Matt Luke weekly press conference

Matt Luke weekly press conference

OXFORD, MS (WLBT) - Coming off the bye week, Ole Miss Football Head Coach Matt Luke met with the media Monday to discuss the Rebels hosting South Carolina this Saturday (11 a.m. CT, SEC Network). The full transcript can be found below.

Opening Statement “I think the bye week came at a perfect time to give us a chance to really focus on some things that we need to get better at. It also gave us a chance to get healthy. I think we will get C.J. Miller and Austrian Robinson back. They both practiced, so I think it was a good week. We were able to rest Dawson Knox and Ken Webster, so a really good week for self-evaluation, and now we get the final stretch run. They remember what you do in November. We’re excited about playing four games in 19 days, and we get the first one right back here at home. It will be huge for us to have a big crowd for an SEC game, so I am excited about it and looking forward to the challenge. We’re 5-3 after eight games with four left, so I’m fired up about the stretch run, and I know our crowd will show up at 11:00 a.m. against a big SEC opponent. I have a lot of respect for coach Will Muschamp for what he has done at South Carolina. They’re fast and physical on defense. I’ve been impressed with the way they run the ball on offense. They’re physical on both sides of the ball, but I’m excited about the challenge.”

On his message to the fans ahead of Saturday… “Just to come get behind the guys. Coming through all of this NCAA stuff, you’re still 5-3 with a chance to win a bunch of games. The four teams that we are playing all have the same record or worse, so we’re right there. We’ve just got to find a way to get over that hump and get that energy in the stadium. We’ve got great fans and the atmosphere in The Grove. It’s important for our players, and it’s also important for recruits to have the energy in that stadium and to see what it can be, I think that will be really good. I thought the energy was good for Auburn, and I think it’ll be the same way for South Carolina.”

On the red zone offense… “When you look around the country, when you get into the red zone, it’s hard to score. Everyone says they have red zone problems when they don’t win the game, so I think just getting the one-on-one matchup. Finding DaMarkus Lodge, A.J. Brown, pounding them with Scottie Phillips or running the quarterback, there’s a bunch of different things you can do down there, but the bottom line is execution and being able to make plays. There’s a lot of focus on it and making sure we’ve got the right plays called, and you’ve got to execute.”

On C.J. Miller’s return… Ty Rocconi could get in for an emergency. He’s a physical kid. He knows all of the checks and getting everybody lined up, so you could see him in an emergency, but having C.J. back gives you a little bit more flexibility with Myles Hartsfield to be able to play some safety where Armani Linton doesn’t have to play as many reps back there.”

On South Carolina’s passing game… “They are a little bit more up-tempo this year. Having Coach (Dan) Werner over there, they are doing a little bit more tempo and things like that. They’re best at being able to run the football and play action, so I think that’s the key to them. We’re going to have to do a good job at stopping the run. They have really done a nice job the last few weeks at being able to run the football, so I think that’ll be key for us.”

On Victor Evans' status… “He’s got a chronic knee, so he is just limited but he is definitely going to play. It is just how much he can get out there on his knee and practice. He will be able to play about 15 to 20 snaps.”

On if South Carolina QB coach Dan Werner has an advantage being a former Ole Miss coach… “Being two years removed, I am not sure (if it’s an advantage). He will know some of the older guys, maybe some of the offensive linemen, as far as that’s connected. I don’t know, two years removed, if that’ll be an advantage.”

On if he’s thinking about the NCAA appeal… “No. For us, we’ve got 24 days left in our season. That’s the way we are preparing. Our motivation is playing for each other and building this program. Taking pride that in the fact, through all of this stuff, you’re supposed to be not very good, and last year we won six games. Same thing this year, you’re 5-3 after eight games, so just taking the pride and saying we’re still here and we’re not going anywhere. I think that having that pride and the guys playing for each other and fighting through adversity, to me that’s very special – a lot of pride in the program, a lot of pride in our guys playing for each other.”

On Kevontae' Ruggs “Obviously, he does some really good things, but he’s still a true freshman. He’ll continue to get better and better. You want him to be out there and play 15-20 snaps and not have to play 60 snaps. That’ll be key. Willie Hibbler and Mohamed Sanogo are really improving. I like where they are going. They are getting better. Ruggs does run around and hit, but he has to get lined up and do the little things it takes for a freshman.”

On recruiting after the NCAA appeal goes through… “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. There will be some visit limitations, but through this season and in 2019, there are very little limitations. For the 2020 class, we’ll have to have a plan for when they can come visit.”

On the bye week… “I think it came at a great time. You’re playing eight games, you’re beat up and banged up. It gives you a chance to rest a little bit, get a little bit of a head start on South Carolina, do some self-evaluation—what’s been good through eight games, what hasn’t been good. It came at a really good time. Now, we just have to make this final push for this last month.”

On the offensive line… “There is a very fine line between being good and not being good in this league. Those guys have a lot of pride. It’s not that they played terrible against Auburn, but when you play against a defensive line like that, you have to play great. I expect a lot of those guys. We were able to move the football. We got a bunch of yards against Auburn. It wasn’t all bad, but we do have high expectations for that unit, and they will step up.”

On the wide receiver situation with D.K. Metcalf out… “Given the open date, we’ve looked at a couple of different things—moving A.J. Brown outside some, putting Elijah Moore inside some, maybe a few more two tight end sets with Dawson Knox and Octavious Cooley on the field at the same time. There are a lot of different areas we can come in, we just have to figure out what our best is. What you don’t want to do is have all of your receivers play 75 snaps and not be at their best at the end of the game. Finding the best ways to rest guys will be key for us.”

On what A.J. Brown provides on the outside… “Just a big, physical guy, a tough matchup on a smaller corner because he’s so big and strong. And then Elijah has done really well, and Braylon Sanders is plenty capable too. We have some options, we just have to figure out the best combinations moving into this week.”

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