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Herring-Olvedo: Man Up, Step Up – Ole Miss Defensive Players on Sugar Bowl

Photo by Joshua McCoy, courtesy Ole Miss Athletics
Photo by Joshua McCoy, courtesy Ole Miss Athletics

We don’t always get the hand we want, but all that is left is to own it. Man up and step up.

The Rebels have faced tough losses this season. However, the players understand that, no matter the situation, this team has to man up to the situation. Every single player is going to step up and handle business this Friday in the Superdome against Oklahoma State.

Here is what the Ole Miss Defensive players have to say about their preparations in the daily Sugar Bowl Press Conference Snapshot.

Linebacker C.J. Johnson

On the week at the Sugar Bowl: “Practice this week has been good. There has definitely been a different emphasis. We want to be able to go out and win the game. I believe that having that feeling is a good thing for us.”

On what’s next after football: “Right after the game I’ll sign with my agent. I will go back home and spend some time with my family for a little bit. After that, I will go train to continue playing football. If the NFL doesn’t work, coaching would be something I would probably look into. But, right now I want to focus on playing football.”

On how far the Rebels have come: “A lot of things I remember from before the transition is that, as a football player, it is hard to have the mindset week in and week out to come in and win the game. It is hard to go out and play hard, and compete against yourself. It really made me find out who I am. The games we lost my freshman year of college were the most I had lost in my entire football career. It was tough for me. I really had to push through.”

On choosing to stay at Ole Miss: “Until I talked to Coach Houston Nutt, I was really considering transferring. Then Coach Nutt told me to stay through the spring and that Ole Miss would bring in somebody good. I bought into everything that Coach Freeze told us. Halfway through that first spring practice with Coach Freeze, I knew we could be really good. Everyone on the team just bought in and committed to the program and everything Coach Freeze was trying to do. The way everyone was competing in practice was something I hadn’t seen. Everyone was working really hard. I knew that we could be better than we had been.”

Defensive Back Chief Brown

On conference pride: “That is huge. It is a really big thing. In the SEC we take a lot of pride in our conference. A lot of us believe we are the best conference in the country. It is a big deal. Any team that is playing in the bowl games, we cheer for. I hope for them to win. Conference pride is a big thing.”

On last year’s loss to TCU being this year’s motivator: “It is a big motivator for us. In our indoor practice facility there are banners from each bowl game we have been to. The scores are on the banners, too. Seeing that score from the TCU game last year is embarrassing to us. That is definitely a motivating factor. We are definitely hoping to change the outcome this year.”

On DL Garrald McDowell returning home to New Orleans: “He loves it here. This is his city. I know he is excited to be back. I haven’t hung out with him that much, but I was talking to him yesterday about all the places to go. Garrald is a great kid. I really like him. He is going to be a great player when he gets his chance.”

On the growth of Ole Miss: “We have come a long way. It’s been a great experience. We had a tough year but we had to tough it out. It was rough. I remember when our coach was fired and the feeling of wanting to transfer. I stuck it out and gave Coach Freeze a chance, and now we are at the Sugar Bowl. Every guy I talked to wanted to leave. We decided to give it a shot and buy into Coach Freeze. We went from a two-win season, to a seven, to nine. Now we have a chance for a 10-win season. That would be great for our young guys. Being able to go out on a 10-win season would be a great feeling. It would help to set up this program to succeed in the future, especially with the great recruiting class we have coming in.”

Defensive Back Trae Elston

On prepping for the Oklahoma State Offense: “We put in some extra conditioning as a team and a lot of us did stuff individually like extra running to just try and get ready for that tempo. Their concepts and style is similar to Mississippi State; they like to take the deep shots. We did well against teams like this in the past but every team has a different DNA and a different group of players.”

On Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell: “He is a big body guy, he’s a possession receiver and he is going to box you out to win jump balls. He is a very strong runner and a great leader … He leads our offense. He is very competitive and wants to win every matchup he is in, even if it is just a walkthrough.”

Defensive Back Mike Hilton

On playing his final game for the Rebels: “These last four years have flown by. I’ve seen how far our program has come and where it is at now. It’s amazing and I am blessed to be a part of it.”

On Coach Freeze and the quick turnaround of the program: “You know, I didn’t think it was going to be that fast. After that ’13 class came in, they really were that stepping stone for us. That’s when I really believed we could be special and be one of the top teams in the nation again. We’ve done that over the last two years and it’s been a fun ride.”

On enjoying the season: “Yeah man, I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve been soaking everything in. I’m ready to get this last game over with, but it’s going to be a bittersweet feeling.”

On Oklahoma State’s two-quarterback system: “We took real good looks at both of them. One is really the passer and one is really the runner, but they both can do both. But we prepared for both of them and whoever plays we are comfortable facing. We are just going to run our scheme and hope the plays fall our way.”

On a similar offense to Oklahoma State: “They are really like a Texas A&M offense. Of course an up tempo team, they really like taking shots down the field, their run game is solid, and they do things to mix things up.”

On if they have faced a two-quarterback offense: “No, we haven’t. This is going to be our first experience. We just have to be prepared for both. They both bring their own styles to the offense. We just have to make sure we know which one is in the game at that time.”

On Co-Defensive Coordinator Jason Jones: “He’s a real good coach. He’s real fun, but he’s about business. He likes to work on technique and make sure we have everything down perfectly. He’s fiery on Saturdays. That’s stepping out of his comfort zone from the rest of the week. He’s a real cool coach.”

On facing Jones’ former team: “We have actually been messing with him about it. He’s going against some of his old guys and, of course, you want to beat your old guys and old coaches. So we are going to go out there and perform on Friday.”

On Oklahoma State’s receiving corps being similar to SEC receiving corps: “They are pretty similar to what we have seen in the SEC. They have big guys that can go and take the ball. They have burners and they have a slot receiver that is quick, shifty, and makes plays for them. It’s something we’ve seen throughout the season so we are going to be prepared for it.”

On the team’s psyche after losing Robert Nkemdiche: “Next man up. It’s an opportunity for some guy to step in and go out and perform on Friday. Of course, we would all love for Robert to be out there especially on the back end and the pressure he can get for us. But, it’s next man up and a chance for someone to show their ability.”

On Robert Nkemdiche as a leader: “His charisma. Everyone wants to be around him. He talks to everybody and he’s somebody you want to have in your circle. He’s one of our leaders and is just a junior. We really follow him and the plays he made, the things he did on the field for us. He was a good one for us and I wish him the best.”

Defensive End John Youngblood

On Oklahoma State changing quarterbacks: “With their starter being out and he’s more of a pocket passer, we don’t feel like he’s too much of a running threat. If they go to their back-up, he likes to run. He’s back there two to three seconds and then he’s taking off so that really affects how we want to either get pressure on him or not get pressure on him to keep him in the pocket and kind of contain him. We’d rather have the back-up throwing the ball as opposed to running around.”

On Oklahoma State’s offense: “It starts with a pass rush up front. If you don’t pressure them and if the quarterback is comfortable then he’ll get in his groove and potentially pick us apart so we want to get pressure on him up front. That translates into not giving him much time so then our DB’s don’t have to cover him for five or six seconds a play because they’re going deep just about every play. If we eliminate the deep ball threat then I feel like we can get them into a running game and stop them up front.”

On Robert Nkemdiche not playing: “It’s sad to see that situation and obviously he’s not playing with us but it is ‘next man up.’ I feel like (defensive tackle) Breeland Speaks has really done a great job. Robert didn’t play because he had a concussion one week and Breelan really stepped up and played great for us. Breelan is finding his groove and really maturing and is going to be a great player for us.”

On playing in the Sugar Bowl: “Very honored to be playing in the Sugar Bowl. Back to back ‘New Year’s Six’ bowls is great for our program. Playing in the Sugar Bowl has been a long history for our program so I definitely think all the fans are glad we’re back. We’re definitely ready to win this one.”

Lee Ann Herring-jpgs-0601

Lee Ann Herring-Olvedo is a HottyToddy.com contributor, veteran SEC sports journalist and Brown University graduate. She loves good cigars, good games and a smooth glass of bourbon — not necessarily in that order. She can be reached at misskentuckyus2011@gmail.com.

Follow HottyToddy.com on Instagram and Twitter @hottytoddynews. Like its Facebook page: If You Love Oxford and Ole Miss…

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