Houston Nutt's Monday press conference


Posted Sep 29, 2008


The following is Coach Houston Nutt's Monday press conference prior to the South Carolina game. Kickoff Saturday is at 1 p.m.

Nutt: After watching film, really proud of our effort. The second half was so much better. Being down 17-7 we executed without penalties, without foolish penalties, illegal procedures, and played together as a team. Defense played extremely hard, got turnovers for us in crucial parts of the field, and I can’t say enough about our special teams. They (Gators) are so big-play oriented. I was just really proud of everybody’s effort. We’ve got to build off that. We had a good start yesterday. I like their attitude.

Q: Any danger now for your team to be too high this week?

Nutt: They haven’t been here. From this time last week, when we were asked if everybody was down after Vandy, now it’s the flip of it. We have to be steady and go back to work. All you have to do in this league is look at the scoreboard every week. Anybody can beat anybody. This is a very tough grind, and it’s every week. You have to be ready to go. Look at our second quarter (at Florida). We looked disorganized, disoriented. Let 94,000 people get to us. Lost a lot of valuable field position. So we have to go to work.

Q: Talk about Greg Hardy’s play since his return.

Nutt: He is a tremendous athlete with a real knack of getting to the passer, disrupting plays, loss yardage plays. He’s an athlete. He missed all of camp. He missed the first three games. So fundamentally he might have been off. He’s back a little quicker than I expected, because he’s such a good athlete. I’m glad he’s healthy and with us now.

Q: What did you tell the team at halftime down 17-7?

Nutt: Told them I was disappointed, because we had made a commitment to one another not to beat ourselves last week. And we were right back in the same way of jumping offsides, illegal procedures, costly loss of valuable real estate. No way you can beat anybody like that. Pretty hard conversation. I wanted them to be more physical in the blocking. Had to tackle Percy Harvin and (Chris) Rainey and all those guys. I thought the seniors stepped up out of the dressing room, and in the third quarter put together some drives, and the defense did a good job keeping them out of the end zone for the most part.

Q: Talk about the value of a game like this helping your players to buy in to what you and your staff are doing even more.

Nutt: Definitely big. You felt it in the dressing room after the game, on the bus, on the plane, felt it Sunday. They’ve always been good listeners for the most part. It just seemed like Sunday they sat up in their seats a little better and worked a little better than normal. We were sore, too. It was a beat ‘em up, rock ‘em-sock ‘em game. That was a war, especially our linemen in the trenches. It ought to really help us and take us to another level.

Q: Talk about the fourth and 1 stop of Tim Tebow.

Nutt: I thought Tyrone (Nix) made a good call to really overpopulate the line of scrimmage. They had one wide receiver, and we had one guy out there covering him. We were basically saying hey we’re going to stop the run. It wasn’t just one guy. Peria (Jerry) had a lot to do with it. The interior linemen, there wasn’t any movement, there wasn’t any pushback. They held their ground. Marcus Temple really made the first contact if you look at the film, coming off the edge, and that was good. Just held him up enough until his teammates got there. Peria, Kentrell Lockett, really the entire defensive line deserves credit, along with the linebackers, Tony Fein and all those guys. It was a total team effort and I’m proud they did it that play.

Q: What did you think of Tony Fein’s tackle on the play before?

Nutt: Tremendous. Probably his best effort play since I’ve met him. We pointed it out yesterday. What an effort play to come across the field and to make that tackle was a huge play. A great effort play.

Q: Will winning at Florida help recruiting?

Nutt: Already helped us. We got more calls Sunday night. They were calling us more than we’ve had since we’ve been here. Monday night is a good phone call night for us after film study, so I’m anxious to get on the phone tonight. It can’t do anything but help. Got a lot of Florida calls this past weekend from Florida athletes. So it was good. It will help us. Mark that down. Last Saturday against Florida helped us in recruiting.

Q: Talk about South Carolina and what you’ve seen from them so far this year.

Nutt: Defensively, very talented. Don’t give up very many big plays. Teams don’t go up and down the field. Very sound. Disciplined. They play hard. A lot of experience. You grow numb to the level of defense and the athletes (in college football). There’s never a time when you come in on Sunday morning and say it’s going to be an easy game. That just doesn’t happen. These guys are fast, physical. I’ve never really played against linebackers who weighed 270, 260. That’s a load, now, that’s a load. Every week you have to button both chinstraps and play physically. Offensively they’ve been up and down. But the thing you know with Coach (Steve) Spurrier, they’ve got a good tailback and you know they’ll have a good passing game. And you know there will always be tricks. You have to get ready to go.

Q: You mentioned Marcus Temple and his progress. Have you been surprised he’s been out there as much as he has at this point.

Nutt: We are. For a true freshman, and he’s our starting nickel back now, I’m really proud of his intensity. That’s unusual and a tough position he’s in. To ask him to play defensive back in this league at a very early age is a huge task. He’s accepted it. He’s gotten better. He’s a physical guy. He hustles and listens. I’m excited about him. He helps us on special teams as well. Very mature for his game. Very proud of him.

Q: Tony Fein has really come on for you after being in the dog house earlier in your time here.

Nutt: What’s turned it around for him, No. 1 he’s a senior. He realizes this is it. Very few games left that are guaranteed. He was one of the first ones that tested the system; maybe that’s a little harsh. He was always on the line of doing things his way. I think he’s really helped himself by saying I’m going to give in here and be a team member. I’m going to play as hard as I can and I’ll see what happens. I think it hurt his pride a little bit when he wasn’t the starter. What I love about Tyrone (Nix) so much is he just tells it like it is. You’re No. 2 or 3 or in my dog house, etc. He tells it to them up front. Even though he might not have liked some of the things Coach Nix told him, he accepted it and he’s worked through some of it. Now he’s just playing football and hustling, and that’s what you like. That helps us win.

Q: What happened with Reid Neely starting at right guard and Maurice Miller being out?

Nutt: He (Miller) overslept Friday morning. Not a big deal, but hey, you’re late. Get a better alarm clock or something. Just a bad deal. Nothing big, but Reid came in and did a very nice job. What’s good is Maurice felt bad about it. He’s on the sideline and John Jerry goes down. Mo, you’ve got to go in, at right tackle now. Really kind of worked out pretty good. He’s over there watching the flow of the game. He goes in at tackle, which he played last year. So this was good. A good lesson for everybody. Got to be on time. Got to do things right.

Q: Was it just a one-game thing for Mo?

Nutt: Well, now we’ll see. We kind of liked the way things went. I like competition. I like that. To answer your question, we’ll see how Tuesday and Wednesday play out.

Q: You’ve been preaching more physical since the first day of spring practice. Are you seeing that now?

Nutt: Good question because one of the things that has been a little disappointing is as big as we are offensively, we should be more physical. There should be bigger holes. There just hasn’t been. But I felt this game, you're talking about going against one of the top defenses, I think, in the country. Look at them at the end of the year, and Florida will be one of the tops. I believe that. Those linebackers, those ends, the speed of the secondary, they work together and they’re fast. Our guys really showed some toughness and really got physical. Our guys went downhill. Not sideways. They ran downhill, and I was proud of that. They got better.

Q: Talk about Dexter McCluster’s performances.

Nutt: Dexter’s versatility gives us so many things. He’s a great weapon for us. You never know where he’s coming from. Receiver, slot, quarterback, tailback. He’s really special, really tough. Doing some really great things for us. A true difference maker for us. Every game we pinpoint how many touches we want him to have, and we try to get to that point. Because we feel like he can change the game. Knock on wood, if he stays healthy, we’ve got a chance to keep moving the chains with him because he can do so many things that can help us.

Q: Talk more about Maurice Miller and his ability to really help out along the offensive line.

Nutt: Maurice has done a very good job. He played tackle last year and has been very open to do whatever we ask him to do, whether it be guard, tackle, right side or left side. Anything we ask, and we’re appreciative of that. He’s one of our strongest players and we feel he can be more physical. He’s making an effort to be. He’s out there early hitting the sleds, trying to do the little things to help this team win. We’re proud of him. He’s just got to keep going.

Q: The secondary played well at Florida. How much is it your secondary, and how much is it the play of the defensive line?

Nutt: The defensive line definitely helps. We were also fortunate on a couple of passes that the ball wasn’t quite there because he got pressured and rushed the throw a little bit. That’s where the defensive line comes in, the linebackers, safeties. Jamarca Sanford, I thought, was just outstanding. What a leader for us. You can see why they vote the captains as they do. You can see why Jamarca is a captain. He is a hustler, a hitter, a fierce competitor. He loves to win. It means a lot to him. Kendrick Lewis is coming on. Johnny Brown is getting better. It’s contagious back there. It’s a tough job because there’s nobody else behind them. It’s tough. You’re going against the fastest of athletes.

Q: What happened to your nose?

Nutt: After the game, I think one of our seniors asked one of the coaches if it was OK to pour water or Gatorade on me. They said yeah, go ahead. But they haven’t had too much practice. They hit my nose. I didn’t feel anything and the trooper says hey you’re bleeding. I didn’t feel anything. They’ve got to do better at that. I hope they get a lot of practice at it. That’s what I hope. Got hit by the bucket. Slipped out of their hands. I’ve got a big gash on my nose. But I didn’t feel anything. Hopefully we can get better at that.

Q: Is Patrick Trahan No. 1 now?

Nutt: He started and he’s really been doing a great job against the run. He’s getting better in the passing game assignments. It’s tough when you have to come in here straight from junior college and you’ve got to learn a new system. That’s really tough. He’s getting much more comfortable. He’s been on special teams for us. Hustler. Moved ahead and right now he’ll stay there. Tyrone has really developed some depth there for us. We’ve got to keep getting better. Been really proud of those younger guys. Patrick Trahan the last couple of weeks really has a feel for reading the play and being physical at the point of attack.

Q: What about your team’s health currently?

Nutt: We’ll know more tomorrow. We were pretty bruised and beat up yesterday. Hopefully we’ll be OK. We’re expecting everybody to be out there. (On John Jerry) Sprained shoulder, but I don’t think it’s too bad. Hopefully he’ll be ready to go. It’s just that time of year when you’re at that midpoint. With the teams you play, you’re going to be sore and you’re going to be hurting. But we’ve got to go now. We’ve got to go. We’ve got an open date next week. We’ve got to get ready to play.



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