we're going to be slinging it on everybody."
It seems like athletes are really impressed when they see another athlete do something they think is special. The way he throws the ball, this instinctive thing he seems to have, does that impress them, you think?
"I think it does. I think they've seen it in practice a lot. But now two weeks in a row, we've seen some pretty good things in the game from that standpoint. I think the players saw it last week. I know the receivers did against South Carolina. A couple of those plays were really good plays. There were some things he did this week that they see it.
"It's like anything, the more you see it over time. The challenge is going to be can Tyler keep his focus and perform like that every week."
How have you observed the relationship between Tyler and Matt, and how important is that to the success of this team?
"I don't think they have to be best friends, and they're not. But the relationship has been good and it's been supportive. I think it's hard anytime. It's not just the quarterback. We've had a lot of personnel changes, and it's hard on a guy. Then they get in the meeting room, it's just different. On the practice field, it's different looking around. It's different at the dining hall. It's just different. Then you get settled in and you get over that.
"I think the important thing we've all got to remember is the success we have on the field doesn't define you as a man. It doesn't. You can still be Matt Simms, and the confident, outgoing, personable guy you are. And he will be, and I told him that. Whether he has the success he wants on the field or whether he's not getting the opportunity that he wants, it shouldn't define who he is as a man. And it shouldn't define his relationship with his teammates. And I don't think it will."
Do you feel like you're still too far removed from a bowl game to bring it up as motivation, and what about the seniors on this team who think of that as a source of motivation?
"I'd like to get motivated by saying let's win an SEC game before we talk about a bowl game. That ought to motivate us more because we haven't. We're 0-5. I'm not going to sit here and say that nobody should think about the bowl game because that's human nature. But we're not going to get to a bowl game if we don't beat Ole Miss. That's all our mind should be on. I think the biggest thing is let's go out there and put together a complete game against an SEC opponent. We haven't done that."
You talked about Tyler having an even-keel personality. Do you like that about him, or do you wish there were moments where he kind of got fired up?
"There are no perfect quarterbacks. There are no perfect personalities. I think that that personality is a strength in a lot of ways because he doesn't get fazed. Now, it drives you nuts sometimes.
"Alabama week, Jimmy (Stanton) says, `Tyler come over here before you go to the media, we need to --' `I'm good, man. I'm all right. I got this.'
"I think he's one of those guys -- he's got a lot of confidence, and that's a great quality. Now, what comes with that is sometimes guys like that have to experience some heavy failures to learn, if that makes sense. Even though we say don't throw it when they do that, it's going to take an interception for a touchdown for him to really learn it. Does that make sense with the personality? That's usually what very confident players are like. That, `Hey, I know you told me that, but I'm not your average Joe.' Then they do it, and they say, well maybe I can't do that one. So they learn through experiences."
If Marsalis, Art, Naz, none of them can give you anything, what options are you down to at this point?
"I don't know. That's kind of what we were last week. That's what we are right now. That's it. I'm hoping Teague will be back. We just don't have a lot of guys. We traveled C.J. Fleming. We're just thin. I don't know what to tell you. Anthony (Anderson) played a lot more than he has. We're just thin. We don't have a lot of guys back there."
Did you see improvement in the zone? Does that put pressure on the front seven to do more to ease the back end?
"Not always. What it does is, it really prevents you from pressuring more than you'd like. If you play man-free, you still need a good pass rush with the front four. But where it really worries you is if you're going to dial up some blitzes.
"If the man-on-man stuff scares you and then you blitz and don't get there, it hamstrings you a little bit when you're scared to death. I don't know what else to say. We just struggle at playing man-to-man. You've got to have a lot of guys who can run and cover, and we don't really have that on our team right now."
Are you seeing an improvement or progress out of Montori Hughes?
"Minimal. I think he's got a lot of willingness. But I'm going to say what I said about him several weeks ago, which is we probably all put too high of expectations on him coming in here just because of how he looks. He's just a long way to go being a good football player and playing with the right kind of technique and discipline to where he can be a factor in the game. Right now, he's just not doing it consistently. He's not where he's supposed to be a lot of times."
Do you think he's completely bought into the system you're trying to teach or do you think that's part of it?
"I don't think there's a buy-in issue. I think he likes our program, and I think he believes in our program. I just don't think he understands it well enough. He's got a lot of work to do on that end."
That being said, Malik Jackson and what he's been able to do this year. He could have gone somewhere else. Can you imagine not having him?
"Imagine not having (Brent) Brewer, (Darin) Gooch. A lot of these guys. (Tyler) Bray. There's a lot of guys if you say, `What if we didn't have him?' that we picked up here this past year.
"But Malik's been just a tremendous boost for us inside. We need more of him. He was very disruptive in the game. He got three tackles for loss, a couple of sacks, a lot of tackles and an interception. So I hope he can keep playing that way."
He said he was in the wrong place on the interception.
"I don't think that's right. It was `hole' coverage. When did he tell you that, after the game?"
Just a few minutes ago.
"He told you today? They must have corrected it for him. I didn't know that. The defensive coaches didn't tell me that. They must have kept it a secret when we watched the film together. I said, `This hole coverage works really good,' and they go, `Yeah.' I'll be getting with (Justin) Wilcox after this one."
Are you really results-oriented or flexible in terms of whether a player is doing everything exactly right in terms of the way he's instructed? If he ad-libs a little bit and gets results, how do you feel about that?
"I think you have to earn that right if that makes sense. It's a little bit what I alluded to a couple of weeks ago that got a lot of attention. My analogy wasn't very good.
"What I was saying was, on every team and at every position there are points in the game where you have to have creativity and initiative, but it's got to be within the framework of the defense if that makes sense, or the offense.
"Never in a game, if they did exactly what we told them to do, would it work. Because there are always minor adjustments and some creativity that you have to put into it that every good player does. But it's got to be within the framework of the system. If you have an understanding of the system, and you understand what you're doing, the risk you're taking and why you're taking it, then most times it doesn't hurt the team. Every now and then it will.
"And then, what goes with that is, how special a player are you? When you are making a lot more good plays for us by doing this and not giving up a lot of plays, then we have a lot more flexibility. But when you're jumping around 10 times and nine times it's killing us and one time it helped us, then we've got to get back to the system. I didn't give you a black-and-white answer. It's relative to your understanding of the system and operating within the framework and then what is the production that's resulting from you doing this."
One of the positive results from going to a bowl game is you get extra practices. In college basketball, even if you don't get into the tournament, they allow you to practice until the tournament's over. Why don't they do that in football?
"I don't know. We'd probably have a mutiny changing that rule. I wish we could, man. I don't know. That an NCAA issue. I'll be honest with you, I didn't realize you could do that in basketball until last year when Coach Summitt had her team out there. I'm kind of looking around going, `Isn't that a violation?' I'm going to do this every year if we don't make it. But that's when I learned. I think it's great thing, but I would suspect they'll talk about safety and school work and the same issues."
"It's probably never been proposed. I don't know what kind of support it would get or not."
Would you support it?
"Yeah; doesn't bother me. I'd want to do some work with them. Especially if you've got a young team and you don't make it, you want to develop them a little bit. I think it'd be a good thing."
You see more teams doing this hurry-up offense, not totally but in parts of the game, simulating Oregon somewhat. Do you think this is a trend? Could it be everybody's going to start running a hurry-up offense, and what's the downside to running a hurry-up offense?
"I think it's something that's been going on in the last 10 years. I don't think Oregon's really the reason. Oregon's a very different animal. We did some hurry up, in don't know if you all remember, at LSU. We were doing a lot of no-huddle. There's some benefits to it. The benefits are, generally speaking, the defenses aren't as aggressive. They slow down a little bit. That's the theory. And that's a good thing.
"Now, the downside is unless you are systematically set up to call your whole offense real quickly in a no-huddle form, it's administratively difficult and it minimizes what you can do on offense, especially formation. So if you are an offense that does a lot of different formations and moving and stuff, the no-huddle stuff, it's harder to do.
"But we have it in our offense built-in, and I think it's also an issue of when you have a lot of young guys, quarterbacks and receivers, it just takes a lot of practice. You've got to kind of phase it in, and it's got to be a part of your system. We did it at Tech. We were no-huddle for three years at Tech. We just have a little different system here. But we have a mechanism to do it.
"I think there's advantages to it. I think a lot of it depends on your personnel. It depends on who you're playing, when it's not a part of what you do. But for the teams that it's a part of what they do, they're good at it and that's their deal."
How do you think the defenses will adjust?
"I think they just have to learn to get the call and have the tempo of the offense. That's the biggest adjustment because they're not used to it. When we played Oregon, the hardest thing was making sure our guys would look over and get the call because they have that routine of 5, 10 seconds where they kind of fiddle with themselves a little bit before they get the call.
"The other key defensively, a lot of times they get up and then they freeze and they all look up and then they start calling the play. Well, the defense has to have that flexibility too, to change. A lot of defensive guys don't like to do that. If they're going to look at what you do, and you move your structure and then they call the play, then you better be switching your stuff. So it becomes a little bit of a chess match from that standpoint, and I think a lot of defenses don't do that and that gives the offense a little bit of an advantage."
Would you talk about James Stone and the game he played?
"I was incredibly pleased, first off, with having no snap issues. I was really worried going into the game about it. And I'm still worried going into the next game because that hasn't been mastered. He's just a good presence in the middle. He really did some things there that we really haven't been able to do inside, and it helped us."
Dontavis Sapp looks like a guy that has showed up on kickoff coverage several times. Can you talk about what you got from him?
"He's doing better each week. He's one of those core special teams guys. You need a team full of them. He's on punt return, he's on kickoff, he's on kickoff return and we don't have enough of those guys -- size, speed, runner, hitter guys. He's been a boost for us. But we've settled in on that unit so far. Knock on wood, we've been playing pretty good. We just need some better kicks."
What can an offensive line with continuity accomplish?
"Well, you block the guys a lot better, and you don't have all the penetration, guys in the quarterback's face. It's just working together up front. D-lines, they just don't run into you. They shift, they move and there's slanting. You have to communicate up there.
"If all five guys aren't working together in sync, then you get disjointed, and that happens to us a lot. This side's doing that, this guy's doing this. And you get used to playing next to somebody when you're working together. All five of them are like this the whole game. So you get used to the guy next to you, hearing his voice, what's his call, you know what he's going to do. It just takes time and experience.
"And when you get new guys in there all the time, now it's hard, it's difficult. Even if you have veteran guys."
Do you think Stone is a natural at center?
"I think he's a good body-type for center. I hesitate to say a natural because he's a lefty and hasn't snapped before. But his body type is exactly what you want, because he's got the stature but he's got great quickness. He's got a good first step, and he's a big guy. So yeah, that part of it you like."
Have you ever considered telling him to snap with his right hand? Is that something in the offseason you might do?
"I think we'll look at that in the offseason. But right now -- go eat with your left hand today and see how it feels.
"Right now, I don't think that's the time to do it. I think that's going to take a bunch of snaps. But that's certainly something we're going to consider."
What makes Ole Miss' offense dangerous?
"Well, there's no way you can cheat against them. When I say cheat, I mean a lot of teams, depending on their formation, the down and distance and their personnel, you have a pretty good feel for what they're going to do. Doesn't mean you're going to stop it, but you can at least go out there with a plan.
"Here, these guys run a bunch of formations. There's no real continuity in their plays. So you have play sound, good football across the board and good gap control. And then what makes it extra-hard is you've got a quarterback who can run. It's like anything. They outnumber you because of the quarterback. I think that's what's made it, those two things. They're not running the same stuff. It's a new play here, new play there and the ability to have a second runner in the backfield in a quarterback."
What about the backup quarterback? Do you know much about him if he's forced into play?
"Yeah, I recruited him at Tech. I know him very well. I know his momma. Nathan Stanley.
"He's a little different than Masoli, but I think Masoli's the guy we're going to be defending. I'd be shocked. It's kind of like the Luke deal. Is he playing day-to-day, and then he's fine.
"Anything else guys? Thanks."