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Ellis Johnson Press Conference Transcript, August 27

Head Coach Ellis Johnson speaks to the media Monday afternoon.

Head Coach Ellis Johnson speaks to the media Monday afternoon.

Aug. 27, 2012

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. - For the first time, Southern Miss head coach Ellis Johnson addressed the media as game week preparations begin for the Golden Eagles' season opening game at Big 10 conference foe Nebraska on Saturday.

Opening Statement...
"We're excited to play a game. Hopefully, we'll get through this week with no major problems. But it's kind of hard to say this when you have an exciting opening game again Nebraska. We're certainly concerned about the safety of some of our players' families, and some of them were a little upset about what was going on."

"To say that this incident isn't a distraction, I'd be lying. But everything so far is good and we hope that nothing will disrupt preparation. We also realize some things are more important, so we are definitely concerned for the people down on, or near the coast. That being said, we are anxious and excited about this. Sometimes playing an opponent like Nebraska can be a motivator and help in camp, so our players should be focused on something as exciting as this.It's certainly going to be a challenge and a lot of people have them ranked as 15 in the nation, which they probably deserve that. They are returning about eight starters on one side of the ball, with seven on the other. They are a team that played in the Capital One Bowl last year, so they certainly deserve the preseason recognition that they've gotten. It's just going to be a tough game for us."

"Southern Miss as a program is no stranger to these challenges and I think our players will handle it well, but frankly the players that come into this room to meet every day, they have not been in any kind of fight like this yet and we're going to have to see how they respond. I have total confidence that they will respond the right way but it's certainly going to be a test."

On the possibility of moving the team due to the storm...
"There have been no plans to relocate unless something unforeseen comes about. So far, in the reports we've been getting, we'll be better to off to try to get practices in, like we did yesterday on Sunday. We'll practice today and normally those would be light practices and Monday isn't even a practice day, but we're going to go ahead and try to get a heavy practice in today. It looks like Tuesday could be iffy and we've got some facilities where we can get indoors and get a minimal amount of practice done or if the rain doesn't come as heavily, we can always go in the stadium. Wednesday looks very unlikely and we've got to find a day later in the week that will be our NCAA-mandated day off. I think we'll have enough practice. I just worry about the consistency of the preparation and the families of these young people and the people here in Hattiesburg."

On the keys to defending against Nebraska's offense...
"It's hard to say `keys'. When I was preparing for it (at South Carolina), there's some difference in personnel now. They've obviously lost a few players - not many, most of them in the offensive line - but the scheme is going to be almost identical. Every different option you can imagine (will be there). Running out of the shotgun, running out of the I-formation, running out of the one-back under center, lots and lots of play action pass of it and it's very effective. They have a stable of running backs. Every one of them could start for a lot of college teams. The quarterback is a running back. He's over 200 lbs., and can fly. He's very quick. He's been criticized about his throwing but if you go back and check the completion percentage and his interceptions versus touchdowns, he's very effective. They are a handful and they have that physical mentality that they used to have back in the 70's and 80's."

On how is background as a defensive coach helps him prepare for the season opener...
"I don't know (how much that comes into play). I have full confidence in [Defensive Coordinator] Tommy West. We talk a lot and share ideas. We were already on the same pages from an X's and O's standpoint that there really isn't anything that I can add to it that they are not already using. I really think the biggest thing is how physical our players play. If I had to point to two big things that I hope I can put my finger on at the end of that ball game and feel good about, it's that we tackled well defensively and executed on offense without missed assignments and dead plays.

On how the defensive staff defines Nebraska's offense...
"Nebraska is a spread offense by formation and tempo. They have a very physical nature to it and that's what is going to be the challenge for our guys. I think we're fast enough to get into position. I like our schemes. Sometimes you can't just out-physical people. You've got to have some situations where your scheme is harder for them to pick up just by assignment. We've got some things like that that I think play into our personnel well because we're so quick. But, the physicality of it is different. We're going to have to tackle some bigger, stronger running backs than we have been. I think that's going to be the whole difference, yards after contact."

On how much the coach staff has stressed containing Nebraska's playmakers...
"I don't think we've tackled a back that physical and fast. I'm sure they've not seen one in several years. (Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead) is mentioned in some Heisman consideration and is very versatile. They even have some things - you can call them trick plays if you want to - but they will line him up under center and the quarterback becomes the tail back and there's a full back in there to run the belly option so now you have a 220 lbs., quarterback and a (back who can run a 4.3 40-yard dash) and they are effective at it. They are very fast."

On the health of the team...
"(Senior Bandit end) Jamie Collins has had some real good practices since returning from (a slight injury). We haven't had a practice in full pads since he has returned but we'll go in full pads today. He's looked fine. (Junior cornerback) Alex Walters has struggled to get back to full speed. The other thing is that those young corners have made a lot of progress and while Alex is older than they are, he's not exactly the old man. He's only had a year under his belt and right now, I would say they've got him edged out but it is good to get some depth back and the guy has at least been in college. I think he'll certainly help out our depth there."

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