Arkansas Coach John L. Smith and South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier took questions from the media during Wednesday's SEC teleconference. Here are the transcripts of their remarks:
Arkansas Coach John L. Smith (left) and South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier will compete against each other as head coaches for the first time Saturday.
John L. Smith
We had a good practice yesterday. It was very, very good. We have to go to the field today, of course, and practice even better if we can. It’s going to take a great effort. We’re going to have to be well-prepared and go there, which we usually travel real well and keep our focus and have done in the past. Our last road trip, I guess to Auburn, was successful, so we have to build on all of those things and make sure we keep our focus when we do go on the road. As we all know, South Carolina’s a very good football team. They’re good on offense, good on defense, good in all the special teams. They have great skill guys and they can run. So it’s going to be a test for us, but we’re looking forward to it, and just need to go to the field and practice better today and hopefully that’ll carry over to the game field. Any questions?
Those freshman linebackers, (A.J.) Turner and (Otha) Peters, can you talk about each of those guys specifically, what it is they’re doing well, and what things they still need to work on, these young guys?
A.J. Turner is very athletic and he’s a guy that he can walk on the basketball and dunk it with either hand and both of them of course. So he’s very, very athletic. It’s just a matter of making sure that he plays a lot, and every day that he plays he gets better. He knows more about how to drop, where to drop as far as his pass coverage skills go. He’s learning more about where to fit, how to fit as far as his run fits go. So he’s getting a ton better. He’s a wanting hitter, he’s a willing hitter, and he’s very, very skilled. Again it’s just a matter of that young man has to play just a lot of football, and with each down, he gets better.
Peters is somewhat the same. He’s not played as much, of course, as A.J. has at this point. He’s been a little bit hampered throughout the year with a little bit of a groin problem. But now that is getting better. He had a real good practice yesterday. He’s a little bigger, a little bit more in the physical mold of a middle linebacker, which is, of course, where he is as compared to A.J. But he runs decently, and he, again, is a willing hitter. And plays the run. And like all freshmen coming in, I think most of them have to improve on pass coverage skills I’d say more so than run than playing the run. Again, he’s no different than any freshman coming in. he has to work on that. We’ve been working a lot on his pass coverage, where to drop and all of those things.
But again, I like them both. They’re both intelligent, very good kids to work with. They want to do what’s right. They will come in, they spend extra time. They’re going to be real good football players. It’s good, I guess, for them and going to be there future that they’re in playing this early on in their career. From that standpoint, it’s a positive.
I guess I’ve got to ask the obligatory Brandon Mitchell question. Is there any update on his status?
You know, hopefully there isn’t. I’ll have something for you … do I get to see you on Thursday? I’ll have something for you on Thursday, I would hope.
As far as the backups at linebacker, I know (Jarrett) Lake and Braylon Mitchell have been around. How comfortable are you using them if you have to?
Lake more so than Braylon, to be honest with you, because Lake, of course, has had more playing time. He got some playing time last week. And neither of them had had much at all in their career as well as in this year. So we’re as comfortable as we can be. If you have to go to battle with them, then they’re going to have to be ready to go. We’ve been trying to prepare them as much as we can, as well as we can, trying to get them to understand what it is they have to do, etc. They both practiced well yesterday and they’re both, again, they’re both willing guys that want to get to the field and want to show up. I guess comfort level, our comfort is as good as it can be with our situation, and we’ll be fine.
Also, as far as Knile Davis, is it pretty well a no-go with him?
We’re anticipating no-go. Now, that’s not necessarily the case. Knile could be ready. We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t have a trainer’s report this morning, but I got one late last night. Knile practiced yesterday, and he did run and he did exert himself. We’re knocking on wood that the leg is fine, it’s no more sore, no worse for wear, and if anything, if it’s better, then it’s looking like we may have him for the weekend. That one’s about a 50-50 shot right now, and we’re hoping for the best.
John L., you guys have obviously had some limiting receiving options with (Chris) Gragg being hurt, Brandon being out. But Cobi seems to pile up these gaudy stats week after week. Are you surprised by that, or what do you think is the key to that?
Well, I think again, it’s two-fold. He’s an awful good player. Or maybe even three-fold. That to begin with, plus the fact that you have to game plan and you game plan to get the ball to your good guys, and he falls into that category without a doubt. And I think the comfort level, if you’re the quarterback, you have a certain comfort level with different receivers, and I know Tyler’s got a real good comfort level with him. I think it’s all of the above, and that’s definitely the reason.
Ok, yeah, we’re looking forward to playing Arkansas here at 12 noon (Eastern) Saturday. Got the early game, and we had that two weeks ago against Tennessee. Should have a full crowd, full house. Everyone … we’ve had a week off. We’re well rested. The team is very healthy, of course, with the exception of Marcus Lattimore. Marcus had his surgery last Friday, and he’s doing well, resting well, and we’re hoping and praying everything will turn out very well and he’ll be able to resume his football career real soon. Arkansas’ a good team. I think they’re no. 1 in the conference in offense, in pass offense. They’ve had some struggles, but they’ve won several games lately here, and they’re a very good team that certainly knows how to beat as us they’ve beaten us quite a few lately. And we’re hoping we can really play well and try to finish our season as strong as we possibly can. OK, any questions?
I saw where you said yesterday at your press conference that Connor Shaw was kind of gimpy. I was wondering how he looked at practice last night. What’s the latest on him?
Yeah, he was much better yesterday. Monday night, he wasn’t very good. Yesterday, he was running around, eh, close to full speed. Trainers say he should be fine by this Saturday. So he should be 100 percent.
I know you focus on other teams’ defense in your film study, but Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas’ wide receiver, is having a really big year, leading the league. I guess he has 300 receiving yards against Rutgers earlier this year. I was just wondering if you’ve had much chance to look at Cobi, and if so, what’s your thoughts on him, the season he’s having?
Yeah, you’re right. I don’t watch a lot of the other team’s offense, but certainly we’ve been reading about him and we know he’s one of the best in the nation, if not the best. So obviously defensively we’ve got to figure out where he’s at and try to get some coverage on him because he’s having a sensational, All-American-type year.
Coach, with Lattimore out, what’s your running back situation look like, and having the off week, has that helped any as far as trying to regroup?
OK, we’ve got Kenny Miles as a fifth-year senior. Been here quite a while. Was our starter actually before Marcus got here, and Kenny’s ready to go. He’s full-speed. He’s had some good games for us at the end of last year. Had a good game against Clemson and also in the Capitol One Bowl against Nebraska. So he’s ready to go. Behind him is Mike Davis, a true freshman, that has played a little bit on an off this year, and Brandon Wilds, who played a lot last year after Marcus was hurt, is available. We’re hoping to redshirt Brandon. He sprained his ankle severely right before the first game of the season. But if we need to play with, Brandon Wilds will be ready to go also.
Coach, Kirk Botkin is on your staff now, and he was, I guess he was Arkansas’ first-ever All-SEC player, but he coached here and got let go after a year. Do you get a sense this is like an extra-big game for Kirk because of his history with Arkansas?
Not really. Not really. Every game is a big game with Kirk and with all of us and this is a big game also. I don’t know. I guess I can only relate it to when I coached against Florida. It’s always a big game. I don’t know how much extra you want to beat somebody because you want to beat everybody, almost the same every week. Us coaches, we’ve only got 12 or 13 games, so every one of them are special. Certainly this one’s special for Kirk and for all of us.
What kind of job would you say he’s done for you this year, coming on staff?
I think he’s done an excellent job. Linebackers have played well. Shaq Wilson, inside linebacker, I think should be all-conference. He’s got two or three interceptions. He had a big fumble recovery last week against Tennessee that put us in position to win the game. His linebackers have played well, and Kirk’s an excellent recruiter. We’re fired up he’s with us.
Hey coach, the Gators really haven’t left Florida for a non-SEC regular-season game since you took them to Syracuse in 1991. Do you know why Florida just doesn’t really venture out of state much for nonconference games?
Because Florida doesn’t have to. they don’t have to go out except usually the conference games and FSU. But yeah, that’s just, when you have eight conference games plus an in-state rival, which we do with Clemson and Georgia does with Georgia Tech. Our schedule’s a little more difficult than the other SEC schools in the fact they can schedule four out-of-conference games, and basically the three of us can schedule three. We’ve got plenty of tough competition without trying to find three major opponents, I guess you would say.