Oct. 16, 2012
Press Conference Video
One thing about Southern Miss they really haven't been any different all year. You are seeing the same Southern Miss team from a year ago athletically minus that quarterback that was a four-year starter and made a lot of plays for them. They have struggled a little bit at quarterback. But it looks like the freshman, Anthony Alford, has settled in. He did a nice job managing the UCF game and he's playing with confidence right now.
There's no question we'll have our hands full. They're real athletic, like all Southern Miss teams are.
On USM's freshmen playing at quarterback and running back:
Those offensive pieces are in place. That team won 12 games a year ago and they still have good players. They've had an issue at quarterback with injuries and rolling three guys, but it looks like they've settled on Alford. He is a true freshman. Like our freshman (Rakeem Cato) a year ago, he got better as the year went on and the more he played. I think Alford took a step in the UCF game.
I think his high school coach is also his offensive coordinator. He's been a part of that offense with the same coach for a number of years. I am sure that has helped with his transition, helped with his development, helped with his understanding of what they're trying to do, offensively.
On Southern Mississippi's schedule:
Ellis Johnson, with what he had to face with a young quarterback, had his hands full. He's got Nebraska. He's got Boise. He's got Louisville. He goes to Western Kentucky, a team that is 5-1 and beat Kentucky. He's got Central Florida. He's got East Carolina. But he hasn't lost his players. He has held them together. They're playing extremely hard. That's a tribute to him and that's a tribute to that team.
On the importance of gaining momentum in the second quarter of games:
It helps anywhere you are. Starting fast in any game helps you, as far as momentum goes. It has been a goal of ours all along to get out of the blocks and start fast. Hopefully, we can do that again Saturday.
On the value of a bye week:
There's no doubt it's a grind. That's six straight weeks where it's football and classes and that's about the extent of it. You get some guys banged up and you get some guys practicing that probably shouldn't be practicing. Instead, they should be sitting and watching. It gives you an opportunity to catch your breath and to self-scout a little bit to make sure what you are doing offensively and defensively and on special teams and in those areas that need improvement.
On possibly getting some guys back:
I think Ken Smith is a guy. We had lost him early in the year with an issue, but he's back. Billy Mitchell should play. He was a starter for us a year ago, but has sat out. They will rotate in. They will take a lot of reps this week (in practice).
On Smith and Mitchell:
Smith had worked real hard during the off-season and had changed his body. He had worked very hard to get to the point he had. He had a lot invested. Then, all of a sudden it was taken away from him. Now, he's back out there. He's a great kid that loves football and plays extremely hard. Billy Mitchell is another guy. Football is important to him. Billy is one guy who has played a lot for us. To have him back out there, I think is going to help us. To be able to add those two guys to the mix is going to help us without question.
On the road ahead:
This time a year ago, our football team was sitting right exactly in the same position. That football team had a small group of seniors, but those seniors played their best football the last six or seven weeks of the season and ended up winning five of the last seven and finished on a positive note. That's exactly the same place we are right now. So, it's important that our kids understand that our goals ... we have not played one team in the East Division yet. This will be the first team that we lined up and played in the Eastern part of our conference. So, all their hopes and dreams and goals are out there.
On trying to force more turnovers:
It is always emphasized. The one thing we have to do a better job of is taking care of the ball and creating turnovers. Those are two areas we need to improve on as a football team. We won the game against Southern Miss last season because of turnovers and because our kicking game and punt team forced them, I think, five times to go 95-yards plus to score.
On the keys to having a successful second half of the season:
Take care of the ball and keep doing what you are doing. I think we're second in the country in third-down conversions. We're doing some really good things on offense, but take care of the ball. Just do that and we're fine. Defensively, create more turnovers and tackle. It's a really simple game. Get lined up, tackle and create turnovers. And, offensively, take care of the ball. If we can just do those things, we're going to be fine as a football team.
On Travon Van:
Travon has an issue, injury-wise, that he cannot practice. He has not been cleared by our doctors for physical contact. He won't play this week.
On Gator Hoskins being named to the John Mackey Award Watch List:
He has made plays when the ball has been thrown to him. He's an athletic tight end who can run. He has done a nice job for us.