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Sunday, December 28th, 2008

OLE MISS REBELS DEFENSIVE NEWS CONFERENCE

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR TYRONE NIX

On his defensive players:
“They made it fun to coach the games on Saturday. The guy who made the biggest impact to me was (DT) Peria Jerry. Peria is a kid who came from a great high school program (South Panola in Batesville, Miss.) and has a great work ethic. He has been tremendous to coach every day. He has made All-American. He has made All-SEC. He is a kid who has been a force for us in the run game, in the passing game, in every aspect. I’m just proud to say I had an opportunity to coach him his senior year. His teammate in high school, Jamarca Sanford, is a senior also. He makes a lot of checks at strong safety and does a heck of a job. He’s a kid who loves the game. He shows up to work every day. I’ve just been tickled to coach him. He was probably the first guy who wasn’t afraid to come up and talk to me and play jokes on me sometimes. I’ve been lucky and fortunate to coach him.”

On his most pleasant surprise:
“The defensive end, Kentrell Lockett, is kind of the surprise guy of the group. All of the press clippings talked about Greg Hardy coming into the season when I took the job. Kentrell took advantage of his opportunities. He showed that he was a consistent guy. He was excited about playing the game and probably made the single biggest play of the season when he blocked the extra point in the Florida game. He is a kid who continues to mature every week. I’m just glad I get to coach him a couple of more years.”

On the contributions of DE Marcus Tillman:
“He’s a guy who has kind of been overshadowed on our defensive front. He plays opposite Kentrell Lockett. He’s a kid who is quiet and dependable. He works hard and does all of the little things we ask him to do. And he makes plays. I remember early in the year when he came to talk to his position coach. He said, ‘Coach, I don’t feel that I’m making a lot of plays. What can I do to make more?’ We just told him to stay consistent. Keep doing the little things right and then big things will happen. He has made several big plays for us throughout the season. Some say our front may be the best in the country. I don’t know. I don’t get a chance to see everyone else. But I wouldn’t trade them for anybody else.”

On the Texas Tech offense:
“We’ve told our kids that they’re going to make plays. They’re a good football team. They’re going to make plays, they’re going to catch balls, they’re going to run. What we have to do is minimize those plays. When a catch is made, we have to be there to make a collision. We have to be in a position to make tackles. How many times have you seen (Michael) Crabtree break tackles and go on to score? We watched their highlights last night. If we don’t do what we’re supposed to do, there’s a chance for an explosive play on every snap. That’s what they do. They make you play.”

On the challenges of preparing for a bowl game:
“The difficult thing about preparing for a bowl game is the time off leading into the game. … Also, given the Texas Tech scheme, getting the exact look from your scout team is more difficult. I mean we don’t have a (Michael) Crabtree on our scout team. I wish we did. We don’t have a (Graham) Harrell playing quarterback. We don’t have the backs that they have. We don’t have a tackle that is an All-American. To get our kids an actual look in practice is the hardest thing about playing this type of offense and playing in this bowl game. Other than that, though, blocking, tackling and the other fundamentals stay consistent. It’s just a matter of preparing them for the look that they will actually see when we kick the ball off.”

On using a large number of players along the defensive line:
“We go two deep. That means we play at least eight guys. We try to keep them fresh. We know that is going to be a challenge in this game, trying to keep our people fresh.”


LB JONATHAN CORNELL

On what it means to Ole Miss to be in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic:
“It means a lot to us. Last year, we didn’t even win an SEC game. To go from 3-9 to 8-4 really means a lot to this program and shows we are on an upward track. The guys believe more than they did last season. The coaches have made a difference. It’s basically the same team as last year, but we have a different attitude. We’re playing with a little more confidence. There’s a lot more maturity in this group. The seniors really took hold of this group and led us.”

On the Texas Tech offense:
“We have to tackle well, play our assignments, do what we’ve been doing all year. They’re good at what they do. But so are we. So it should be a pretty good game. It’s a spread offense. There are different kinks and twists to every spread offense. The most comparable offense in the SEC is Florida.”


DE MARCUS TILLMAN

On facing Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell:
“We all have to make sure we get to that guy. We have to run to the ball, make tackles, stop their passes and get them off the field. … They are a little like Florida. That’s the only true spread we have seen this year.”

On the bowl experience:
“We’re loving it. … We get to see the town at night. It’s one of the best bowls in America. But it’s really a business trip. It was new a few days ago. But now we’re really trying to work. Our first two practices have gone very well. We’re in good condition.”


DT PERIA JERRY

On the changes made by Head Coach Houston Nutt:
We just had to start believing. Coach Nutt brought a lot to our program. Everybody came closer. He’s a players’ coach and we appreciate that. He has brought a lot to Ole Miss. He’s one of the most upbeat people I have ever been around. I can go over to his house or anything. He’s just a great guy to be around.”

On the keys to slowing the Texas Tech offense:
“We’re going to have to have a great pass rush and open-field tackling. We’re going to have to be great tacklers. They’re a great offense. You just have to keep preparing during the week and then go out and outplay them.”

On the Texas Tech offensive line:
“They have a lot of big guys up front. They don’t make too many mistakes. We just have to go out and outwork them. They put up good fights. We have a lot of respect for them.”


DE KENTRELL LOCKETT

On the wide splits used by the Texas Tech offensive line:
“We just have to play our regular game. During the game, we might have to make some adjustments. But going into the game, we just have to prepare like we always do. … They protect their quarterback and give him time.”

On getting to Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell:
“We have to try to cause havoc. We need hurries and pressure. We just have to get him out of the norm. I don’t know if he’s a good scrambler. But when he sits in the pocket, he’s good. … He really hasn’t had to scramble much. We just need to get him out of his element and see what happens when we do that.”


SS JAMARCA SANFORD

On what the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic means to Ole Miss:
“We look at this game like it’s a game for respect. I feel like they don’t really respect us. … We’re just going to go out and compete like we have been doing all year.”

On the most impressive aspects of the Texas Tech offense:
“What impresses me the most is what they do with the ball after making the catch. I have been watching them on film and have seen them turn a 5-yard drag into an 80-yard touchdown. They’re not a team that’s going to line up and just try to go deep on you. They’re going to take what you give them. We just have to do a good job of tackling and prevent all of those yards after catches.”

On offenses similar to Texas Tech:
“They remind me a bit of Florida this year and the Missouri team we played last year. Their quarterback understands their offense and does a great job. He makes good decisions.”

On what it means to Ole Miss to be in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic:
“It is a great honor to be in the position we’re in. Coach (Houston) Nutt came in and just turned the program around. … Coach Nutt gave us confidence. He got us over that hump. We believed in him, and it has turned out good for this team.”

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