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Southern Miss Coach Ellis Johnson Press Conference Quotes

Head Coach Ellis Johnson
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Southern Miss head coach Ellis Johnson addressed the media in his weekly press conference. Below is the transcript of his session.

On moving past the Nebraska game...
"It's not the getting over part. We just haven't played enough football which concerns me. Nebraska is a good football team and it ended with us subsequently losing. We had some things that I was very disappointed in and we worked very hard on them in the open week. It's really not something I'm that concerned about. I think the team has put it behind them."

"Now they're looking forward to a conference game and playing at home, so now they're looking toward the future. What I'm concerned about is that we haven't played any football - we've practiced 36 times and only have played one game. One thing I'm concerned about is that we have a bunch of new guys who have never actually even played in a game of that magnitude. But, I just hope that we can shake the dust off and function and play like it's a second game."

On the improvements and changes between Game 1 and Game 2...
"I think that the number one improvement was the physical nature of our defense. The second thing is obviously we're in a developing situation at quarterback. In the whole conference there aren't but one or two quarterbacks returning - one from UTEP who played extensively. But, those are our two biggest concerns. We have to find a quarterback combination, and we feel like [Anthony Alford] gives us the best chance to move the football."

"It's not about who are quarterbacks are. It's about how our team manages offensively, and we think that's what compliments our group on that side of the ball and we hope to get production in that area. I was pleased with a lot of things about our offense the first game, but I do think we have to be more productive."

On deciding a definitive starter at quarterback...
"What we were doing before was that everyone gets a shot, and we would go by order of quarterbacks in line. What we're doing now is that someone has the starting role and they can lose it like anyone else starting on the team. What I don't want to do is get into something where they get too trigger-happy. They've got to learn not to make mistakes and that we can't have too many of them. We are in a situation now where there is a starter and there is a back-up, and I think both Ricky and Chris are ready to back him up."

"If Anthony makes good progress, then he is the starter. If we reach a point where the production is not there, then we need to make a change. But, it's different in the fact that they are not all promised to play right now. That guy's got the ball and he can make the plays and produce the points, otherwise we'll have to find another answer. I've said it a hundred times and I know everyone's tired of hearing it, but they can all play pretty well and they all have their pluses. We feel that right now that's the order that gives us the best chance of winning."

On new starters on the defense...
"Especially on the defensive side, there have been a lot of players who have not played a lot of football. We've got some starters who have played four to 10 plays per game, and that's what concerns me is that a lot of players don't have enough plays under their belt. I wish we could play every weekend, but that's the way it is. That one game was certainly a wake-up call for a lot of them and they came back and worked hard. I have a lot of confidence in our coaches, with Tommy West working the defensive side of the ball and getting everything straightened out and build them some confidence."

"You never know when you have a younger, less-experienced defense, when you have that type of situation, you don't know how they're going to react. You know how hard they've worked and how hard they've tried and seen their work habits and how they respond, but until they're out on the game field, you don't know how they're going to react to a situation. The thing I've always said is that if I can personally do something that would really be wonderful, like take this school to a BCS game, which would be great. For right now, the objective of this football team is to win the conference. It will always be to win this conference, win at The Rock and win a bowl game."

On East Carolina...
"The East Carolina game is a huge game for us because they're in our conference and our division, and it's a home game. I will never say this is a "do-or-die" thing, but for us it is extremely important game. Not just because we lost the first game but because it's a conference game at home. I think it will certainly boost our confidence later on in the season and in the broader picture to see what our opportunities are."

"On making any depth chart changes: "We're still trying to tweak and change our X's, O's and Y's. We're still trying to find the right players and look at our depth charts, which are the same things everybody's going through. At that point, we've really dodged a lot of injuries. I thought the injury to Marcal Robinson set us back because he basically took over a starting corner job opposite Deron Wilson, and gave us two older guys there. We lost him on the second day and it affected us tremendously. The only thing is that we've had two injuries since then in the Nebraska game, but I thought the pre-fall camp was very productive. But in all, I thought their work habits and practice effort was making a lot of progress."

On the reaction of the team at Nebraska...
"We had two major problems - I think early on a bunch of guys got caught up in the environment and we had two guys go into a slant the wrong way on the big run to open up the ball game. I thought the tackling was very average against good backs, but sometimes that comes with experience. You've got seven starters gone, and sometimes those guys that have played on a good defensive unit need to understand that they were playing as supporters and not the guys that were starters. Our main objective, defensively this past week, was just to get the physical nature back and play with great effort."

On his thoughts of his home opener as the head coach at Southern Miss...
"I'm going to be very excited - I love this place and I couldn't wait to come back here if the opportunity arose. When you're on the road the first game and then you have an open day, we'd go into practice playing 39 or 40 times before they'd go out there and play in front of our fans. It's going to be a great atmosphere and we're going to keep it that way. I know it's going to be a lot of excitement for our kids, and it'll be really neat as the first time as the new head coach. But, I just have to keep my mind on my business at hand and try to coach."

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