Q: How did Chris Relf look? "Good. He's been solid all week and taking reps. Like I said, he was cleared to play in the (Arkansas) game, but we just didn't get to him. But this week he's back to normal."
Q: With his history in the Egg Bowl have you seen more pep? "I hope so. I see a pep in not just him but everybody's step. This is a very different game for us than the rest of them. So that attitude, that different demeanor at practice is always going to be about this team, this week."
Q: Have you played three quarterbacks before? "No. Unfortunately there's been years we had two on the roster! The Tebow-Leak year there were only two on the roster, so we didn't have that option. Thank goodness neither of them got hurt because I don't know who we'd go to next."
"We've had some of those years. I've played three in a season, I think we've played five during a season, in 2004 Utah we played a bunch of them. Or maybe it was 2003. Only three, maybe it was four the next year. But we won in a lot of games like 70-10 and stuff, so they were walk-ons!"
"We use quarterbacks to do different things. I mean I can go back during my career, at Utah we used different quarterbacks but they weren't great runners; we put a quarterback or receiver to take the direct snap and I guess you could call that a quarterback. We've done that this year, the (Alabama) game instead of putting a receiver there to take the direct snap we put Dylan Favre there. Because he adds one more dimension of being able to throw the ball."
"So it's not always that we're rotating quarterbacks, there's little packages that we'll use and sometimes we'll use a different quarterback for different packages."
Q: Do you notice defense adjusting or calling in different guys depending on the quarterback? "I think it just gives them more to prepare for, more to look at. And it also keeps our guys focused during the game. I mean, there's no better way to be focused in the game than knowing you're going to take snaps at some point; it might be a couple, it might be a lot. But if your number is called, if there is an injury, someone else is going to be ready to play because they've been on the field."
Q: How important is a quarterback's play in the last game going into the off-season? "Well, it helps your personal confidence. I think the last couple of years it's always helped the confidence of them, not just I guess our quarterbacks but everybody on the team going into the off-season."
"You want to finish your season with a win. It's a long time until we play again, so you want to have that good taste in your mouth for the eight months until the next season gets rolling around."
Q: Does Favre have some intangibles that you've seen, getting into the end zone the other day? "Yeah. I mean at times he's a very smart football-play guy, he understands the game, sees things well, great at anticipating with his throws. He's still working on his decision-making and his leadership. Those are some things that will come along with time."
Q: Does Blaine Clausell have an edge at left tackle? "We're going to grade it all at practice and watch and see. It's not like he went in and dominated the game last week. I thought he did a couple of good things in practice today. I'm watching so many different things, that's why I get to watch it on film afterwards."
Q: Offensive linemen say the problem this year is lack of consistency and getting in rhythm, is that what you see? "Well, a lot of our mistakes are not drastic. It's the one mistake but it can be a different guy here and there. And last year you had Derek Sherrod, a first-round draft pick, he didn't make many mistakes. So you can eliminate that one. You had an experienced center in J.C. Brignone so that was less mistakes."
"Now when you're playing first-year guys, you tend to see a little more mistakes here and there. So when you take some great players out and add more young players there are going to be more mistakes. And one mistake can throw off everything. The offensive line works when all five guys work well together."
Q: Have you seen growth with Clausell and Dillon Day and those guys? "Yeah, they're getting better. But it is their first year playing, and playing against the best teams in the country. Hands down and week-in and week-out. You take the SEC West teams and move them into another conference and I imagine they'd do really, really well. So they're playing against that top, top competition as freshmen right now, so there is some growth process. I imagine three years from now when they're both seniors they'll be very well groomed and have great growth."
Q: Is lack of production more on the offensive line now? "Well like I've always said, some of the runs that were 40, 50 yards last year are now going two and three. Because oh, we've got the seam; a guy fell down. Boy this is going to be a great hit, and we went to the wrong linebacker; last year those were big hits. And that's where the production comes from. Big numbers and production don't come from two and three yard plays, they come from big plays, explosive play. When you don't have those explosive plays you're not going to score and you're not going to be consistent on offense."
Q: Talk about running short-yardage from the shotgun? "There's a lot to it, it adds a quarterback run component which now is an 11th person the defense has to defend when you're in the gun. Under center you see the quarterback sneak, that would add that component. But there's not a lot of other great quarterback runs under center. So that helps. And we're in the gun most of the time. We do go under center, though; we do have an under-center package for short yardage that we will use, in goal-line."
Q: What is the rest of the week's schedule? "We'll practice tomorrow, practice Thursday. What we usually do is practice early Thursday morning, the coaches will grind away later than we normally would at night so we can practice early Thursday morning and get our guys out of here. The players are done at 11:30 so they have an opportunity to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner whether they're staying here on campus or eating with a coach or going with their families."
Q: You know you haven't said ‘the school up north' all week? "I haven't called then anything else, either!"
Q: Kind of weird, huh? "Nobody asked who we're playing this week!"
Q: How do you spell ‘Ole Miss'? "I don't know, it looks like some Spanish spelling, right?! A bag of chips or something?"
Q: The ‘Our State' campaign, the banners with the Golden Egg, can you talk about getting under the other team's skin? "I've had people my whole life tell me I get under their skin, so I guess that's nothing new for me!"
"You know what, for us, when we came in we wanted to make sure that when you have rivalry games, especially in-state rivalry games, that it is not your ‘state' and you're bound together against another state somewhere else. When it's in-state and it's neighbor against neighbor we want to make sure everybody understood how important this game is."
"And I think we did that the first day we got here. We haven't changed our tune since that day, I mean we've been consistent with that's how we approach the rivalry, that's how we approach this game. And to me it's not just football. I mean, it's all sports, any competition, that it has to be a very competitive matchup. You want to win that competition, I don't care if it's the debate teams I guess, I want to go beat them in debate. You want to win that competition whatever it is you're going to go do."
Q: Have you seen success in the Egg Bowl translate into success in recruiting? "I think it certainly helps. One of the trickier things in this state is there is great talent in the state of Mississippi; I don't know that there is great depth and that's a numbers issue in this state. So the number of great SEC players in this state, there's great SEC players; there's not large numbers of them. So you have to do a great job of getting your share of in-state talent. And I know winning this game certainly helps with that."
"And not just in the short term. It can help in the long term. The 13-year-old that just watched their first Egg Bowl, sometimes young kids kind of pay attention but not for real. And now it's the kid playing freshman football and has really got into it, and is watching the Egg Bowl. And, people like winners! So they're kind of leaning more towards the winning school."
Q: Have you noticed since starting this ‘our state' and Egg Bowl emphasis how successful most State teams have been in the rivalry? "Well, that's a good deal! I guess I got my point across when I got here about how important rivalries are!"
"I don't know, over three years since I've been here we've done OK. I can't take credit for it. I mean, I didn't come up with ‘Our State'. I don't really know how to hashtag anything, if I do I don't know where it sends you. Like if I hit on it does it send you somewhere special like to Hashland or something? I see them all the time and Joe (Galbraith) has told me to put hashtag, if I'm going to tweet something I'll ask. I might not be as technological, even though I have an iPhone now so I might be catching up in a hurry. Watch out!"
"But I think everybody at the University has bought into that school pride within the state of Mississippi."