Matt Luke weekly press conference

Ole Miss Football Head Coach Matt Luke met with the media Monday, recapping the season-opening win over Texas Tech and looking forward to Saturday's home opener against Southern Illinois.

Posted: Sep 3, 2018 6:52 PM

OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics/WTVA) - Ole Miss Football Head Coach Matt Luke met with the media Monday, recapping the season-opening win over Texas Tech and looking forward to Saturday's home opener against Southern Illinois (3 p.m. CT, SEC Alternate).

Opening statement…
"Really happy with the start, starting out 1-0 against a Big 12 opponent. Happy for our players, and coaches put a lot of time and effort into that so very happy. It was also really exciting seeing our fans show up in Houston. I love the turnout by Rebel Nation. It was really fun after the game to see our players and fans interacting together. There was a lot of energy provided from our fans. Positives coming out of the game were Scottie Phillips, obviously. I'm happy to see him get off to that start. I'm excited with what I've seen from him through spring and fall camp, but happy to see him have that type of start. Jordan (Ta'amu) looked very comfortable spreading the ball out to all the receivers so that was positive. I thought the o-line protected and played really well. Had a couple of breakdowns, but for the most part they played pretty good. Defensively, I thought our communication was better. I saw a lot of communication coming from the senior safeties to our linebackers. I thought that was better watching the tape, the confidence and the retention was good. From the kicking game, I am really pleased with Luke Logan in his first time starting in a big environment. He did really, really well. Some of the improvements I thought we need to make: red zone offense, when we get down there we have to score points. We had opportunities, we just have to make plays down there. I don't think it was anything schematically, I think it's us executing and making the plays that are there. Defense, getting off the field on third down, I thought that was a big thing for us. A couple times we had the opportunity to get off the field on third down that would eliminate long scoring drives. Fitting our runs a little bit better, a few of our run fits need to be cleaned up especially in the red zone where we just had some MA's (missed assignments) there. I thought the kickoff return was a positive. There were some kickoff coverage breakdowns. We had nine or ten kickoff coverages, and I think we have to clean up some areas there. Overall, a good win, you always make your biggest improvement from game one to game two and it's good to be able to do that in a win."

Injury news…
"Jaylon Jones does have a torn ACL. We got that MRI back, and he'll have surgery on Friday. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him. He had a phenomenal camp and had worked really hard. Kevontae' Ruggs is in concussion protocol and is day to day, and that's the same with DaMarkus Lodge; he reported some symptoms yesterday morning. He will also be in concussion protocol and be day to day. Sean Rawlings had a shoulder and a knee, but he'll be probable. I would look for him to play and just be limited in practice this week."

On the upcoming home opener…
"Home openers are great. We are fired up to get back into the groove and play in front of our home fans, excited about that and the challenge with Southern Illinois. They had a big win over Murray State 49-10. It's pretty impressive anytime you get six turnovers and three for scores. They have a senior quarterback, good running back and a wide receiver Raphael Leonard from here in Mississippi, so I'm sure he'll be fired up. We need to be ready to go, but excited for the challenge and excited to be back home."

On recruits' reaction to the game…
"September 1 is the first day that we can actually send out texts to the 2020 recruits and the first time we can actually call the 2019 recruits, so any time after a big win you want to text and call and try to capitalize on that momentum. There was a lot of positive feedback on the white uniform. It was good to get that win and to get that momentum going early; we got a lot of positive feedback from recruiting."

On the defensive excitement during the game…
"In the team meeting yesterday, I think you can tell a lot about a team when you watch the sideline. You can tell who's into it, who's not. We had one third down stop where we stopped them, and the defense was on the sideline jumping around; they were into it. I think that was good. There was another play when Lodge cracked back, A.J. Brown had the ball and you can see Eric Swinney on the sideline fired up and into it. That to me was maybe my favorite play just because you see a guy that's been through so much adversity but still being into it, being fired up for his teammates. I was excited to see that."

On secondary depth and new rotation…
"With the emergence of Keidron Smith, he played a bunch on special teams and got in some, I think he'll have to fill a roll there. I still feel comfortable with Myles Hartsfield and J Ham (Javien Hamilton). We'll have (Ken) Webster coming back full strength, then you have Keidron. I do think we have a lot of people who are capable there, where it hurts us the most is Jaylon was able to go back and play safety. If we have some injuries there, that's where it hurts us a little bit more with our flexibility more so than just our corner depth. Jalen Julius played really good in the game, so really happy to see that. We are pretty deep at corner so that helps there. But we'll have to figure out if injuries do occur what happens with safety. That'll probably be Myles Hartsfield moving back into that area."

On comfortability loading the box to stop the run still…
"We still feel very comfortable where we are. The guys we go against every day in practice gives you that confidence to be able to do that."

On kickoff return duties going forward…
"Elijah Moore and you may see Tylan Knight, but Elijah Moore will be there at kickoff and punt return."

On Montrell Custis' play at the Star position…
"I was asked about that after the game. I think Custis has prepared well. He has really grown up a lot. I kind of made a big deal about him changing his number to be on special teams. It just goes to show how much he has grown up as a person, but also the way he prepared. Vernon Dasher prepared very well also, and was able to step in there. They both played a bunch on special teams, and Vernon being able to get quality reps let Custis stay fresh in the fourth quarter. You saw him make a big play there on fourth down. I think it's a combination of having the depth to be able to play two guys there but also the way the he prepared."

On Ben Brown and Royce Newman…
"I was proud of them. There were some freshman mistakes. He was very excited early on. But overall, for the first game, he played really well. Especially being in a big environment, away from home, I thought he did well. There were some things you have to clean up with him and Royce both, but nothing glaring. They obviously both look like they fit. Both of those guys have a bright future, and the good thing is they'll only get better."

On dividing minutes vs. SIU…
"I don't want to sound cliché when I say this, but we get 12 opportunities together. We want to make each one of them count. There are several things we have to work on getting better. I really want to approach it that way, where we focus on us and make sure we hold ourselves to a standard. There are a lot of things we need to get fixed, and I think we need to approach it that way."

On Jaylon Jones' ability in the return game…
"I saw him do it in high school too, when I went to watch him play. He just has a knack for it. Obviously, he's an athletic guy. He works at it, but he just has a natural feel. Some guys just have a natural "it" factor when it comes to returning kicks, and he definitely has it. That was a big momentum swing in the game. I hate it for him. But I'm really happy he was able to make that contribution and help us get that win."

On what role he'll play on the team now that he's out…
"He'll be out with the surgery, but you have to be careful that when guys get injured that they don't get removed from the team. He's a big part of this team and a big part of the leadership in the secondary and on the defense. Just him being around and being there for moral support and pushing those guys and being an extra coach on the field."

On game/personnel management and coaching players regarding new rules…
"My biggest concern going into the game was the 40-second play clock after kickoff. We have two starters, D.K. (Metcalf) and Dawson Knox, starting on kick return, so that's a very fast turnaround. But I think we did a really good job of preparing. We went as far as to time it to see how long we would have, because you don't want to start your series 1st-and-15 with a delay of game. Coach Longo and his staff did a good job at preparing for that. It's also the case after a score, an extra point happens much better. If you're celebrating in the far end zone, that clock is running. I was also interested to see how the fair catch was going to go about. I think that provided us an opportunity for a touchdown when we didn't fair catch. There was also one that was about three yards deep that we should've fair caught. So, I think some of the new rules were interesting. As far as targeting goes, there were several it seemed like—even in the Miami-LSU game last night, and two in our game. So, you have to be really aware of your target area. It's an emphasis on safety, so you have to be aware of your target area."

On any standouts on film…
"Jacquez Jones showed up to me that way. He seems like he has a lot of natural football instincts. I was very pleased to see that. Another one that jumped out to me was Luke Logan. I knew he was a good kicker, but you just don't know if someone's going to go out there and go 4-for-4."

On keeping the team focused this week ahead of next week's SEC opener…
"There's plenty of improvement we have to make from Week 1 to Week 2. We have 12 opportunities together, and I want to take advantage of each and every one and hold ourselves to a certain standard about the way we perform. We want to put a product on the field where everyone will say, 'I'm proud to be an Ole Miss Rebel watching those guys play.'"

On who will rotate at LB with Kevontae' Ruggs potentially out…
"It's going to be by committee. MoMo (Sanogo) played fairly well. Detrick (Bing-Dukes) stepped in and did a good job. Willie (Hibbler) played pretty good. Then you saw Jacquez (Jones) in there. I think you'll see all four of those guys. When one guy goes down, you have to step up. Then hopefully we'll get Kevontae' back too."

On the defense's communication…
"It's hard to tell when you watch a TV copy, but I thought that's one of the things we did way better than at any time last year was our communication. There was a lot of communication from the back end to the front end. I thought that was a big improvement. A lot of that is having the continuity, being in the second year of the system. But the communication and everyone being on the same page was much better."

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