Matt Luke Weekly Press ConferenceLuke Meets with Media for First Weekly Presser of 2017 Season
Aug. 28, 2017
Ole Miss Football Head Coach Matt Luke met with the media on Monday recapping the preseason, and looking forward to Saturday's season opener versus South Alabama (6:30 p.m., ESPNU).
Opening statement... "Appreciate all you guys coming out this morning. I'm excited about our first game week. A lot of energy in the building. We had a great mock scrimmage on Saturday, got a chance to go out in Vaught-Hemingway with the lights on. All the players are really excited. They're ready to hit someone else other than themselves. (I've got) a lot of respect for Joey Jones and South Alabama. I've been very impressed with them. Big wins last year over Mississippi State and San Diego State. I've worked with Kane Wommack and Tyler Siskey, and both of those guys have worked here and both are very good football coaches. We're excited to get this thing cranked off."
On the two-deep depth chart... "I think we're pretty set. There's a pretty good battle going on at safety. We moved Jaylon Jones over there with C.J. Moore and Zedrick Woods, but Jaylon is making a big push late, so we'll see. I think Jaylon gives us some really good depth there, and he's pushing for playing time."
On starting fast against a dangerous South Alabama team... "Fast starts are always very important. The guys will have watched that game on tape and understand it. It was also the first game of the season, and those are always tough, because you never know really where you are or what to expect because of the changes you made in the offseason. It's very important that we're sound in what we do and can make the proper adjustments."
On having a more manageable early-season schedule as opposed to last season... "Every team is different. Really, in first games, you're really focusing on yourself and getting better and making sure you're sound. First games are very unpredictable, and you usually make your most mistakes in that first game. It's really important to focus on yourself and make sure you're prepared."
On his first game as the Ole Miss head coach... "It's going to be emotional. This is something I've been thinking about for a long time. I'm just excited about the opportunity, excited about walking through The Grove, and excited about locking the Vaught and representing my University and trying to put a team on the field that everybody's proud of. I'm very, very excited. That's going to be one of my biggest challenges this game is controlling my emotions. To be a very efficient and organized head coach and not let my emotions getting to me. But, I'm excited and prepared for it."
On Dawson Knox's injury... "He'll have a chance for next week, but I'm hoping Cal for sure. I'll know more about that in practice next week. We'll give him the rest of this week to heal and try to get him back for next week."
On Van Jefferson's conditioning and if he and A.J. Brown will play on the field together... "Absolutely. In some of our 10-personnel stuff, you'll see Van and A.J. in there together at the same time. The good thing is you have Van, A.J. and Markell Pack who can play inside, so I think that'll help Van's conditioning and getting him to game-shape. Our depth will help Van for sure."
On which coaches will be on the field and which will be in the box on gameday... "On defense, all the full-time guys are going to be on the field. That was important to Coach Wesley McGriff, that he's down there with those guys and that the full-time coaches are down there making the in-game adjustments. I agree with them, and I'm excited about the way they've handled their defense. They have a really good feel, and Coach McGriff feels really strongly about making the calls from the field and in the action. I feel really good about where we are there. Coach Maurice Harris will be up for the offense and the rest of them down. Zach Brown will be up top for the defense. He's our defensive graduate assistant, he's very sharp. We went through it Saturday at the mock game, and the communication was good. I was on the defensive side listening and was very impressed with how they handled everything."
On what his role will be on gameday... "You have to manage the clock, you have to manage timeouts, field goals and when to go for it. If I am going to go for it, I need to be able to let Phil Longo know that on second down if he's got two downs. Just being able to manage the clock and be an efficient head coach and making good gameday decisions. I think you have to be in the game to do that, and I don't think you can be all emotional and running around. I think I can be into the game and be a motivator, but I want to make sure I'm making good decisions, helping out the defense, helping out special teams--do we want to go for a block, or do we want to be punt safe? Just the little things that make you a very efficient and good head coach."
On who will call the plays... "That's their job. Coach Longo will call the plays on offense, Coach McGriff is going to call the plays on defense. I'll certainly interject if I feel like I can help in anyway, but I'm going to let those guys do their jobs."
On talking with coaching mentors leading up to his HC debut... "I talk to coach (David) Cutcliffe pretty regularly, I talk to Mike McIntyre as well. But I think what you do is pull the best from all the guys you've been around. You pull all the good stuff you saw from them, and that's how you're built as a coach, and I think that's very important. You also learn some things that you didn't quite like and you put your own spin on it, and that's your coaching philosophy. I think drawing from those experiences I've had from all of those successful head coaches will all help me."
On which freshman are likely to play against South Alabama... "For sure Braylon Sanders could get on the field some at receiver. There's a chance Ben Brown could provide some depth on the offensive line. Those are the two guys on offense that stick out. I think you'll see D.D. Bowie in there at corner, C.J. Miller will have a chance to play some at safety. Ryder Anderson and potentially Breon Dixon -- those are the six that jump out to me."
On how many running backs will play Saturday... "Jordan Wilkins will be the starter, and D'Vaughn Pennamon has had a really good fall camp. In both the scrimmages he has been in, when Jordan has been out, he has really stepped up and done a good job. You could see for sure Eric Swinney and Eugene Brazley, and potentially D.K. Buford, but Wilkins and Pennamon are leading the way there."
On the team's defensive leaders... "Marquis Haynes comes to my mind. Breeland Speaks is a leader. Donta Evans is a guy who has emerged to me. He's a guy at mike linebacker who is calling out all the defensive plays, so that puts him in a leadership role. I've been very impressed with him and the role he has taken, especially after the spring. I wasn't quite sure where he was at, but I feel really good about where he is. Zedrick Woods has become a leader in the secondary. Myles Hartsfield, I like where he is and how he communicates. You're starting to see some guys emerge, and I think early in the season will tell a lot about those guys. What we're all waiting for is, the first time those guys go through adversity, who is going to step up and be those leaders? I think early in the season we'll find that out."
On the progress of A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf... "Last year, those guys were freshmen, and obviously with D.K. getting hurt early, I've been very impressed with Coach Jacob Peeler and the way he has developed those guys. Those guys are very talented, and they have a huge upside, but I've been impressed with the way he has developed them. Just their technique and the way they use their hands and the different techniques in their routes, they've both been very much improved from the spring, and we're looking for big things out of both of them."
On his biggest concern about South Alabama... "They didn't give up any points in the second half. Obviously that was very impressive. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Kane and the job he does on defense. No. 1, Jeremy Reaves, he's their best player on defense. He's a very good player and very talented. He can show up at corner and safety. Their leading tackler is back, Darrell Songy. They do a lot of movement and they aren't going to stay still. They're going to move around and do a lot of blitzing. So we definitely have a challenge there. On offense, they have a really good running back and both of their quarterbacks coming back. It's going to be a challenge on both sides of the ball."
On the depth of the offensive and defensive lines and substitution plans... "I think you'll see substitutions freely on the defensive line in the middle of the series. O-Line, you're going to see a three-way tackle rotation with Alex Givens, Rod Taylor, and Greg Little, trying to keep those guys fresh. And with Jordan Sims, Daronte Bouldin and Javon Patterson, you'll see those guys rotate in as well."
On the kick and punt return depth chart... "I've been very impressed with D.D. Bowie. He's shown flashes back there. Then also Jaylon Jones has shown some flashes on kickoff return. So you're going to see D.D. and Jaylon back there on kickoff, and you'll see A.J. on the punt return. You could see Tre Nixon at both. He has worked both punt and kickoff return just because of his speed. He's pretty dynamic with the ball in his hands."
On A.J. Brown at punt return... "A.J. has a lot of moxie to him. So making good decisions on when to fair catch and when not to, I think he has that. His physical ability to break tackles, that brings a little more to the table than just catching the ball and always fair catching it. He has that ability to break a tackle and change field position and get that hidden yardage. Even 10 yards after a punt is a huge deal, and I think he'll be able to do that for us."
A year ago was a different story for this Ole Miss men's golf team, who made it through a regional in Austin, Texas and all the way to the stroke play portion of the national championship for the first... read more
More often than not this season, Ryan Rolison's outings have gone as his fastball command has with the success of the former and latter mirroring one another. On this night--a crucial 5-4, series-opening win over Auburn, which elected to... read more
Ole Miss did not lose an out-of-conference baseball game at Swayze Field this season, cementing that note with a 10-3 drubbing Arkansas Pine Bluff on Wednesday.The Rebels are 23-2 in non-conference games this season with one remaining in two... read more
The pitch was undetectable as it hummed in at 85-miles-per hour out of the hand of LSU pitcher David Fontenot towards an awaiting Thomas Dillard in the bottom of the seventh inning of a 7-6 ballgame LSU led. Fotenot... read more
A grin spread across Tim Rowe's face as he stood in left field speaking to a group of reporters. These were the types of nights he envisioned going into a season that's seen some hurdles pop up in his... read more
Unblemished in midweek games in 2018, Ole Miss' maturity and sense of focus surfaced again in the form of seven runs in the first two innings in a 10-3 bludgeoning of Arkansas State to move to 11-0 in such... read more
With an eight-game road trip in the rearview, Ole Miss plays its next nine games in the state of Mississippi with back-to-back weekends at home to jumpstart the second half of SEC play. The Rebels dropped two of three... read more
Ole Miss held its annual Grove Bowl on Saturday, marking the culmination of spring football as the team breaks for the summer until the resumption of fall practice. On a wet and chilly afternoon inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, the defense... read more
Yolett McPhee-McCuin's name consistently trickled into the conversations that Ole Miss Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics Ross Bjork had in his pursuit of a new face for his basketball program.Eventually, she became the frontrunner in Bjork's mind, and on Friday... read more
Matt Corral's first taste of spring football has gone by quickly. From the natural adjustments any kid going from high school to college has to make, to the amplified speed of the game to trekking across the country from... read more
After blazing through a stretch of seven games against top 15 opponents at 5-2, No. 3 Ole Miss is now facing a week in which it will play teams it is extremely familiar with and teams it considers its... read more
OXFORD, Miss - Four-innings of offensive infused chaos was extinguished over the final five outs by the right arm of Parker Caracci. A marathon of a baseball game culminated with the sophomore's second multi-inning save in as many nights... read more
One through nine, there is an argument to be made that Arkansas possesses the most potent lineup in the Southeastern Conference. Seven of its nine hitters are batting .320 or better. Every hitter but one has an OPS of... read more
Ole Miss is now nearing the culmination of spring football with the Grove Bowl being just over a week away, and the Rebels dabbled into some live football action this past weekend with a controlled scrimmage in which the... read more