Fall camp officially begins for Ole Miss football

The Ole Miss football team reported for fall camp Thursday, marking the official start to the 2018 season.

Posted: Aug 2, 2018 8:26 PM
Updated: Aug 2, 2018 8:47 PM

OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - The Ole Miss football team reported for fall camp Thursday, marking the official start to the 2018 season. The Rebel student-athletes met with the media to preview the coming campaign. Additionally, head coach Matt Luke addressed the media in advance of fall camp. The transcript for Luke’s press conference can be found below.

Opening Statement
“Really excited to get started. Another season of football. Feel like, really coming in with a lot of momentum. I said a while back at SEC Media Day, winning three of the last four, top-25 recruiting class, good spring, the way recruiting is going right now, just a very, very positive vibe in the Manning Center and a lot of really, really positive momentum right now and very, very excited about that.

Before we open up for questions, a couple of personnel notes. Really excited about the signing of Tariqious Tisdale. He's going to be joining us here today, so that was a huge get. (Noah) Jefferson did not qualify, so felt like that was really important for Tariqious to come in here at defensive line and also, we are going to keep Jalen Cunningham at D-Line starting fall camp, as well.”

On the health of the team
“Everybody should be back, healthy, with the exception of D'Vaughn Pennamon, and he's a little bit wait-and-see. He may be the middle of the season. He had a very severe knee injury. He is running but it's going to be a little bit of a slow process. We'll know more in the middle of camp, I'll be able to give you a little bit better feel when he starts cutting and moving but everybody else should be ready to go. Got a lot of people coming back that missed the spring, so excited about that.”

On addressing players and staff regarding off-the-field situations
“Yeah, I think you are always evaluating and seeing what you can do better and always try to learn as much as you can from other situations. Can't comment on what's going on (at Ohio State) but you always try to look at what's going on and try to find ways to evaluate yourself to be better.”

On what will change defensively from the past two seasons
“The biggest thing is to improve. I said it at SEC Media Day, let's build on the second half of Texas A&M where they shut out the second half and got turnovers, let's really build on that. I think continuity is huge, being second year in the same system and everybody being one year better. I think having an experienced secondary and them being able to load the box some should help us. We have to find a way to continue to build and get better in our second year.”

On approaching his second season as head coach
“When I got this job this time last year, I didn't really approach it as the interim. I kind of took the mindset, I'm making decisions for the long term, what's best for the program. So that's the way I approached it. But I think what I'll be better at is just being much more efficient with my time, knowing where to allocate time, offensively, defensively, recruiting. I just think the only way you can do that is through experience, and I'll be one year better at that, but time management for sure would be what I'd say.”

On the receiving corps
“The wide receiving core, they are one of the most talented in the country. They are very, very talented, unselfish, and they work really, really hard. They are very driven. They push each other to be better, and that's what I like about those guys. You know they all want the ball every snap but it's fun to see when one of them catches the touchdown, the other two chasing after them to celebrate and them pushing each other to be better. So I think that's a unique blend of guys that have that swagger but they also pull for each other. I think that's unique.”

On moving from offensive line coach to head coach
“Just same thing with your team. You go from being really in one area to doing it all. But that's the part I enjoy. I enjoy the relationship part of coaching. To me that's what I'm good at and that's what I enjoy doing, and it's just a much broader scope in getting to know more people, instead of just focusing on three or four, you're more worried about the big picture. It's all about building relationships and that's the part I like.”

On knowing at the end of fall camp that the team is ready
“You know what, I think it's always tough because every team's different. But you really want to see your team go out and compete. You know, it used to be I was just happy if the offense did good and now I'm going to be not happy regardless what happens. You want to see your guys compete, offense win a day and defense win a day. You want to see guys compete. When you see the competitive character starting to show up on your team, that's when you start feeling like, these guys are ready to play.”

On the leadership in the locker room
“Josiah Coatney really at the end of the year came into his own as a leader. I don't know if you heard him speak at SEC Media Day but he’s very, very well spoken. He's a guy, if he says something, the guys in the locker room listen, but that whole secondary—Ken Webster, he's a senior, he's been around; Zedrick Woods, C.J. Moore, those guys are stepping up and becoming more vocal as they grow in confidence so I really like that. Your quarterback has to be a leader. (Jordan Ta’amu) having success really helped him be a leader, because guys aren't going to follow a guy that's not doing great. I think him having success really helped him be a leader but we've got a lot of good players up front that are leaders—Sean Rawlings, Jordan Sims, Javon Patterson, Greg Little, Alex Givens, they all kind of take ownership, and then you throw in that receiving core, Dawson Knox. It's a really good group and a core group of leaders that I feel good about.”

On areas of concern after the spring
“You know what just having so many injuries in the D-Line, because you want to see what Qaadir Sheppard can do and Austrian Robinson and those guys and then that was something for me because of the injuries, didn't really get a great picture. So I think I'll see a little bit better that, scrimmage one and scrimmage two, this fall camp. I think the biggest question is linebackers, which guy is going to step up, which one of the young freshmen is going to step up, how are Mohamed Sanogo and Josh Clarke are going to be in fall camp, because I think all those guys are talented but they have to show that they can do it. Probably the front seven, I think everybody knows that, but that's what I want to see. I want to see the guys that are coming back healthy, how are they doing, and which one of the linebackers are going to step up.”

On which offensive linemen are poised to compete for time
“The one that jumps out in my mind is Ben Brown. I think he'll compete at right guard with Jordan Sims. He's a talented kid. Royce Newman is very, very talented. He's going to play some. Bryce Matthews can do a bunch of different things. So those guys will play. But Ben Brown, Royce, Bryce, those guys will have a chance to contribute.”

On what makes Ben Brown ready to compete
“Just overall athletic ability. I mean, he's a big, strong, physical guy. He's smart. He's a good athlete. He plays hard. When you say offensive lineman, that's what he looks like. I'm glad we're able to redshirt him and he's got four years left. He's going to have a bright future. But Jordan does have a lot of experience and expect him to do a lot of different things for us. He'll be playing at guard and doing some backup center stuff for us, as well.”

On getting back to the game of football
“Excited to get started. Like I said, taking all the positive momentum at the end of last season and top-25 recruiting class and the way things are going now, taking all the positive momentum and focusing on football and focusing on the guys in this locker room and try to block out all the outside noise, I think that's the most exciting part about moving forward.”

On upperclassmen leadership
“You can't say enough about the guys that sit in this room. When you go through a tough time, it does one of two things. It pushes you apart or it pulls you together and the guys that have been through it and stuck together, they really, really have bonded and they play for each other. So we just want to continue that culture and take it the next step this year.”

On addressing NCAA issues with players
“They already know the penalty, so I think we prepare for the worst and if something else happens, then it's a bonus, so that's the way that we've always approached it. Hey, we're just going to keep our head down and keep working. We're going to play for each other and then if something else happens, it's a bonus.”

On changing the culture
“I just think that game in, game out, last season, you started to see it. Everybody said, ‘Okay, this team is going to quit.’ And they didn't. They kept showing up and battling and they kept competing. That's when you started to see the culture change. To go from an unselfish blue collar, tough football team at the end of the season and you just want to take that and you want to build on it and you see guys pushing each other. You get the feel of guys working extra and doing all the little things that it takes to be a special football team. It's just a feel that you get around here and you just want to take it from where we were and just keep building on it.”

On the running backs
“It was kind of a two-headed monster in the spring because we knew we had to replace Jordan Wilkins but we also had to work on stopping the run. So we spent a lot of time on that in the spring. Because of that, Eric Swinney got a bunch of reps, Scottie Phillips got a bunch of reps, Isaiah Woullard, Armani Linton. I was cautiously optimistic about that running back room just because they have still got to go out there and do it but they showed some flashes of being really, really, really good, and maybe top to bottom, maybe a little bit deeper than last year. So excited about that, but they have still got to go do it.”

On embracing the underdog role
“The players are the ones that set the mentality, so they are the ones that have to buy in. But I think they do take on a little bit of the persona of the coach and I think that's important to create that, because there are no shortcuts. Everybody with social media, everybody wants things right now but if you want to get things done, you have to go to work. There are no shortcuts and that's what you have to do if you want to be really good. You've got to roll your sleeves up and go to work. That's really what fall camp is all about. We've been doing a lot of talking with SEC Media Day but now is time to put the pads on and go to work.”

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