Luke previews season opener at Memphis

Ole Miss visits Memphis on Saturday on ABC-WTVA.

Posted: Aug 26, 2019 8:07 PM
Updated: Aug 26, 2019 8:36 PM

OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - Ole Miss Football Head Coach Matt Luke met with the media Monday to preview the 2019 season opener at Memphis (11 a.m. CT, ABC-WTVA). The full transcript can be found below.

Opening statement…
"Excited about game week. We had our first game week (type) practice last week, and there was a lot of energy and a lot of bounce. Guys are excited about not hitting each other and getting ready for that first game. I think we are coming out of camp relatively healthy. I think the biggest question mark is still Alex Givens. We are trying to integrate him, doing a bunch a walk-throughs and a bunch of conditioning stuff. I think he is still day-to-day at this point, and we will know more Tuesday and Wednesday. Other than that, we are pretty healthy. Excited about going to Memphis to play, I think that is a huge fan base for us. The location is close, so it is very important for us. Lots of respect for them as a team. Coach (Mike) Norvell has done a great job running the ball, RPOs, their quarterback is very accurate. Lots of defensive guys back, so they have a lot of experience on that side of the ball. Overall, just really excited to get out there and go play."

On Alex Givens potentially playing after not practicing…
"His experience gives him a chance to do that. The biggest concern is just his conditioning, so we have been doing a lot of that, building a base so that he is not starting from ground zero."

On where the players are at with the new system…
"I think any time you have a lot of new players, you find out in the first game. I do think we have had a really good camp. We have had several good scrimmages. That is probably your biggest indicator. When you are out there in the stadium, you see how they are doing when the coaches are off of the field and in the box. I thought the competition has been good and the understanding has been good. Competitions help them learn faster because you have guys pushing you."

On the value of this game from a recruiting perspective…
"One of the top factors in recruiting is distance. With Memphis being an hour away, I think it is really important. There will always be really good players to recruit in the Memphis area and that will always be the case because of our location. But I think because of our fan base there, we will have a really good crowd and great atmosphere."

On Matt Corral…
"You look at all of the little things. Obviously, he has gotten more comfortable in the system but I think it is the leadership – talking to the receivers, talking to the offensive line and feeling comfortable in that leadership role. He went out to SEC Media Day and doing all of those little things make a big difference because he was thrust into that role, but I think he has done a good job."

On the backup quarterbacks…
"I think the four-game rule does give you a bit of flexibility given that they are all freshmen. John Rhys Plumlee does give you a lot with his legs. Every scrimmage he has shown up and made great plays. Grant (Tisdale) all-around is a very smart decision maker, so they all bring a little something to the table. We'll have to play that by ear but Matt (Corral) will go in as the guy."

On Matt Corral's toughness…
"I think in this offense we want to make them defend all 11 people. I think there is a time to be smart and not take needless hits just to try and run somebody over. Also, you want to let his competitive fire show."

On getting Nick Broeker and other freshmen ready to play…
"I think when you go out there in scrimmages, and he is playing against really good defensive linemen, that is your best opportunity to go out there and see the speed of the game. Obviously, you can't simulate a real game but you can try and make practice as much like a real game as you can to put them in those tough situations when there are no coaches around. He is a little bit more mature than most freshmen with his learning curve. I think he will be ready if he gets thrown out there."

On Donta Evans…
"He had a really good summer. He's been vocal and he showed up on all of the special teams. He's been very physical in all of the scrimmages, and this 3-4 (scheme) really fits him because he doesn't leave the box. He has been very physical in the A-gap and B-gap."

On controlling emotions of the first-time starters…
"For me, you're watching all of the games. You're watching Florida vs. Miami, and you're seeing all of the things. Sitting back and showing them mistakes and game situations, that's what we do in the mock games. We try and simulate every situation that they can possibly be in. I don't think you can cover them all, but you try. You have the checklist, and you go through everything. I think we have done a good job with that."

On the junior college transfers…
"I thought we did a really good job identifying some players that can help us. When you recruit junior college guys, you are recruiting them to come in and play (right away). That is what you are telling them when you recruit them, and it is the truth. For immediate needs, junior college is very important, and I think we have hit there."

On the backup guards…
"I think Bryce Mathews is a guy that can do it, and he will do a good job there. I think he'll be a guy, and then Jalen Cunningham and Chandler Tuitt. Those three guys are in the mix. I think Bryce gives you more of a comfort zone because he can play so many positions."

On the balance of practicing tackling and trying to stay healthy…
"I think every coach in America wants the answer to that. Our live scrimmages, we sucked it up and tackled because you have to do it some. Part of it is learning how to practice and be in good positions running towards the football because you can't just tackle all of the time, then guys will be hurt and that is not good either."

On running backs…
"That is arguably our deepest position. I am very excited about their explosiveness. I think Scottie (Phillips) had a great camp. He's at 205 or maybe under, so he is in great shape right now. Isaiah Woullard is a great kid, a hard worker. Jerrion Ealy provides unbelievable speed and playmaking ability. Snoop Conner is a very tough runner and he has done a great job, so we have a lot of weapons and depth there."

On Memphis being the favorite…
"Any time that you are playing a quality opponent in your first week, I think your antenna goes up in regards to the sense of urgency that you prepare with. I do think our guys will be ready to go when they get there."

On Keidron Smith and Jaylon Jones…
"Keidron has done a good job, and you'll see them both (this weekend). When you are going out and it's going to be 90+ degrees, we are going to need all of those guys to step in and play, and it has been a great competition."

On Jaylon Jones' knee…
"I think he's good. He has been out there at every practice and has been able to take his knee brace off some. We have kind of been experimenting with that some. He has been 100 percent the whole time and has been doing a good job."

On Memphis also having two new coordinators…
"The biggest challenge is watching Marshall and picturing Memphis players in that scheme, but they are having to do that same thing for us as well. Offensively, it is a little bit easier because Coach Norvell has been doing pretty much the same thing."

On if there is a need for a college football preseason…
"I wouldn't say that. The way that we try to approach that is by making your first scrimmage preseason game number one, then your second is preseason game number two. That is kind of the way that we approach it. We try to have SEC officials come in to make it as much like a game as we can."

On Memphis quarterback Brady White…
"Very, very accurate, he is really good at what they do. He has a very quick release and that bodes well in the RPO game. They make you respect their run game. His ability to have a quick release, be accurate with the football, and make good decisions make him really good."

On Jerrion Ealy…
Obviously, he is a talented young man. If he gets the ball in open space, he is very dynamic. The threat of him returning kicks and getting the ball in space and also at running back, he has a chance to make a big impact."

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