OLE MISS REBELS--
COACH ED ORGERON:
COACH ORGERON: Really proud to have two outstanding young men with us today representing Ole Miss in BenJarvus Green Ellis and Marcus Tillman. I really feel Ben is going to have an outstanding season for us at runningback, is going to be our go to guy. He's a great young man. We're very proud of him.
Marcus Tillman is a young defensive end, a freshman All American, a big time recruit for us at Ole Miss. He's a sophomore. I think he's an up and coming player in the SEC.
It's always good to be here. Seems like the start of the season when we come here, our players have a great attitude. We're looking forward to starting camp on next Saturday.
Some of the things I'm going to talk about in starting camp is we building a new team. We have new ideas. Our coaches have worked very hard in the spring in research and development to tweak some things on offense.
Excited to have John Thompson as my defensive coordinator. I think that you're going to see more of an attack style, more of a blitzing attitude on first and second down, some unorthodox stuff on third down that gives offensive protection problems.
We want to do a great job on defense of creating turnovers. I think John is excellent at that. With a lot of experience in the SEC as a defensive coordinator, I will lean on him a whole lot.
Things we want to accomplish in camp. We want to finish. We want to finish everything we do. We want to develop depth, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. Last year we were outscored the second half and in overtime 3 1. We want to develop rotations so we can finish those games we were very, very close to winning last year.
Our quarterback position is going to be open. We have had very inconsistent play at the quarterback position the last two years. We're looking for a consistent quarterback, a quarterback that can have a short, controlled passing game, that can make the right decisions along the line of scrimmage, that can be a leader in the huddle, someone can he with trust to direct the offense in the right way.
We're excited about that. I think it's healthy for our football team to have that competition going into fall camp. We need to find play makers on offense. We need to score more points, especially in the red zone.
I'm really excited about Dexter McCluster coming back. I think he's an exciting young man, and we're going to use him as much as we possibly can, along with Marshay Green, Shay Hodge, Michael Wallace, guys that received experience last year for the first time in the SEC.
On defense, I talked about John Thompson. We have to replace a great player in Patrick Willis. I will say this: Patrick left a lot of things at Ole Miss for us. How to play with injuries, how to be a leader, how to be a great citizen, how to play in adversity, and hopefully that our team and our coaches learned a lot under Patrick.
I really feel that we're going to have a very good defensive line. I mentioned Marcus Tillman. We have Greg Hardy on the other side who I'm probably going to pray on offense and defense. He played a little bit last year and did very well on offense. He's a big target so we're going to find a place for him to play on offense.
Kentrell Lockett at defensive end. The thing I'm most excited about is we're going to finally have some 300 pounders in the middle with Peria Jerry, who is an excellent player who was hurt most of the season last year. Jeremy Garrett, Ted Laurent, Lawon Scott. We're going to build depth along our defensive line.
At cornerback is going to be with Dustin Mouzon. We recruited two great cornerbacks, going to be freshmen. I'm expected to see a lot of play out of those guys. John is going to do a great job of coaching the back end.
The thing I like about John Thompson is his expertise as the back end, and my expertise is the front end. I think it's going to be a great marriage. We want to have a great defensive team and I expect to have that.
On special teams we want to block kicks. We had success last year blocking kicks. Special games, special teams. We want to be even more aggressive this year. We want to fake punts, fake field goals, be creative in what we do.
I'm real excited about having Joshua Shene. I thought he had an excellent year last year. What we need to do is improve on our punting game.
Upcoming season, obviously we're going to focus on camp. That's all we're going to focus on. We love camp. We love the toughness of our football team, the attitude, the competition. But when it gets down to the season, we have to start fast.
We have five games in the month of September. We have Memphis, we have Missouri, we have Vanderbilt, we have Florida, and we have Georgia. We have a challenge ahead of us.
My last two seasons we won the first game and then we sloughed off and had to pick it up the rest of the season. My goal is for us to start fast in September and continue to improve throughout the season.
A couple of things I'm going to talk about, then open it up for questions. I really feel that we have a strong offensive line with Michael Oher, Corey Actis, John Jerry, Maurice Miller, and Reid Neely, who is an up and coming star on our team.
I'm really excited about my offensive line coach, assistant head coach, in Art Kehoe. I think he's one of the best in the business. I talked about the other positions.
Along with BenJarvus Green Ellis, we have Bruce Hall, who is an excellent player, Cordera Eason who is an up and coming player, and Reggie Hicks. I think those guys are going to be fantastic. Fullback position is very sturdy with Jason Cook, Andy Hartmann and Derrick Davis.
This is always a good time for us, always a good time to see everybody. Today is my birthday. I feel better than I ever felt. I really feel this: that I can see some things on our team that I've seen on the championship teams that I've been a part of in the past. Now, are we there? No. Do we have the time of players we had? No. Are they starting to act the same way, they starting to compete the same way? Recruiting has been fantastic. We worked very hard at recruiting.
We're competing up there. We have a sophomore team, a freshmen team, juniors, a couple of seniors. There's only two starters on the starting 22 that I didn't recruit. This is our team and we expect them to play in that fashion.
Q. Can you talk about Ben? Do you think he's a bit of an underrated player? Do you think he flies under the radar a little bit?
COACH ORGERON: You know, last year was his first year. I think people are starting to notice Ben. I think that this year he's going to receive everything that he should. I think he's one of the best players in the SEC. He is by far one of the best players on our team.
We're excited about him. I think if we have a great season, he has the type of year that he's supposed to have, he'll receive all the attention that he needs.
Q. With A.J. Jackson not qualifying, looks like the same kind of group of receivers. What do you expect from them?
COACH ORGERON: Well, you know, they had a great I'm going to say a good spring. They caught the ball well. We installed a couple of new plays that I think will enable our receivers to catch the football and get yards after the catch.
But last year I think not many of them had many catches in the SEC and they were all new, so I think they're going to be an experienced group and improve this year.
Q. You talk about the disparity in the scoring of the second half of games last years. You had a first round draft pick last year in Willis. Is the difference not having enough of them compared to other SEC teams? Do you feel you're closing the gap or need another class or two to get to where you want to be?
COACH ORGERON: I'm going to say this: we played 17 freshmen. We had 64 scholarship players last year. By the time we went to Baton Rouge we had about 57. We could have took one bus down there, but we wasn't going to do that.
I really feel that we're building depth. We looked at our depth chart this morning before I left. We actually have two offensive lines across the board, which is new for us. We have three defensive lines across the board. We're building depth, but it's going to take a while.
You know, the SEC is a tough conference. When I arrived at Ole Miss they had had success with the prior staff. But the talent level wasn't what I expected. We've had two great recruiting classes. I think that you can see our team is making improvement.
Those guys need to just have a little rest, have a rotation so we can play better in the third, fourth and overtime periods.
Q. You've been at some of the more storied college football programs. The two teams in the state of Mississippi have struggled the last five or so years. What did your previous teams have that the teams in Mississippi don't? Why has it been so hard for those teams to compete?
COACH ORGERON: Well, first of all, when I was at the University of Miami, it was rolling. They had some great teams there, so I was just happy to be there. They had great defensive lines. They had a great quarterback. That's where I learned from Coach Johnson. We had tremendous speed, great attitude. Those guys had won already.
When I was at USC, they were struggling. I was there with the staff under Coach Hackett. We had a couple of good players. Coach Carroll came in. We dominated California in recruiting, especially in Los Angeles.
We had a great quarterback in Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart. We had a defensive line, recruited play makers such as Reggie Bush, had championships. We had a great coaching staff.
When I got to Mississippi, we had some things in place, but not other things. I think the big difference on our team right now is depth and the play of our quarterback.
Q. Could you talk about your relationship with John Thompson, how far back that goes, how close you guys are. You obviously know defense. Was it tough for you to hire a coordinator? Talk about what went into that decision, how it's worked out.
COACH ORGERON: Well, you know, just going into last season, I really felt that I needed help, especially on the back end. I wanted to hire a defensive backfield coach that could help me organize the defense when I wasn't there.
John Thompson's name came in mind. I called him, had to do a little recruiting. John was an athletic director, didn't plan on coming back to college football.
After a couple of great talks he decided to come. I think it was a great marriage. I really wanted somebody that would allow me to be the head football coach. John is going to call all the defenses but also keep the good things that we've done on defense intact and build off of that.
I am going to be in the defensive role most of the time. John is going to handle all the decisions about what we do on defense. I'm just going to be in there, be able to put my input, especially on the front seven, on what we need to do.
Q. Y'all have been recruiting very aggressively. How much, if at all, will the ban on text messaging affect the way you recruit? Could you use it very much? Does it matter to you?
COACH ORGERON: Yeah, we use it a bunch. First of all, we're going to take the attitude that we will not let it affect us. There's other methods. I think technology is always going to stay ahead of the rules. We just going to compete to find another way.
Q. Do you have a date in mind when you want to make a decision on quarterbacks, starting quarterback, and do you foresee the idea of a two quarterback system on any level?
COACH ORGERON: I would like not to have a two quarterback system. I'm not going to rule it out. I would like one guy to be our quarterback. I think the longer it goes, the better it is for our team. You have to go through camp, have those guys go through adversity, go through scrimmages, go through game type atmosphere to see how they perform.
It's going to take a while. But hopefully the week of Memphis, we know who our starter is going into the Memphis game.
Q. Thus far in the SEC media days, only Bobby Johnson of Vanderbilt has been for an early signing period in recruiting. What is your opinion?
COACH ORGERON: I'm totally against it. I really like the process. I think there's a lot of things that go on between December and February when we can get to go into the homes. I like to compete all the way to the end.
I use Marcus Tillman, for example. Marcus Tillman was a young man committed to another SEC school. We competed to the bitter end and got him. I think there's a lot of great things that go on between December and February.
I think there's a lot of manpower that goes on in the signing date. If you're a team, you're going to the Bowl, you're playing for the national championship, you're preparing in December and have to sign someone in December, I think it's a distraction for your team and it's not fair.
Q. The NCAA keeps making rules that limit your contact with recruits. Considering your job's on the line if the kid you bring on campus go whacky on you, do you think something needs to be done to expand your ability to get to know the kid before he gets on your campus?
COACH ORGERON: Yeah, I think there's a way to be able to do that, and I think we should be allowed more contact.
I was for the contact in May. I think that would enable us to get a start. It would enable us to get to know the young man. You know, you fly to California, fly to Florida, you spend a bunch of money there. You'd like to be able to talk to the young man. I think there's a reason for that.
But I will say this: you have to compete to get the young men on campus to get an unofficial visit, to get his parents. Our recruiting philosophy is to start on them very early. We have a lot of unofficial visits with our young men on campus.
I believe in getting our young men in camp to find out in a tough situation how they're going to respond. So I really feel that you're on to something, contacts, getting to know the young man is very crucial.
Q. The two Mississippi schools are at the bottom of overall athletic budget in the SEC. How difficult is that to deal with? When is Jerrell Powe going to play for Ole Miss?
COACH ORGERON: Okay, first of all, I can't talk about anybody I didn't sign. I can't talk about any prospects out there. I think that clears up the question.
Second of all, it is what it is. Myself personally, I believe in hard work. I drive to most places I go to in recruiting. I fly coach in recruiting. I'm going to get the job done. There will never be a complaint about what it is.
I believe in competing, making the best out of what it is. You can see what we've done in recruiting. It's just a way of finding a way to get it done.
Q. Can you elaborate more about Schaeffer, Adams, the quarterback deal, the strengths of each of them?
COACH ORGERON: First of all, Brent is a great athlete. I think you can see in the Memphis game, the Alabama game, he's a guy that can change the game. He has some talent. He has a very strong arm want he's a very inconsistent player. He has an inconsistent lifestyle that leads to that.
Seth is not as good an athlete. Seth is always there. He's a leader. He makes great decisions on the line of scrimmage. I think that he can have a great year in a short controlled passing offense. Is he going to be a threat to go deep every down? I don't know that. We'll see.
His mobility is not such that you'd be afraid of as a defensive coach. Maybe sitting back in the pocket, guys may come after him a little more than they would a Brent.
But I think he brings a style that we can be consistent on offense and we can trust him.
Q. After the spring, you talked about the timing of the program, the life of the program, this being the time to have a winning season and go to a Bowl game. Is that still your evaluation? What's been your opinion as you've considered your program in the summer?
COACH ORGERON: You know, you look at last year, the very close games at LSU and Alabama, Georgia and Auburn. Those games could have went either way, and you have a winning season. Just looking at our program, I think we have a lot better team this year. So that's why I said that.
You know, I came here to win knowing that it's going to take time. I believe, looking at our schedule, we're going to be very competitive in each game and we need to find a way to finish and win the games that we're supposed to win, upset a couple of people, go to a Bowl and win it.
Our goal is always going to be to go to the Sugar Bowl and win it. I still believe and I still know that we can attain that goal, it's just going to take a little while.
Q. Talk about the improvement you made last year in special teams, both of your kickers, and are you excited about the rule changes in some of your return guys, what they can do?
COACH ORGERON: We're very excited about Joshua Shene. We have to find a guy that can kick off. Will Moseley was an excellent kickoff guy for us.
With the new rule changes, I think it's going to enable us to have a great return game, which we do have a pretty good return game. But I will challenge our young men that's going to kick off that it's only five yards. I won't make a big deal out of it.
I'm going to challenge our kickoff team to just run a little bit faster. I think the coaching staff or the team that's going to have a great kickoff team is going to have the advantage. We will still choose to defer and play defense when we want to. We will not enable this rule to change our thoughts.
Q. When you were talking about Schaeffer a minute ago, you said he led an inconsistent lifestyle. Could you elaborate what you mean by that.
COACH ORGERON: Just, you know, attending class, meetings, being the leader. Nothing that is any law breaking activity or anything. He's been on his best behavior. I just think, you know, being the quarterback, you have to have some leadership qualities.
We tell our team everything that you do counts from the time you get up in the morning till the time you go to bed.
Whether it's attending class, attending tutors, whether it's going to weight workouts, how you act in meetings, how you make adjustments, how you treat coaches, everything you do counts.
If you're the quarterback at the University of Mississippi, you have to grade a hundred on all those things to be the type of quarterback that we expect.
Q. You were picked to finish fifth in the west. Is that where you thought you would be picked considering the teams above you?
COACH ORGERON: Let me say this to you, okay? My son is in the World Series, my twin boys. I spend a lot more time with them than reading that stuff, okay?
I don't know where we're picked. I don't know what it is. We have to play the game. Our focus is going to be on our football team. Our focus is going to be on camp, winning our first game. That's the kind of stuff that matters. All that other stuff I really don't pay much attention to.
Q. You had 17 redshirt freshmen I believe last year. Can you tell us which of those 17 you feel are going to step in and make a difference for you this year.
COACH ORGERON: Well, you know, I don't know if I totally understand your question. You're talking about the guys I redshirted that didn't play last year or the guys that played?
Q. That played.
COACH ORGERON: You look at Allen Walker, Markeith Summers, I think those are some of the guys that can help us . Two highly related recruits that come to mind.
Q. In retrospect, do you feel you made a mistake naming Schaeffer the starter the day you signed him? Is he academically eligible right now?
COACH ORGERON: Let me say this to you: The reason I named him the starter is because why I have another quarterback on campus, so it was kind of easy to name him starter (smiling). I wish I wouldn't have done it. I did it for recruiting purposes. That was a ploy, but I probably made a mistake in doing that.
You learn. I made some mistakes as a head coach in my first two years, and hopefully I'm correcting those things. I fully expect Brent to be academically eligible, yes.
Q. He did come in last year believing he was going to be the quarterback. How has he handled the competition this year with Seth? Have you seen him being more motivated this year?
COACH ORGERON: We're fixing to find out. In summer I cannot be with him. I'm not with him in the weight room. I'm not with him in the workouts. They do things on their own. I hear things. But I want them to come in with their coaches very competitive and see how they perform.
I expect him to perform at a high rate, I really do.
Q. Do you have any philosophical opposition to playing two quarterbacks?
COACH ORGERON: I would like not to. I really would like not to do that. I am from the school, like we had at Miami, like we had at USC: He's our guy. I'm not saying we won't do it. If we have to, we will. But I would like the starting quarterback to be the guy.
Q. Tony Fein, your linebacker coming in. What excites you about him?
COACH ORGERON: Well, he's 6'2", 250. He runs around a 4.8 40. That's nothing like Patrick. Patrick runs a 4.38. I think he is a tough, physical man, mature. He's 24 years old. I'll share a story with you I tell everyone. He spent some time in the Army. He was overseas. I told him in recruiting, I said, Playing defense for us is going to be similar to being at war. When the ball is snapped, you get in the backfield of the offense and do what they taught you to do in the Army. Only one difference. When the whistle blows, you got to come back.
I think he's a tough, mature young man. I expect him to have a good year for us. But, again, we have not worked with him. We have not seen him in a practice or nothing. But I think he's going to be able to do the job for us.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH ORGERON: Thanks, guys.
Defensive Lineman Marcus Tillman:
On the upcoming season:
"I think that we are going to do pretty good this season. We have been working very hard in the offseason to be better at things, but we are just ready to play and get the season going."
On Coach Orgeron:
"He is a very good coach and really good all-around guy who shows a lot emotion on the field."
On taking the next step to compete in the West:
"I don't know. I think we are really close, but we just have to finish. Finish plays, finish games, and when that one play comes around, we have to have someone step up and finish."
On media days and being a young leader:
"It has just been great. I am just trying to do the right thing all the time. It's hard. I feel the pressure to do the right thing all the time."
On the loss of Patrick Willis:
"Patrick Willis was a great player and our leader on defense. We will miss him on and off the field but, we have some guys who have been working hard to fill his shoes."
Running Back BenJarvus Green-Ellis:
On being selected second team All-SEC:
"It is a compliment to me, but you have to go through the season and play the season to get a real award. I just take my hat off to my team because without them none of this would be possible."
On the quarterback situation:
"Both of them have been working hard all summer. It is really going to be interesting to see who actually gets the job. They are both working hard and both bring two different things to the team."
On the state of the Ole Miss Football program:
"I think we are actually on the rise. We had great recruiting classes the last three years. The team unity is better than it was three years ago. The thing now is just finishing games. That has been our theme in off-season workouts. Hopefully that will put us over the edge."
On the offensive line:
"I am very grateful for my offensive line. I pat them on the back every time they do something well. I wish they could be here with me, but I guess you can only bring one offensive and defensive player. I just take my hat off to them. Last year, they were considered a makeshift offensive line before the season started and look at them now."
On opening up the season with Memphis:
"It is going to be interesting. We just want to come out and play all four quarters. Hopefully we will come out with a win."
On the home schedule:
"I am really excited about our schedule whether it is home or away. I know our fans will get a chance to see us play some good teams and we do not want to disappoint them. We want to come out and compete at all our home and away games."
COACH MARK RICHT:
THE MODERATOR: We are ready to begin day three with Georgia head Coach Mark Richt.
COACH RICHT: Well, I'm glad to be here, year seven, which is kind of a miracle in itself. I never knew I'd last over about three or four years, but we're still here.
I feel very good about our program. I almost feel like we're starting over in a lot of ways. I feel like we built this program on a very solid foundation. I think we've got great coaches that are very competent and believe in what we're doing, then doing it the way we expect things done.
Got great kids. We got a chance to win and do it in the right way, and I'm excited about that.
With that, I'll just open it up and let y'all have at it.
Q. When you see the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn, it's not suffered after they moved away from Legion Field. What is your feeling about the possibility of Georgia and Florida playing in Gainesville, in Athens, and every third year in Jacksonville?
COACH RICHT: I think there's a lot of possible scenarios. I'm not even sure when the contract ends. But when it does end, I'm sure there will be some conversation as to what to do with it.
I think the rivalry would be outstanding whether you kept playing in Jacksonville or moved it around. I think it would be exciting for our fans to go to Gainesville. I think it would be exciting for the Florida fans to come to Athens.
If you're going to do any kind of a rotation like that, I think we'd be more apt to rotate to each school, rotate to Jacksonville, then I would be in favor of rotating to the neutral site of Atlanta in the Dome. I think that would be a pretty good neutral site, too (smiling).
Q. Could you talk about your secondary, how you expect that to be this year with Prince Miller in there, as well.
COACH RICHT: You know, Prince is a very good football player. We played him as a true freshman. We actually redshirted nine of our defensive signees last year. They were outstanding football players.
But Prince Miller and Asher Allen we felt like we better play at true freshmen because we knew they were going to have to play big this year.
With Paul leaving as he did, we thought there was a 50/50 shot of him leaving after his junior year anyway. We felt like we better get some guys ready to go.
Right now Asher Allen will play the boundary corner where Paul Oliver was. Thomas Flowers, who had an injury last year, missed most of the year, if not all of the year; he's back. He's got boundary corner experience.
Then in the field, Bryan Evans out of Jacksonville, Florida, is the starting field corner. Prince Miller also battling for that job right now. Prince could very easily be our nickel back if we don't keep Asher in that spot. Both of those kids understand that position.
At safety, Kelin Johnson, CJ Byrd are slated to be our starters. Kelin is the only one that has starting experience, game to game starter. Might have another guy start twice in a nickel package. Kelin is the only really returning starter in our secondary.
But we got a kid named Quintin Banks and Reshad Jones, everyone is very excited about, two young guys we think resemble Greg Blue and Thomas Davis, which is saying a lot. Another guy, Antavious Coates, who has been injured since he came to Georgia, but he's got tremendous ability and potential and he's healthy right now. If he holds up through camp, he's going to have something to say about who starts at safety.
Q. The east is supposed to be so tough this year. Everybody agrees on that. You seem to be flying low under the radar. Do you like that?
COACH RICHT: Yeah. Well, I don't worry too much about it one way or another. I was talking to another group of writers just a little bit ago. They were saying, How do I feel about none of our guys being on first team, all SEC. All that kind of thing, offense, defense, or special teams, none of our guys were first team.
I told them the one that matters the most is the end of the year. I said, If we win, we'll have guys on the first team. If we don't win, we won't.
The teams that win get the accolades. If you go by what happened last year, you know, we absolutely finished strong. It was an exciting finish for us. It meant a lot to us to finish the way we did. But when you look at the course of the year, we were 1 4 in the east. We thankfully won our western division games. If we didn't, it would have been really bad.
So if you judge by what happened, who we're losing, I can see why people are putting us there.
Q. Coach, Mikey Henderson had an excellent spring for you. How do you see his role expanding in the offense more this year?
COACH RICHT: Of course, Mikey was one of the top punt returners in the nation and in our league. He's very electric in that role.
But we did move him to receiver last year. We saw a lot of great things in the spring prior to this one going into the season. When the season started to roll, it didn't really translate into the production that we hoped it would.
Now he's got even another year under his belt. I think we will do even a better job of finding ways to get him the ball where he's in his comfort level. I think we'll get more production out of him than we did a year ago.
A guy that fast, that shifty, you know, he's going to create problems if we can just get him the ball with a little bit of space. He'll make people miss.
Q. Moving the kickoff back to the 30, a lot of coaches think it's going to be a significant change. Talk about how much of a change you think that will be even in the way you approach that part of the game?
COACH RICHT: It will be very significant. It will be I wouldn't say it's doubly important. It's probably going to be three or four times as important. I say that because we just were having meetings with our staff yesterday. We were talking about that very thing.
I asked Coach Ball, our kick return coach, you know, about how many kicks were we returning percentage wise last year. He said we only really returned about 25% of the kicks. Now we predict we'll be returning 75 to 90% of the kicks. That's going to be at least two, maybe three times as many kicks we're returning this year than we did a year ago, so that's crucial.
Then, of course, the same thing is true of your coverage team. You're going to have to go down there and cover kicks.
One thing we've done strategically over the years, and Jon Fabris handles our kickoff coverage team. He's always believed in a directional kick with height, cover, make the tackle, where a lot of other people say, Let's just knock it out of the end zone.
That's probably one of the number one questions I ask with our fan base. Why don't we just kick it out of the end zone, you know?
I think now everybody is going to have to go into the season with that type of strategy, maybe not being able to count on a guy knock it out of the end zone or deep enough into the end zone where guys will not return.
If you kick a low line drive, it makes to the end zone, there's no hang time, you're at risk of a big return. I think people will be more apt to get air under the ball, try to put it in a spot where you know your people can cover, and try to tackle.
I'll say this, too. You think if you move the ball back five, you're probably going to get five more yards of field position. My guess is it will be more like 10 to 15 yards of field position because, you know, that kickoff return is going to create a lot more space.
Q. Two questions: Your thoughts on missing out on being offensive coordinator full time, and also other than speed, what are some of the attributes that make SEC defenses so tough to go against?
COACH RICHT: I'm not sure I'm going to miss it now. When I turned it over it was tough to give up because I'd been doing it for 15, 16 years, calling plays, planning the game. But I did it because I felt like it was in the best interest of our team. Felt like it was in the best interest of myself physically. It is a grind.
If you're just the coordinator alone it's a grind. But if you're the coordinator and the head coach it's more than that.
Even when I was just the coordinator only I had an off season. I had a time to get revived again. As a head coach sometimes your off season is very, very limited. You try to figure out where it begins and where it ends sometimes.
The other thing, too, is Mike Bobo has matured to the point where I know he'll do a better job than I was doing. So I think that's healthy for the team. I think it's healthy for me.
I'm able to now see this program from a different perspective. For the first six years I'm in there chopping wood like everybody else right in the middle of that force, and that was my perspective. I think there's some merit to the leader being at the point, you know, right in the middle of where all the battles are.
But I think there's also some merit to having being able to remove yourself a little bit to see the bigger picture, to be able to make sure everything's running as it should.
It's definitely a new role for me. I'm excited about it. At first I was leery of that decision. But now that I've made it, I'm really excited. It's a little bit of the revival for me.
SEC defenses. Here is the thing about offensive football: you are always trying to find a match up. Where can I get my talented guy to overmatch a defensive player? In other leagues, in my opinion, I think that match up is easier to find than in our league.
You say speed; speed is a factor. But the problem is, there's not very many times I can take an offensive player, put him across from a defensive guy and say I've got an advantage. I think that's true of the NFL. I think that's why those scores are usually in the 20s or something, because they match up so well. That's the thing.
But there's very competent defensive coordinators that know what the heck they're doing. All those things together are the reasons why it's tough to score a bunch of points in our league.
Q. You have two pretty tough games coming right out of the gate: Oklahoma State and South Carolina. During the spring, do you talk with your team about the need to come out from the first play of the first game be ready to go?
COACH RICHT: Yeah, that's a big factor. I think the more exciting of an opponent that it's perceived to be Game 1 makes a difference. But I've said before, I don't think anybody goes into the first game of the year and not be excited. I mean, you went through spring ball, off season, summer, 29 practice opportunities in camp.
When it's time to play the first game, I think everybody's excited to play. I don't think people care who you're playing.
But we do have a great challenge. Oklahoma State is one of only two teams in the nation that averaged 200 yards rushing, 200 yards passing. They were seventh in the country in scoring. They're returning 9 of 11 starters on offense. It's going to be a heck of a football game.
Q. Along the lines of depth in the east, what does it mean to you when you hear Steve Spurrier say South Carolina is ready to compete for an SEC title?
COACH RICHT: I think he has every reason to believe that. I think Coach Spurrier is a very realistic guy, and I think he shoots everybody straight. I think he says exactly what he feels, and that's based on a lot of experience and a lot of success.
Last couple years he felt like he wasn't ready to say we were ready to compete for the championship. After what's happened in the last couple years, some of the great victories they've had, some of the close losses they've had to great football teams, there's no reason to believe they can't compete for the Southeastern Conference championship.
So I think one thing about Coach Spurrier, he's going to tell you how he feels and he's not going to, you know, sugarcoat it much. I think he's got every reason to believe they can contend.
Q. At the beginning you said you were somewhat surprised you're here after seven years. Is that because of tenure of coaches?
COACH RICHT: Well, you know, when you're a first time head coach, you're going into the Southeastern Conference, to sit there and say, Boy, I'm going to be here seven years from now, that's pretty bold to think that. I mean, I was hopeful I'd be here. I knew how I wanted to go about my business. I wanted to do things a certain way, hope and pray it was good enough to succeed. Thankfully it has to this point.
Yeah, I mean, it's a rough league. It's a rough business. I mean, I don't know what the average stay for most coaches are. It might be four to five years. So far so good (smiling).
Q. How is Matthew a better quarterback than when we saw him in the Peach Bowl?
COACH RICHT: Matthew Stafford. Well, if you go to a year ago, a year ago he was a brand new freshman, trying to get used to college life, trying to fit into the program, so to speak. A year ago he was just trying to learn the plays. A year ago he had no game experience whatsoever.
Now, I know his last semester was a 3.75. He knows the system. Instead of trying to fit in, he's now leading our program. I mean, he's come so far. Now he's had the experience of knowing what it's like to play in a pressure packed ballgame, many of them. I hope he's learned the value of protecting the football.
He's learned that if you hang on to that thing, you don't throw it to the other team, you have a chance to win. In the five game stint where we lost four out of five, I think we turned it over 14 times to the opponent's seven times. We, of course, doubled the turnovers of our opponent.
The last three ball games, against great football teams, a No. 5 team, a No. 6 team, a No. 14 team, I think three of the best five or six defenses in America, when we didn't turn the ball over, when we won that turnover ratio, we won the game.
He's so much better off than a year ago. I hope it shows on the field.
Q. How have you and your staff changed your recruiting strategy with the anticipation of the ban on text messaging going into effect on August 1st?
COACH RICHT: Oh, the text messaging. First of all, we're going to text the heck out of them till we can't do it any more (laughter). There's really a period of time, a month there, where we can't text them any more and we can't call them. We better get emailing. We better be writing letters, personal, handwritten notes during this time frame. There's 30 days where we don't want to get whipped and lose momentum in this recruiting.
Of course, we're going to be able to start calling once a week there right at the very end of August, I think. That will open that line of communication again. Hopefully we're texting our kids and encouraging them during this month. They can call us all they want still. So hopefully we've built enough of a relationship with these guys where they will stay in contact right by phone or visiting your campus, if they have time during their camp.
So those are the things you're trying to do. Don't lose a guy in this 30 day period because you got outworked with the change, the new technology you got to deal with.
Q. Could you just discuss your offensive line, if you have a feel for what to expect from some of the new guys in there that will be starters.
COACH RICHT: First of all, adding I'm very thankful for Neil Calloway, what he did for Georgia. He did great things for us. Did a superb job. I'm thankful he's got a chance to be head coach. I know it's something he's always wanted to do.
When he left, we had to hire somebody. That somebody is Stacy Searles. Stacy is a tremendous coach. He's already come in and infused a lot of new ideas and also he's a great teacher, great technician. I think our guys are really taking to him.
We only had six scholarship linemen after the season ended for a lot of different reasons. Thankfully we were able to bring in five kids at the midyear. Two junior college linemen, a prep school two prep school linemen and a true freshman. Maybe we brought six in. Because they were in the spring, it gave the guys a chance to compete.
Right now if we started at left tackle, it would be a true freshman, Trinton Sturdivant. If we started right now, it would be a redshirt freshman left guard, Chris Davis. We have a center, senior center, Fernando Velasco, who has been a guard most of his year.
A junior college transfer Scott Haverkamp, first time, never taken a snap at Georgia, starting at right guard. Chester Adams, a true guard playing right tackle.
You know, that more than anything else is probably why people aren't giving us much of a chance. But I think Coach Searles has done a great job of bringing them together to this point. I think Mike Bobo has a good sense of understanding you can't do anything you want offensively and expect these guys to hold up. We're going to have to be a little bit careful what we do with this bunch until they get their feet wet.
Q. You only have three seniors on defense. Can you talk about the leadership those three give since last season.
COACH RICHT: Right. Well, leadership is so crucial, and normally your seniors are naturally your leaders. They know it's their last season. They know it's kind of on their watch, so to speak. Right now I know Kelin Johnson has done a fantastic job of leading for us in the spring, the off season. He's always been a leader from day one because he works hard and he did the right things.
Brandon Miller, he's the key to our whole defense in my opinion. If Brandon Miller can play big and lead the way he ought to, moving into the Mike linebacker position, he's really going to be a key for us. He's very talented. He's very capable.
If you do certain drill work where he knows exactly what's going on, he's a dominant player. But when you change a guy from a Sam linebacker to a Mike, there was a bit of a thought process going on where he couldn't be quite as aggressive as he was at the Sam position.
If he can get comfortable in the role of the Mike linebacker, we have 29 practices to get him ready, if he can play full speed, he can make a huge difference for us.
The thing about leadership, usually your best leaders are some of your most productive players also. Every once in a while you'll get a guy who can lead, not even start, not even play. You might have a spiritual leader of your team or a guy that everybody respects, even a walk on who has been in your program for four or five years. There's guys that can be a very good leader.
Normally a leader that can transcend the entire football team and program, those guys need to be really productive. That's what we need from those two guys.
Of course, Thomas Flowers, coming off an injury, could give us a boost, too.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH RICHT: Thank you very much.
Center Fernando Velasco:
On the summer:
"We report to camp this Friday and we start practice on Saturday. Everybody has been working hard all summer. Coach (Dave Van Halanger) and his staff have been doing a great job with us. They've been putting us through a lot of workouts, every day Monday through Thursday so everything is going good."
On the quarterback (Matthew Stafford):
"He's looking great. He did well the last three games last year. It's tough for a true freshman to come in and get a grip of the offense like that. Now he's got a year under his belt, he's been in the system for quite a while now. I expect a great season out of him this year."
On differences of schools outside of the SEC in terms of speed:
"Yes, you can tell there's a difference. I really feel like the SEC is the best conference in the country. There's a lot of talent. You can look at the NFL draft, and a lot of guys come out of the SEC. A lot of first-rounders are drafted out of the SEC, so I think it's a real tough conference."
On the season opener against Oklahoma State:
"They're a tough opponent. Everyone's always talking about their offense and how good their offense is, but their defense is pretty good too. We've definitely got a match ahead of us come September 1, but we've been working hard all summer and we'll be ready."
Strong Safety Kelin Johnson:
On preseason chances:
"Our chances going in are very high. We're underdogs, we always have been, and that's how we see ourselves. It's what gives us motivation. Of course, in 2004, we had success, but for the past three years, we've been underdogs, like 10th or 13th or 15th nationally, and we feel like we don't want to be on top. We want to start at the bottom and then go to the top because it helps us focus, helps us not to get a big head, and recognize that there's always room for improvement."
On the team's defensive strengths:
"We're strong, I believe, in the secondary. Those guys, including myself, have been around, and we have a lot of guys who have had work on special teams and know a lot about what goes on with our defense. A big key to winning at Georgia is special teams."
On team needs:
"We need to be disciplined and consistent. When you are up and down, there are so many areas to improve upon that you really can't. We want to be a team that everyone knows is strong in an area, and then we can improve on the weak spots that we have."
On last season:
"Losing four games was an eye opener. It shows why the SEC is so powerful. You've got to prepare every week because someone is out there that wants to take what you have."
On SEC parity:
"That's football. It's why you (the media) have your job. You never know what's going to happen from week to week. It's an honor for those teams (Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina) to be so close (in the media preseason poll) that you can't pick between them yet because they're so strong. It's why coming out of high school, you want to go to schools like that."
COACH PHILLIP FULMER:
THE MODERATOR: Our final coach of 2007 media days is Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer.
COACH FULMER: A few statements, I'll be glad to take your questions.
We're very excited like everyone else in the league about our season. Our players have worked extremely hard during the off season. We had a very physical and demanding, by design, spring practice, summer program. The guys have responded extremely well.
I'm excited about where we are at this particular time. Certainly don't have all the answers just yet, but hopefully as we go through fall camp and prepare for the big opener with Cal, we'll get closer to where we need to be.
I think after the '05 season, some of you guys thought we would go away. We didn't go away. I'm really proud of our team and the bounce back year that they had, the attitude, the focus, the preparation, the way that we went about our business in changing.
'05 was a shocking football season to me as a head football coach and to our program. To our credit, the selfishness that had creeped in, the distractions that had come up, we have eliminated those things. Right now our attitude is exactly where it's supposed to be. We haven't had the distractions.
Anything we've had come up, we've felt with quickly and firmly and gone about our business. The kids that are there are going to be totally committed to what we're trying to do. That doesn't mean we're always going to win every football game, but it's going to give us a lot better chance to do so.
We followed the season with a real fine recruiting class. We're expecting a number of those guys to be able to step in and help us. I can't tell you exactly who just yet because we haven't really had a chance to coach 'em yet.
This year's no different than any other in that our goal is to compete and win the eastern division championship first and the Southeastern Conference second. I don't think there's any question that this is the best league in the country.
There's nobody else in the league or in the country that can talk about four coaches that have won national championships. There's nobody else in the country that can talk about, from top to bottom, their league being as competitive as this is.
When you look around the country, there's a lot of great football. I do think things do go in cycles. Couple years ago, the ACC had more first rounders than the Southeastern Conference did.
Year in and year out, this is the toughest league of any in the country. I don't think that's going to change any time soon.
Had a great conversation, Pat Summitt and I are great friends, have been for a long, long time, obviously because we've both been there as a long time as a player and a coach.
This is my 33rd year at Tennessee. More than half of my life has been spent on our campus. Pat has been there, I wouldn't age her or anything, maybe as long or maybe a little longer. We're great friends. We were talking about her nine year stretch there, as to why she why she thought she hadn't won a championship.
She had been really close a couple times. She said it's pretty simple, it's Candace Parker. You have to have a Candace Parker type player in your program to be able to do that.
A lot of good players around Candace Parker type players.
You go back and look at Peyton Manning, or Jamal Lewis or Travis Henry or Tee Martin and some of those guys, we've had those people in our program before. You've got to coach them well and not let things happen like in 2005 where things creep into your program that you don't want to creep in.
Do I think that Erik Ainge can be that kind of player? I do. I think Erik Ainge can be that kind of football player that our team rallies around, that he takes the bull by the horns and makes the plays that help you win a championship.
Now, the other people around him also have to play good. When you look at our team coming back, I don't believe that you can win championships if you can't run the football and stop the run. We didn't do either one of those very well last year.
After studying our football team and our running game during the course of the off season, winter and summer, one of the reasons we didn't run the football very well is the looks that we got. The defensive teams are really good at giving you problems.
When we had the looks we wanted we did pretty well. Averaged right at five yards and a 10. When we didn't have the looks we wanted we weren't nearly as productive as we needed to be.
That goes also to the backs being more accountable for the one guy left, to make that tackle, make somebody miss. If you study the teams that are running the football well, you can see their backs are doing some of those things.
So I've challenged our team to be a better running football team. I've challenged our team to be a better run defensive football team. That's where it's got to begin for us to win a championship.
As you look around the conference, 'cause I know I'll probably get asked about the league and everything, from top to bottom, I can't really sit here and tell you who I think is the best team because everybody is darn good. It gets back to scheduling. It gets back to a few players creating plays that win football games.
You look at us last year. We take the national champions down to the last quarter of the game, last half of the last quarter. We didn't make the plays that won the game, and they made the plays that won the game.
The LSU game, about down to the last nine seconds. Either one of those wins or both of those wins, our season and theirs are entirely different. So that's how close this league is year in hand year out.
Our personnel, I guess that's another question you'll ask. We're obviously going to build our offense around Erik and his abilities. Our runningbacks I think can be very fine players in this league. I admire the way Arian Foster handled the fumble in the Penn State game. Obviously that game was extremely important to us in our bounce back year. It would have given us our 10th win of the season.
We basically were driving to win the game. The ball comes out and all of a sudden there's a 14 point swing and it just didn't happen for us like we wanted to.
To his credit, ordinarily I'm the last one out of the dressing room because I've got to do the radio thing afterwards. The team is usually waiting on me. As I left the stadium, he's still there answering questions from some of the media people about the turnover. To his credit, he printed that thing, he blew it up, put it in his locker, he touched it every day before his workouts, he touched it every day in spring practice.
In spring practice I saw a different guy. I saw a back that had had some injuries and had ability play like a Southeastern Conference back is supposed to play.
Montario Hardesty will be healthy for the first time since he's been at Tennessee. LaMarcus Coker, you guys that followed us, certainly know he has big play potential.
Receiver is obviously a question for us as we lost some outstanding players. It's hard to replace a Robert Meacham, a first round draft choice. I don't think we have anybody on our campus that has played for us that is like that right now.
We do have four guys: Quintin Hancock, Lucas Taylor, Josh Briscoe and Austin Rogers that have played some. I do believe those guys will be in the right place to catch the ball. They'll make the adjustments to the routs they need to make according to coverage. They'll make some plays for us.
But I don't believe they give us the dynamics that a Robert Meacham can give us. I'm very hopeful that the junior college young man Kenny O'Neal or one of the freshmen will be able to come in and give us dynamics when we get press coverage, good etiquette, a chance to catch a crossing rout, make somebody miss, have an explosive type play.
I'm looking for that from somebody that's not been on our campus before. Our offensive front, we made some progress in the spring. We're not where we need to be yet. I think we have the potential. I can assure you the five guys that go out there will be coming out of coming off the ball and coming out of their butt like they're supposed to be for us to be a better running football team like we're supposed to be when we get to the Cal game.
The other tight ends I should mention will be very important to us. Chris Brown and Brad Cottam, Jeff Cottam and Luke Stocker will be used a lot in our system as we use them to create different looks for the defense and we can be a lot of things I hope with those guys being receivers, being slots, or even being in the backfield as we run the no huddle offense and use those guys to hopefully gain some advantage over the defense.
Defensively it starts up front. Our defensive ends I think will be fine. We pressured pretty good last year. We didn't finish the deal nearly enough from a defensive end position. But Xavier Mitchell, Antonio Reynolds, Robert Ayers, Wes Brown are guys I think will be solid defensive ends and hopefully outstanding defensive ends if they play like they did the last half of spring practice.
Ben Martin is a young guy that I am counting on things, big things, from. Even though he's a true freshman he looks like he's got that first quick step you're looking for. My concern on defense mostly is our defensive tackles. Replacing Justin Harrell, replacing Turk McBride is not an easy thing to do. First rounder and second rounder. Those guys, it will be tough. But we can find guys in there that can play pad leverage and be intent on being good players.
I think our linebackers, most of you probably met or heard from Jerod Mayo. We'll be led by him. He is an outstanding young man, an outstanding leader. He'll challenge his peers. Outstanding football player.
We never really saw our defensive team last year as we thought it would be. Jerod Mayo hurt his ankle in two a days in a scrimmage. Obviously Justin Harrell was lost for the season in the second game. Played some against Florida in the third. For the most part, lost in the second game.
Inky Johnson, lost our best corner which really changed the way we had to do things.
Hopefully Jerod will be able to stay healthy, the people around him can stay healthy, and we can have the kind of defense that we want to have.
Started spring practice really concerned about our secondary coming out of spring practice because we lost three guys. Coming out of spring practice, I felt better.
John Hefney returning as an all conference player is a big plus for us. Jerod Parrish has made significant strides as a safety. Our two corners, Antonio Gaines and Marsalous Johnson, are pretty exciting guys the way they played in spring practice. They have to pick that up and continue during the course of fall camp, because there will be some competition from some junior college guys.
We brought in two junior college guys and a couple freshmen we brought in. I'm anxious to see how all that shakes up. But I'm hopeful we'll end up with three seniors and a sophomore in the secondary next year if it stays like it is.
Our kicker and punter will probably be Britton Colquitt at least early, although I will say Daniel Lincoln has made significant strides in spring practice, the summer, that hopefully he'll be able to relieve us from having Britton do everything. Britton obviously is a returning all conference player.
Actually was on some All American teams last year. I'm pretty excited about what he can do as far as changing the field.
That's kind of an overview of our team and our outlook. I think we're prepared to start camp here August the 2nd, first day of practice being August the 3rd.
Q. Every year at least one or two teams has a veteran quarterback that has gone. You've got to bring in a new guy to take his place. Curious what you and your staff did with Tee Martin that first year after Peyton left, all the things you had to do to kind of foster him along, get him ready.
COACH FULMER: Why would I stand here and tell somebody from LSU what we did to help Tee Martin win (laughter)? No, I'm kidding. I'm really not, but I'll answer your questions (smiling).
We didn't really ask a lot outside of what Tee Martin was capable of doing from a physical standpoint early in the season. If you go back and look at a little bit of that history, we thought Peyton could have left as a junior. He would have been a first round pick anyway. Tee would have stepped in when he was actually a sophomore.
Tee had been preparing himself very well to be the quarterback a year earlier than he actually got the opportunity. We had had plenty of time to think through and plan through how to use Tee.
He was different as a junior than you would have been as a sophomore. Early in the season we limited what we asked him to do. He had a great arm. He could throw the out, could throw the deep crossing rout, could throw the deep ball.
But as far as going through a whole bunch of reads and things that was complicated, we stayed away from that. We told him it was kind of is he open, is he open, run with Tee because he was a guy that could make some plays with his feet.
As he progressed and as things went along, he was able to progress in his reads and his experience and he became a complete quarterback. But early we limited what we asked him to do.
Q. Most pre season all SEC list at quarterback will have either Erik or Andre' Woodson on the first or second team. What are your thoughts on Woodson? Where do you think Erik ranks not only in the league but also in the nation among quarterbacks?
COACH FULMER: I think Woodson is an outstanding quarterback. We tried to recruit him actually. I think Randy Sanders has just done a tremendous job of coaching him and getting him to the point where he is now.
If you looked at Kentucky, as I see it, they probably have the best backfield and receivers in the whole conference as a group. So he has a lot of guys to work with.
Comparing he and Erik, I think they're very similar. They're used very similar in the systems. Erik through for 67% last year, which was a record at Tennessee. Was an outstanding year for us. I don't think if Erik I think if Erik hadn't gotten hurt, missed two or three ballgames, statistically he would have been either right there. He was right there anyway, but maybe as good as Woodson.
But this conference always has outstanding quarterbacks. With those two coming out, big, physical guys that can see the field and throw the ball like those guys, it should be real interesting to watch those guys develop.
I may have said this earlier. I've talked to so many people today. We did an evaluation on Erik. He came back as a late first, early second pick. I think if he has a big year he could help himself a lot, as well as helping us win a championship.
Q. Can you talk about two players, the maturing process of center Josh McNeil and also the confidence that you have in Jonathan Crompton, the quarterback, if you have to have him?
COACH FULMER: I'll go with Jonathan first. I got all the confidence in the world in Jonathan. If you go back to where we were a couple of years ago when Jonathan chose to come to Tennessee, Erik had just had a fabulous freshman year. We won the division, played Auburn for the championship. Jon chose to come anyway.
At that particular time, you know, it very easily could have happened that Erik left after a junior year. Jonathan has been working to get himself ready to be our quarterback really since he came into our program.
Unfortunately he came in with that shoulder injury and missed a lot of time on the field, but mentally he's continued to work at it. He had the experience last year against LSU, which he gave us a chance to win. Had the experience at Arkansas. A tough loss on the road last year that will benefit him as he goes forward in his career.
If needed, he'll certainly be ready to be called upon. So I have good confidence in Jonathan.
As far as Josh McNeil, Josh, again, came in with a shoulder problem from high school, has done a great job of getting himself ready physically. Was a freshman All American last year. I think one of the most important spots on the field in the center position, because he starts every play, makes a lot of calls in our offense.
I think Josh is ready to kind of have the breakout kind of year because he's really matured. He was somewhat immature in the way that he handled things when he first got to Tennessee. He thought he was God's gift to football; he knew everything. Now he realizes after playing against some of the people that he played against, it's a different world and he's learned how to work and prepare himself for a much better fashion.
Q. In the first 10 years that you were the coach at Tennessee you lost just five home games. In the last five years you've gone 23 11, but your road record has been very consistent. Can you explain why you're losing more home games than before?
COACH FULMER: It's probably because of who you play, I would say, and how you play. I don't know if we've got this exactly right. In my career at Tennessee, we've played 93 home games; won 77 of them. That's 16 losses in 14 years at Tennessee at home. That's not terrible, I don't think.
The big game is the one you lose.
Q. Could you elaborate on Erik Ainge's strengths, what having such an experienced quarterback means, especially in the SEC? Could you talk about your take on the rules changes, specifically kicking off from the 30, how that might affect strategy.
COACH FULMER: When you have a veteran quarterback, you hope to be able to build your offense around him, particularly when he's got the ability of an Erik. I mentioned the no huddle a few minutes ago. Erik ran it as a freshman actually. We did it a little bit differently than what we'll do it this year.
But his experience, his ability, his ability to get the ball out quickly and on time, understand where it needs to go, will give us a head start on being a good offensive football team.
Again, the people around him, particularly the runningbacks who are veterans and the tight ends who are veterans, are going to have to do a great job while all those receivers and everybody catch up.
I expect big things from Erik starting with the Cal game. He's already shown the leadership this summer that needed to be there.
The kickoff rule I think will impact our game as much as any rule has since I've been in the league. When you start kicking that thing off to great players in this league in an open field with blockers in front of them, there's a lot of crap gonna happen that a coach can't control necessarily. We're gonna try to be one of those teams as well.
You're going to have people starting in better field position. Consequently statistics are going to be influenced because there's going to be more scoring maybe than ever. There's going to be a lot more strategies involved in the kicks and the returns than ever before, because the percentages are going to go way up as far as the number of kicks returned and the starting field position for the offensive team.
Q. You have sort of a long range perspective having been a coach in this league for a good amount of time. For one of the programs that has all the resources, assets, and there are several of them in the league, what, over a five year period of time, is a realistic expectation for a fan base for the program to accomplish?
COACH FULMER: Well, I mean, the truth of it is everybody practically in this league has great tradition, has financial resources that have been committed to their programs, has high expectations. I don't have my head stuck in the sand that we need to compete for a championship.
Five out of the last nine we've been in the eastern division championship. We're graduating our players. Our APR is in great shape. Our guys are being drafted. All those things that are positive things, but you've got to be sound fundamentally, you've got to be physically really, really good.
As far as managing expectations, it's a lot about scheduling. This is just the truth. It's a lot about scheduling. It's a lot about staying healthy. As I said earlier, it's about making the plays that win the game.
Do you have the Candace Parker type person, whoever that person might be? You can look in this league, there's a lot of those guys that plays well enough and stays healthy to win the championship. Our league you have to win the championship twice because you have the regular season and you have the SEC championship game.
The truth of it is, if everybody in the country would look at it, for football, because we don't have a tournament per se, that the regular season is the playoff, and if the Big 10 and the PAC 10 would have a championship game, which they won't and don't, you would really have a legitimate playoff to a national champion.
It's benefited us. In '98 we probably wouldn't have played in the championship game had the Big 12 not had one and Kansas State gotten beat, and we won, so we go and play Florida State and win the national championship.
Again us in '01, we played LSU for the SEC championship. Probably had the better team, but we didn't play the best. Had a couple turnovers late in the game. It knocked us out of a chance to play for the national championship.
That's a long answer to a short question. But there's a lot of variables that go into that to be champions. In our case, certainly in Alabama's case, I think that's who you're talking about, is expectations are already there because we've already created 'em.
I'm a part of what's been created at Tennessee. Alabama's exactly the same way. They're fantastic and have high expectations.
Q. What does Erik still have to do to become a Candace Parker type player? What does he have to do to get there?
COACH FULMER: Got to finish those games against Florida and LSU. Of course, he didn't play against LSU. But those kind of games.
Erik has all the tangibles and intangibles as a player. He's been through the gauntlet now of the Southeastern Conference. He's had great success when nobody expected him to. He had some disappointments when everybody expected him to have. So from a maturity standpoint, his skin ought to be pretty thick and he ought to be able to handle anything.
Specifically, play the way that he's capable of playing within the system. Hang in the pocket, make the plays he's supposed to make. Not allow the defense to touch the football when it's his responsibility. Those would be things that he could do to help us to reach that Candace Parker level.
Q. Fans in the SEC aren't known for their patience. Have you felt any pressure, whether from fans or anyone else, after 10 losses over the last two years?
COACH FULMER: Well, I mean, you can say it like that if you want to. If you look at a much longer period of time, it's not necessarily that way.
As I say, I'm not silly. I know that our expectations are high because we created those. I also know I just got a contract extension. Athletic director gave my coordinators three year contracts, assistants two year contracts.
As I said earlier, we're doing we've never had an NCAA violation in 15 years. APR is in great shape. There's a lot of positive things.
But nobody you or the fans nobody wants to win a championship more than I do, nobody. We're going to work like heck to make that happen.
Q. With all of the kind of high profile character issues that are coming up in the NFL right now, the commissioner cracking down, how have you changed the way you handle off field issues with your players? Can you take anything from what the NFL is doing and apply it to the college system?
COACH FULMER: You know, I think that's a great question. Again, as he said earlier, just drawing on my experience, I'm going to not try to go too long on this, but I think it's an important issue.
Things have changed in college football, in society, in the expectations from the athletes. You could talk about the NFL, but I'm going to talk about my world of college football. Myles Brand, president of the NCAA, has set a new academic standard that he expects to be there. I think the commissioners and the athletic directors are a whole lot less understanding and patient with off the field issues.
If you're gonna bring those guys in at different times, you can't always control everything that happens on your campus. We all know about 18 years old, immaturity, bad decisions, all those kind of things. But consistently it can be a problem.
I'm going to go back to my '05 season. We had several things, all independent of each other, mostly reasonably solid young men, but we had too many things and it distracted from our program. I told our group there in Knoxville a couple different times, I learned a lot about how much patience to have.
It goes back to the history of each one of them. But if a guy has had consistently inconsistent behavior, you know, you're getting ready to have a problem. So that's the reason our players understand we're not putting up with any crap. This is the way it's gonna be.
If you have an issue, we're going to deal with it as we see the right, firm way to do it. Now, That doesn't mean I'm going to chunk everybody kid's career at the first incident. But if it's something that's significant and we've had some consistent problems, we're going to deal with it, just as we have in recent times there at UT.
I've let a couple guys go. Might have been the wrong thing as far as them, but it was the right thing as far as our football team.
I think less tolerance is out there than ever before right now.
Q. Even though you turned it around last year from the previous year, was there a sense at the end of the year a little bit of emptiness? You got to a certain point, but you didn't quite get there, do you sense?
COACH FULMER: Yeah, yeah, you answered your own question. Yeah, it was a disappointing end of the season in that we didn't play as well as we wanted to in the Bowl game.
You know, our program is so proudful and the expectations are so high that it becomes its own challenge after you get knocked out of the SEC championship or BCS championship to maintain that level of intensity and commitment that it takes to finish a season out.
That's another set of problems that you have. I thought we practiced in the Bowl game about as well as we could practice. We asked a lot of them and they responded. But then we laid an egg in the game. I think we were the better team.
That doesn't mean obviously the better team doesn't always win. You have to play better. Three fumbles will do that to you sometimes.
It was disappointing. If we had had 10 wins, we'd all have been pretty happy about a "turnaround season." Somebody asked me if there's a magic number every year. Yeah, win 'em all. That's the magic number to make everybody happy in Knoxville, or the coach happy.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach Fulmer.
COACH FULMER: Thank you.
Linebacker Jerod Mayo:
On the success of last season:
"Coming off a losing season, when we went 5-6, it felt good. But it's not were we want to be. At Tennessee, expectations are high and we have to achieve those goals. In Knoxville, anything less than a national championship is disappointing. So for us, our goals are to build off last year and get ready to compete this year."
On the guys that stepped up last year:
"We didn't really have that many big name players, but we have guys that can compete. They can play, and they can play on the big stage at this level. Just because you haven't heard of them, it doesn't mean that they can't play big time football."
On opening the season at California:
"I'm real excited. I have never been to the west coast. Cal has a great lineup, and they have a great atmosphere. Their guys are player makers. Nate Longshore is a great back, Ben Olsen at quarterback. At the same time, our coaches will have a great scheme in place to stop them. We just have to take on the role."
On facing Arkansas RB Darren McFadden:
"He is a great back that hits the hole. That "Wildcat" formation was really strange. You can prepare for it, but at the same time, you are playing against a scout team back when in the game you are facing a Heisman Trophy candidate."
On the Tennessee crowd:
"They are something else. When you look up and see all those people in orange looking and cheering for you, it just pumps you up. You can feel the energy. As a player, there is nothing like it."
Quarterback Erik Ainge:
On his knee:
"My knee feels great! I was very fortunate when they put me down to fix my meniscus they told me I would be out three months, but the next thing I knew, I woke up and it was only 3-6 weeks."
On having a chip on your shoulder:
"A little bit, we won nine games last season and we were a couple plays and three games away from winning 12 games. I know that a lot of teams say that and it sounds a bit cliché to say that you were a couple plays away from winning a game here and there but we really believe it."
On the Florida rivalry:
"It's a little more current than some of the others but I grew up a Ducks fan living in Oregon so I did not get to see them (Tennessee) play a lot unless they played on CBS. It is certainly one of the best rivalry games we have along with Georgia and Alabama."
On playing at the Swamp:
"Anytime you go to Gainesville it's going to be a tough game. They have a great crowd, great team and great players and its going to be a big game. It's our first SEC game and our first road game, but it's not going to be bigger than Alabama, Georgia or anyone else on our schedule. In the SEC there are no off weeks."
Is Tennessee hungry?
COACH LES MILES:
THE MODERATOR: We'll continue with LSU head Coach Les Miles.
COACH MILES: Really enjoy the momentum that was created by the way we finished the season. We won seven straight games, finished with a Sugar Bowl victory over Notre Dame.
The spring went well. We introduced three new coaches, Gary Crowton, our offensive coordinator, in my opinion, has done a great job getting to know the players and really adjusting his offensive philosophy to fit, you know, the talent, the guys that we have.
I think our offense will be what you would say is very similar to last year's offense, with a little bit of tweaks based on the fact that we have different personnel.
Feel like the summer has really gone quickly. I think our guys are doing a great job in the weight room and are really strong and fit and looking forward to reporting for the camp a week from today.
Expectations are high. I'm fortunate to coach at a place where we understand expectations, enjoy 'em, and look forward to a great season.
I think the schedule is one where you better start fast. Thursday night, on the road, SEC, you're playing Mississippi State, first TV game, you better be ready. I think Coach Croom is returning a very talented team. Certainly it will be a case we'll need to start fast.
Let me speak about the two guys I brought quickly. When you see Glenn Dorsey, when you see Early Doucet, you're seeing guys that could have easily gone in the NFL Draft a year ago. You're seeing guys that are quality young men, good students, leaders of our football team, and both will be tremendous players.
You know, it just seems to me that the best player, quality people, kind of come together. When you see Early Doucet and Glenn Dorsey, you'll see leaders, great players, and quality people. So I encourage you to enjoy their contribution to today.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach Miles.
Q. Right now the SEC has Bowl tie ins: Two at the Big 10, two at the Big 12, one with the Conference USA. The SEC and the PAC 10 haven't faced each other in a Bowl since 1989. Would you like to see the SEC and PAC 10 to meet each other in a Bowl game on a regular basis?
COACH MILES: I think that would be a very competitive match up. I don't think there would be any problem with that at all.
I like our Bowl matchups. I like what the conference has in place. I can only tell you that we look forward to competing in this conference and getting to the back end and kind of seeing where we're at.
Whoever we would play we would enjoy.
Q. Since the arrival of Nick Saban, I've seen people have said some derogatory things about Alabama. My question is: Is LSU Bama's new rival, or is Nick Saban Les Miles' new rival?
COACH MILES: I didn't really hear everything you said there. I'll kind of address it.
I've given some thought to that. We really have enjoyed the accomplishments that coach had while he was at LSU. He left, went by way of another stop, now is back in the conference. I can tell you that's one game on our schedule, no more than one. I can tell you that we really have not changed anything. There will be no bearing on what we do that's different. We look forward to getting to that game.
Q. You talked about that's no more than one game on your schedule. How do you convince your fans of that? You talk to LSU fans, and all of a sudden Virginia Tech, Florida and Auburn don't matter. They want to skip directly to Alabama.
COACH MILES: Well, they'll figure it out when we open the season. They'll all wait. They'll understand.
They have to understand that it's just one game, and it's an important game certainly, but it's just one, counts as one. We'll get there. We'll be prepared. Look forward to that when we get there.
Q. A lot of people said you were the most talented team in the league but didn't win the league. Did you agree with that? Do you feel coming in this year you have anything to prove?
COACH MILES: The last three picks to win the conference have been wrong, so I don't know. You know, most talented? I guess there's another way to pick it.
What happens in every year is the team that wins the championship, they're the team that answers some questions about their team. They answer between now and when they get to the back end. There's work to do for every one of us.
We enjoy the compliment of being talented, but that doesn't necessarily make you a great team. We're going to work on being a great team and look forward to this season, the schedule, all that it presents to us.
Q. Glenn, he was projected as a probable first rounder last year. What research process was there for you in maybe helping him see where he was going to go in the draft, if he decided to go that way? Did you recommend as a first rounder maybe he do that? Ultimately, what was the reason he kind of gave for coming back?
COACH MILES: Any time you make a decision like that, it's a very personal one. It's one that he involves family and takes in a lot of information. I sat down in his living room and I talked about draft potential, different spots, where he might fit.
He had to weigh that versus another year at LSU, coming back to school, working to get his degree, and the enjoyment of being a college guy.
You know, those decisions are very personal. I sat down and gave him every piece. I never stand in favor of staying so hard that I push a point of view. Obviously I present that.
But, you know, frankly, JaMarcus Russell, first round draft pick position and then possibly the first player taken, it was a great decision. No one could ever argue. I think each decision is made personally and specific to that situation.
I think Glenn, in my opinion, just said, I enjoy where I'm at. We can wait a year. Let's go see if I can't improve my draft position. I think the same thing's true of Early. Early elected an early opportunity to evaluate his draft status with the NFL and came back very highly ranked. Really just said, Another year is what I need to do.
He's improved, is continuing to improve. I think those are great decisions for both of those guys.
Q. Do you regret saying, F'ing Alabama at that rally? And who wins in a boxing match, you or Nick Saban?
COACH MILES: I can tell you that at the end of a recruiting season where there was a lot of hearsay and innuendo, there was some heated exchanges, I can tell you that I did have emotion, and I certainly regret any choice of words that you described that I made.
No, I am not in any way derogatory towards Alabama. I look forward to competing with them and their coach.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about Matt Flynn, getting the job finally as the quarterback. What are some of the obstacles he faces as he takes that role for the first time?
COACH MILES: Any time you have a quarterback that starts in really his first season as a starter, there will be some period of adjustment. I think it will be minimal with Matt Flynn. Matt Flynn is a guy who is really deserving, really has competed for the opportunity to play against a quality quarterback in JaMarcus Russell, and now it's his turn. He has done great job in leadership.
In my opinion, we're all looking forward to seeing him to play. Again, this is his first year. He may not play just perfect, but we'll like how he plays and see if we can't if he can't help engineer a tremendous season.
Q. Can you talk about some of the position battles on your defense.
COACH MILES: Position battles on our defense? We lose two safeties. We like Craig Steltz, will return, part time player, will end up being a starting player for us. Strong safety. Curtis Taylor, the other safety, appears to be the starter.
Yet there's Danny McCray, a young freshman, you know, Chad Jones might see some playing time, let alone Stefoin Francois. There's some guys we might throw in there that might have some ability and will be good enough there at those safety spots.
Both those two veterans I mentioned, too, are really looking forward to spreading their wings a little bit. We're not going to have a LaRon Landry. LaRon Landry was the sixth player taking taken in the NFL Draft. But, you know what, we may have a really good safety, so...
Q. Do you think Coach Saban's return has kind of helped your image amongst LSU fans?
COACH MILES: I haven't really given much thought to that, to be honest with you. Like I said, my image is not something I really have focused on much lately (laughter).
Q. How healthy is Will Arnold on the offensive line? Can you talk about some of your young receivers.
COACH MILES: Will Arnold is a guy that's gone through some off season surgery and has really worked hard to rehabilitate. I'm not ready to say that he can take on a full fledged, two a day practice schedule. I think his playing time will be limited. Kind of wait and see, see how that goes.
The second part of that question was?
Q. Young receivers.
COACH MILES: Young receivers. Brandon LaFell, kind of the veteran that would return, in my opinion, is going to do a great job for us. Had a great summer, very strong, capable player. The two Mitchells: Jared Mitchell and Chris Mitchell, both guys that are fleet footed, could step in there and make plays. I wouldn't be fearful to send Terrance Toliver in there after he knows what to do, a true freshman.
I think the receiving core, even though we graduate two first round draft picks to the NFL, will be very talented.
Q. You've had to change as your offensive coordinator. The first part of the question is, was there any difference in philosophies between you and Coach Fisher? Now that you're bringing in Coach Crowton, how do your two philosophies about how an offense should be run, how do they meld together?
COACH MILES: The first question, the difficulties or the philosophy differences, were ironed out over two years, two very successful offensive years, ones that really make no difference at this point.
I think you look at Gary Crowton and what he brings. I think you'll see a very similar approach just as we've been in the past in certain issues, yet we'll bring some expertise in the throwing game that will allow us to maybe attack opponents a little differently than we've attacked in the past.
I don't think that there's been, in my time at LSU, any real differences in philosophy.
Q. A lot of these coaches say there's a camaraderie among the coaches in the league. In your mind is that true? Are there guys that you just like and guys you don't like?
COACH MILES: I think the coaching profession is one where everybody understands where you're at, the responsibility of the position that you hold, the opportunity to compete in a fair game over time, recruiting, on the playing field.
I think there's a very honest respect for those men that hold that position at all the schools in this conference.
Q. A few weeks ago did you mean to call out USC at that luncheon for WWL, or did you get caught up in the moment?
COACH MILES: I don't think I called out USC in any way. I think it was a feel of a strong SEC conference, enjoyment, the competition, how difficult it is to come through a tremendous schedule, an SEC schedule, then play a championship game, and then go on and have an opportunity to play in a nationally significant game.
I just think it's a little easier to come from a conference that there is no championship game. Whoever the champion is from the PAC 10, I think they'll be a great football team. We'd look forward to meeting anybody in the post season.
No, I wasn't calling out USC in any way.
Q. I'm sure your players now have seen or heard about the magazine predictions, the polls coming out. How much of a concern are expectations to you that can weigh on a team in general, and how do you think this team in particular, given the experience they've had with success over the last couple years, will be able to deal with it?
COACH MILES: I think we understand what we have to go through week by week. I think every player on our football team understands what we're going to ask of them, to take their role, make it the most important role on the team, play it and do it as best as they can, make themselves a significant contributor to their team.
That's how championships are won. It's a question that you answer over time. It's not something that you can be awarded. There's no ranking that makes a difference. There's no prediction that's ultimate. That just sells papers.
The only thing that you can do is earn what you get, work hard, come to work every day, work for your team, and see at the end of this year if we can't be in a position where we can see a championship.
I don't think our guys playing at LSU, the success they've had, in a great university where there are great expectations, read the paper or play much into that. I think they all understand whether you're ranked, you know, fifth, first, second, that at the end of the year you will have earned your position.
Hopefully we'll get to the back end of this thing and find all those people that made the prediction about us finishing first are right.
Q. Back at the SEC meetings in May, you were one of the few coaches that was really in favor of this early signing period. Looks like right now you have a pretty good list of commitments for the class of 2008. How important is it for you to get these kids committed in July/August, before the season starts? How does that affect your recruitment of them for the rest of the season until February?
COACH MILES: There was a piece there I didn't quite hear. Did you talk about an early signing date?
COACH MILES: I just needed to ask that question.
Yeah, I'm for an early signing date because I think it makes sense. I think there was a poll taken several years ago where they polled all of that class. About 38%, 36% of that class said they would have signed early.
If the student athlete wants to sign early, they can get this out of the way, then in my opinion that should happen because it saves wear and tear on the assistants. Certainly the student athlete would like to know that his scholarship is put away. You can then turn your attentions to the recruiting position that you need. It just makes great sense.
The pretense of if you made an early signing date, you would have to have visitations, is not necessarily true in any way. You could put in an arbitrary date of December 1st. Because everybody is coming on unofficial visits all through basketball season, all through the summer, they're getting the feel for that school that they have real interest in well in advance.
If they want to commit, which we, like other schools in this conference, like other schools in this country, have an early commitment list, if they would like to sign, I think it just saves our school, our schools, the NCAA, a lot of wear and tear to just pick a date, let those guys that want to commit early sign, and then let's go forward from there.
It just makes sense to me.
Q. How will you and your staff change your recruiting strategy in anticipation of the ban on text messaging going into effect on August 1st?
COACH MILES: Well, I think there will be an adjusted regulation comeback. I think it will end up being maybe banned to start, but eventually they'll come up with some common sense use of a very effective way to communicate.
If the guys aren't picking up the home phone, dialing the cell phone. If they're not picking up the cell phone, want to communicate by text, it's a very convenient way to get very specific information, and information the student athlete can keep because it's given to them in a text form.
I think there will be a common sense feel there. I think it's right to limit it. I think it's exhausting to the student athlete. I think the assistant coach can be worn out. I think there probably should be a ban on text messaging in the times where you cannot call the student athlete.
Right now we can't call our student athletes that we're recruiting. There might be a ban on text messaging until that time we could use the phone to pick them up. If you would call them one time, you might be able to text them one day. Unlimited call, unlimited texts. I think there would be a common sense adjustment there. I just feel like that's the way our country's going.
Q. A question about special teams. Where do things stand right now with your kicking game? On the receiving end, the change in the rules, are you giving a thought to moving Trindon around, a little bit, changing your entire return scheme?
COACH MILES: The kicking game, we think Patrick Fisher will end up being our punter. We're going to let some competition take place there. We have two freshmen that will come in and vie for kicking and punting chores.
I think Andrew Crutchfield might have a decent opportunity at a kickoff position. But we're going to look at our guys. We have guys we feel can step in and compete. That will be a competent that will be more further answered through two a days.
The return game is one that it's very interesting with the ball being placed at the 30 and kicking it off. On defense when you're kicking it off you better have a very talented, fast coverage core going down ready to tackle.
You need to have a guy that can kick it. If he can't kick it in the end zone, he better kick it way up in the air. If it landed on the 3, 5, or 10 for that matter, have a hang time of four seconds, 4.4, for instance, we will have plenty of guys down by the ball. It will have little effect.
If you have a guy that line drives the kick, can't kick it out of the end zone, the strategy of that position will have changed and you'll see maybe some squibs and some pooches and some skies and some punches in a completely different feel. It's going to take more time. Our practice time has allotted a little bit more time so we can look at that.
I think the return game obviously is exciting for us. We think we'll have great returners. If we can get a hat on a hat in the block we have an opportunity to go get some yards.
It's a definite there's definite impact with the rule change. This is not a rule change that everybody will yawn through and not notice. This will be, in my opinion, you'll see teams with great return schemes and teams that are benefited by the return game use that to their advantage.
Those teams that understand how to kick the ball, cover the ball, you know, there will be an advantage.
I think it's an interesting piece.
Q. In the hiring process of Coach Crowton, how much did he express an interest in taking or getting back into head coaching and how much did his prior head coaching experience factor into hiring him as an offensive coordinator?
COACH MILES: I followed him really I was in the Big 8, Big 12 Conference when a LaTech team took a Nebraska team that was most recently a national champion to the ropes. I always mistake the statistic, but 490 yard, some ridiculous amount of yardage, and how he did it.
I studied that film. He went to BYU as the head coach. I watched their offenses there have success. He was the coordinator at the Chicago Bears when I was with the Dallas Cowboys. I watched him do miraculous things with Chicago as he coordinated there for two years. I think their offense was third ranked in the NFL with not necessarily a very talented offensive team.
He's most recently went to the PAC 10 at Oregon. Oregon may not be just the most talented PAC 10 team, yet their team lead the PAC 10 in offense.
I researched him and I knew him. I met his wife and himself at a function, knew that he'd be a great fit. With his LaTech background, Louisiana, he would understand crawfish and gumbo, he'd be very comfortable.
Q. How important a recruiting ground is the state of Mississippi? Given the kind of struggles that those two teams have had, is that a place you can go and get a blue chip guy?
COACH MILES: Well, I think Mississippi has real quality football. I don't think there's any question. I'm pretty comfortable recruiting a proximity to LSU. I think there's an opportunity for the guys in Mississippi to evaluate our opportunity and come down and see a great education and a school that might have some differences.
I think those two schools do a good job recruiting in their state. I think you go in there, you fight like heck to get their kids. But we want to recruit really as wide as we can get to, the I 10 corridor is really important to us from Houston into Florida. We certainly enjoy our state first and pan out thereafter.
We think we have a pretty special place. It's a place that we think has everything. We're going to give those opportunities to guys that are good students and quality athletes no matter where they're at.
Q. The kickoffs, is there a balance that you have to have on kickoff coverage and that you want your best athletes because it's going to be such a weapon, yet you keep throwing them out there on kickoff coverage, likelihood of an injury to a starter. Is there a balance you have to play there?
COACH MILES: It's a defensive play where the change in ball placement can be extreme. So I think it's like the punt, you know. The punt, generally you could say between six and eight times in a game you may punt the ball.
If you're going to change the position of the ball by 40 yards, how important is that play? It's tremendously important. You look at your starters and you say, should you have a starter on a punt team? Absolutely. I think people will understand that when they go to kick the football off, the guy that goes down there, if he's not a starter, he better be a very, very good player. He better be a great player.
I think you will evaluate your starters as that is an important play and we'll need them. Now, will there be injury? I think the more snaps that you take, there's just a greater chance that that will happen.
Q. Is there anything new on the status of Ryan Perrilloux, Ricky Jean Francois? If not, any change between now and the start of camp?
COACH MILES: I have a couple of personnel issues I'll get to probably sometime between now and when camp arrives. Ricky Jean Francois will be at camp, going. We look forward to his participation. I don't know how soon he'll be ready to play, but we'll evaluate that as it goes.
Other issues, we'll look at those individually, and a decision will be forthcoming.
Q. In your opinion, why did Alley Broussard go from a guy that led the team in rushing in '04 to a guy that didn't want to play football anymore? Where does that leave you as a runningback group?
COACH MILES: We're sad that Alley got hurt. It's one of those things that life's not necessarily fair. A guy that has very talented ability to run the football, a guy that has some success, just could not have gotten beyond that injury.
I think he worked hard at it. I think the young backs: The Keiland Williams, the Charles Scott, Richard Murphy, Jacob Hester, are really pursuing the field so hard that I don't know that he felt like he could overtake that position. I think he just is focusing on his academics.
It's sad. It's sad when a guy feels like maybe an injury cost him an opportunity to compete. But, again, it's a personal decision. I'm right with that decision. If he could not get that leg to a position where he felt like he was very comfortable or if he felt like, for whatever reason, he was not going to be able to compete with strength, then maybe the decision is a quality one. Certainly he'll get his degree.
Q. Do you think there's any way Alley could change his mind and transfer to even a Division II school, play this year? Is he definitely done?
COACH MILES: I really wouldn't want to speculate there. I think it's the kind of thing where with time, you know, he might even pursue the NFL. You really don't know. It's just one where it's a personal decision, one that's made with what are his personal considerations.
I don't really know.
Q. What is Ryan Perrilloux's status?
COACH MILES: Ryan is currently suspended from the team. We'll look at his matter in this next week, you know, make a decision whether he returns.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.
COACH MILES: Thank you.
Wide Receiver Early Doucet:
On LSU's chances this season:
"It's always great to be thought of in such a high manner. We never really get into the preseason hype. We're just going to get together this Friday and report for fall camp and take those three or four weeks to get better as a team. We're just looking forward to opening up against Mississippi State."
On the loss against Florida last year:
"We think about that all the time. Going into a season and being competitors you never want to lose any games and that was definitely a letdown for us, but we didn't let that effect the outcome of the whole season. We just bounced back and moved on and continued to play great football for the rest of the season."
On the new quarterback, Matt Flynn:
"He's going to be fine. Matt is a poised veteran, this is his fifth year. He knows how to handle tough situations. Like you saw in the Miami game, he can come in and get the job done. He's a great passer and a great leader. We're sad to see JaMarcus (Russell) go, but that's how it goes sometimes. That's why you recruit great football players to come to your school and I think Matt Flynn is a great quarterback and he'll get the job done."
On playing against Nick Saban now:
"Yes, Coach Saban recruited me and I played for him one year. I enjoyed the time that I spent with him but Coach Miles is our head coach now and I'm glad to be a part of his team. He's a great coach and I've learned a lot from him. Coach Saban was the head coach then, and Coach Miles is here at LSU now and that's our head coach and we're going to fight for him until the end.
Defensive Lineman Glenn Dorsey:
On the first game:
"It's going to be a great game. It's on a Thursday night and we are preparing. We are getting our minds right. Mississippi State is going to be a great opponent. They (Mississippi State) have been doing some great things. They play hard so we are going to bring our best effort. We are going to come out and play LSU football. Every game will be a hard game and we will take one game at a time."
On decision about the draft:
"I very confident about the decision I have made. It's all in the past. I'm excited about this new season. I made the best decision for me, my family and my team. I'm a 100 percent behind my decision. I'm really looking forward to this season, we have some new guys coming out ready to play hard and represent the state. I'm happy to be apart of it."
On double teaming:
"My coaches have prepared me for everything. Since the scheme changes so much in games you have to be prepared and you can't go into the game just prepared for double teams. At practice we work on every block possible so we can be ready in the game. Our coaching staff does a great job preparing for whatever the other team throws at us."
On media picking LSU to win the SEC Championship:
"There's no pressure. We really don't get involved in the polls. We have a long season to go and we take every game one at a time. It's good to see LSU get respect, but we really don't get involved we are going to control what we can control and everything else will fall into place. "
"Our coach has not said much about Alabama. We will take one game at a time. Every game is big and every opponent will play us their best. We will come out with our A-game every time. You can't focus on one game because we have plenty of games to be played. "
On winning a Championship:
"It would mean a lot. I have not been able to win a Championship since I've been here. It would be great to do that my senior year. I love the team and we have prepared to be in that position. We understand the time is now. We have all the talent, the support staff and the coaches to do that. Our guys are working hard in the summer time and getting ready for camp. We want to capitalize on all our opportunities."
Story Courtesy: secsports.com & Host Communications