Ole Miss football: Lane Kiffin weekly press conference

Published 4:30 pm Monday, September 19, 2022

Ole Miss football head coach Lane Kiffin met with the media Monday to recap his team’s 42-0 win at Georgia Tech and preview the Rebels’ next test this Saturday against Tulsa at 3 p.m. CT at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and on the SEC Network. A transcript can be found below.

Opening statement…
“First time with you guys since watching the film. I thought our players played really well in all three phases of the game. Going on the road, obviously not a hostile crowd like we’ll eventually face, but still the obstacles of being on the road and being away from home. Put a pretty good recipe to win. Basically make them go three-and-out or four-and-out every series, then run the ball for over 300 yards on 60-some carries, you’re going to win a lot of games. I thought they played with really good effort, good energy. For two games in a row they have not come out flat at the half with big leads like they did the first week. A lot of progress there, but obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do with better opponents coming up, and it starts with the No. 1 pass offense in the country by far—not even close. This is a totally different challenge than we’ve had. I think some people would say the best team we’ve played—most challenging team for sure, schematically and passing game, then the defense is very unique, even though we do a lot of the same stuff over the last two years. It’s very unique from other people.”

On Jaxson Dart’s play after throwing an INT at GT…
“He responded really well. I think 6-of-6. He came out in the second half after the interception and threw for over 100 yards and six or seven for seven, and he didn’t turn the ball over outside of that play. It was a really good job of managing the game outside of the play. Trying to teach him that you have to take every game independent of how you play and what’s going on with it. This was a game where we were playing great defense, running the ball really well, so the last thing you want to do is take risks at the quarterback position. You don’t need to. Sometimes you do a little more when you’re in a shootout. I think he definitely learned from it. You don’t like bad things to happen, but if they can happen and you can still win and you can learn from them, then they’re better to happen then than in a one-score game that you lose.”

On if he’s sticking with the current QB situation…
“We are. I know it’s probably not exciting for you guys. We’ll get a lot of coverage on it. It works what we’re doing. I would’ve liked the opportunity to throw more with Luke Altmyer, but just having empathy for what was going on in that game and the other sideline and the hot seat or whatever he’s on, just really didn’t feel like it was right. Where if it was a couple-score game or something, Luke would’ve gotten to throw more there.”

On Khari Coleman
“We expect him to play, you know that. It was good for other guys to get opportunities. Same with the targeting. Got other people to play. We got almost everybody in, in some form.”

On what he’s looking to clean up offensively after three games…
“Even though it wasn’t a major issue, but in three games as a whole, the pass protection—with everybody, tight ends and backs included—has been an issue. It’s hard with stats and points to say a lot of things on defense. But we still haven’t really been tested in a passing game. Like I told them today, if you want to be tested, you’ve got the best in the country coming at you. We’ll find something out Saturday.”

On keeping the team focused on Tulsa…
“Not joking, I told them this morning, you’ve got to understand rat poison. It’s out there, and it comes when you play really well. Especially when the outcome is what it looks like and the score. Now our running backs are hearing how great they are, and defense and everything. You still have to look at the process of things. We missed a lot of holes in the running game, where there were a lot of big plays left out there. We have to keep plugging along. Every week is independent of the week before. These guys have to learn that because it doesn’t matter what you did the week before. That’s why you guys sit around and compare scores—well this team beat that team, then we played them and them. I’ve done that game. Then you realize that doesn’t matter at all. That’s why there are surprises every Saturday.”

On using Nick Saban’s phrase rat poison…
“He probably doesn’t know. Eh doesn’t look at social media or anything, so he probably doesn’t know when I copy him. I don’t know where he got that from when we were there. But it really is true. You’ve got to remember, like I tell our coaches, our kids deal with that everywhere they go. It’s not just when you guys write about it. They go to class and everybody tells them how great they are. We’ve got to be very careful of that, especially with so many new players.”

On his preference of balance offensively…
“I say at the end of the year, you like to be 50/50. But that’s the end of the year. Again, every game is independent and you have no idea how it’s going to go during the game. You don’t know. It thought the game would go that way running-wise. Then you think that sometimes and it doesn’t. I don’t think anybody would’ve thought Arkansas would’ve been, whatever it was, 1,200 yards or something and 52-51 when you looked at it the year before. You can’t predict those things exactly. Then you have to do what’s best to win.”

On what stood out defensively vs. Georgia Tech…
“I think the pressure on the quarterback. A lot of the defensive ends got a ton of pressure on the quarterback—Cedric JohnsonTavius Robinson for two weeks in a row have just been relentless on the edges. Which is obviously game-changing when you’ve got two unique defensive ends playing the way they’re playing. It’s really cool. There’s just been a lot of learning lessons for our guys about playing hard and not deciding when to do what. We’re in punt safe and Cedric blocks a punt that 99 out of 100 times somebody blocks you on, so you don’t need to go really hard, because you’re a D-lineman. And most people don’t. and there he is going full speed and blocks the punt. There’s Jonathan Mingo chasing down the defender on what they ruled as potentially a lateral, and Mingo is chasing the guy down so we’ll have another chance on defense if it goes the other way. There’s a lot of really cool effort stuff for guys to learn from.”

On having similarly dominant defensive performances in SEC play…
“I’m not worried about that. We’re not there. We’re playing Tulsa and worried about this week. You need to be. No. 1 pass offense in the country. It’d be great to have some home field advantage with the crowd when you’re dealing with a team that’s throwing all the time and you’re trying to pass rush. That would be big. Like we tell the players, it’s tell the truth Monday. We should have a better atmosphere than we’ve had here with as many wins as these players have put together and have more of a home field advantage. We did at times last year for the bigger games. The players don’t pick and choose when they play hard.”

On if he predicted Zach Evans to be as good as he has been…
“Yeah, I did. And what’s really neat is, and Zach has seen them now, Zach missed some plays. Now we put a lot of new runs in to give them problems that we haven’t done. So he hadn’t had a ton of reps at them. Again, when you have all these new guys, everything is new. They don’t have any stored reps with us from last year when we did things. He missed some runs that would’ve been really big. If he comes up here, he’ll tell you that. That’s what’s really neat is he can be even better and more productive than he’s been, which is really special.”

On what he saw from Quinshon Judkins that earned him a prominent role…
“I think it goes back to in recruiting when I was at that game, the state championship, and he had a ton of carries. And just the way his mentality, how he kept working and grinding away. Then you see it in practice and scrimmages and stuff. Even though he missed some time. He’s just a really elite talent and vision. You ain’t teaching vision. You get really lucky when you have it as a coach, a running back that has it like him. You can see it. The way he makes people miss as they just appear. That’s not coachable.”

On if he hopes to see more freshmen contribute in the future…
“No, we’d really like to not have really unique great players that play early. I mean come on. But you are right, we have not had a lot of that where we’ve had premier high school players that walk in and are elite players right away. To see the running back and the corner (Davison Igbinosun), Tysheem Johnson a year ago. That’s really special. Because then, obviously, you have them for longer, minus the portal. When they’re that young and playing that well, that’s great. Instead of having to always bring people in to fix all the issues.”

On Dart’s physical running…
“The amount of times he ran was designed. Some of those were reads. Some of those are passes where he rolls out and when it’s not there, he runs. It wasn’t the amont of times and those other third downs are quarterback draws, like what you see Matt Corral did at Tennessee and Mississippi State. That was something we just put in. I’m fine with that. Just like with anything. New player, new quarterback, you have to teach them everything. There’s times you run with a different style depending on the game, depending on what’s going on. No, I don’t like that he’s on the left sideline in a game the way it’s going, he puts his right shoulder down to run the guy over. We’ve got to get that out of him. That’s a good problem you have that you have to get that out of him. Then he buys into what we talk about. Because he hears us talk all the time, plus-two mentality—two more yards on the sideline not running out of bounds. I guess he took that to heart. We were really talking to the other skill players.”

On Jaylon Robinson
“We hope he plays. I would really think he plays too. I probably wouldn’t have guessed we would be that productive, had you told me a month ago going into the season, that Michael Trigg catches one pass and Jaylon doesn’t play. But that’s a great thing to be able to be that productive and have guys stepping up and making plays.”

On Nick Broeker’s play and his transition to guard…
“I didn’t know he was the Player of the Week until that because our SID didn’t tell me those things when we walked up here. We just walked five minutes from the field and he didn’t tell me a thing about it so thank you. When the team plays well, when a unit plays well, individual awards come. He did play really well on top of that. He’s one of those guys that it was so great he came back, which is new nowadays, because everyone just leaves even when they don’t get drafted. The style he plays with, the adjustment of position, it’s just great to be able to point out to the other guys.”