What all 14 SEC coaches said during the Week 8 SEC teleconference

The Week 8 SEC teleconference took place on Wednesday. All 14 of the league’s head coaches made a 10-minute appearance to dish on their team in the final days of preparation for their upcoming opponents.

Here’s a look at the highlights from each coach’s appearance on the SEC teleconference on Wednesday, Oct. 18:

Ed Orgeron, LSU:

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  • On upcoming matchup with Ole Miss: “Obviously very proud of the way our team fought as a football team, great leadership, to beat a very good Auburn team. … We have to bounce back this week. … We know they’re going to be at their very best, it’s going to be a tough place to play, but our team’s very excited to go up there to Oxford.”
  • On rivalry against Ole Miss: “Being on both sides of it, it’s a very important game for everybody. You can throw all the records aside, everybody’s going to play their best.”
  • On Ole Miss: “They’re just always very tough football teams.”
  • On LB Devin White: “He’s done a fantastic job for us, not only on the field but off the field with his leadership. He’s a very special player for us and he’s only getting better. … The last time I had a sophomore like that was Warren Sapp at Miami.”

Kirby Smart, Georgia:

  • On upcoming bye week: “We’ll continue to work and just trying to improve in a lot of areas.”
  • On freshman quarterbacks: “I think you first have got to do a great job in the offseason preparing him, and even in spring practice, allow him to grow and develop in the system. … You don’t want to paralyze him with information. … If you can run the ball and have balance, I do think it helps.”
  • Said the biggest thing he sees quarterbacks struggle with when entering college is getting under center, because they’re mostly running shotgun offense in high school.
  • On rivalry with Florida: “I think our kids recognize the rivalry, but they also know that Florida is the next game. I think any time you’ve got a large contingency of players from your home state, they recognize who the rivals are. … A lot of them were recruited by Florida, so they recognize and respect the talent level they have.”
  • On QBs Jake Fromm and Jacob Eason: “They’re both growing as quarterbacks, and they’re both learning and getting better.”
  • On quarterback play in SEC: “It did seem there were a lot of young quarterbacks last year. … I look at it from my perspective where I’ve had a young quarterback every year, and that’s what we’re dealing with. … I remember when [Johnny] Manziel was in the league and it seemed like everybody had an old quarterback.

Jim McElwain, Florida:

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  • On upcoming bye week: “Obviously this is a big week for anybody who has an open week, has an opportunity to get back fundamentally, hopefully get some guys healthy.”
  • Said DE Jordan Sherit underwent season-ending hip surgery.
  • On season with so many injuries: “That is what it is. I’m sure there’s not a coach in America that hasn’t been through something like this, or will go through something like this. … The guys who are here have been playing hard. … At the end of the day, you have to win.”
  • On QB Feleipe Franks: “I think he’s gotten better at some things. As things come up, as you prepare and he’s able to see and learn, I think his dealing with some of the exterior things that go along with the position is a growing thing for him as well. This is a good week for him to keep working on what we’re doing.”
  • On offense: “It’s consistency, is the big piece. Getting back in and looking at those specific situational things, calls, understanding of needs, it’s a great week for it and it’s been actually kind of fun for me, personally.”
  • On Georgia QB Jake Fromm: “They do an outstanding job there, they’ve got some really good people on that side of the ball. I think they’ve done a good job of increasing the playmakers around that position. … They’re not asking him to do a ton, but rather do it within the system. I think Kirby’s obviously done an outstanding job of that.”

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt:

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  • On upcoming bye week: “We haven’t played well defensively, and have shown signs of offensively of trying to move ourselves forward. Right now, we’re a football team that’s focusing its bye week on just us. … We need to take care of the things we need to do to get better. … Really just need to get back to playing good, fundamental football in order to make a stretch run.”
  • On coming back during losing streak: “We’ve worked at it as we’ve gone through this. … More than anything else, it’s been a confidence issue, it’s definitely not about the X’s and O’s. … We haven’t controlled the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball in a while, going back to Kansas State. … It’s about the work that needs to be done. You can’t be outcome-driven, you have to be process-driven.”
  • On Alabama vs. Georgia: “Having played both teams, Alabama’s the better team, just in my mind. … I think where the difference is in Alabama’s secondary. … Alabama’s just a purely dominant defense right now.”

Nick Saban, Alabama:

STORY: Nick Saban praises Kirby Smart: ‘I think he’s done a great job’ 

  • On upcoming matchup with Tennessee: “I think our players have to be able to focus on the things that they need to do to get consistency and performance and execution.”
  • On QB Jalen Hurts: “I think with any young quarterback, it’s a matter of understanding confidence, being able to take what you do in practice and do it in the game. … You have to have a lot of patience, and guys don’t always do it exactly the way you want, but the big thing is, ‘How do I coach this guy to get better every week?'”
  • More on Hurts: “I think it goes back to confidence, knowledge, experience, trust and confidence in what he’s doing. … We still want to improve in the passing game, it’s one of those things that we haven’t done great, but it’s not just the quarterback.”
  • On rebuilding a team in the SEC: “I think a lot of this stuff gets really overblown. I think, just talking about our opponent this week, I think these guys do a really good job, have really good coaches. They could be 5-1 if it wasn’t for two last plays in the game.”
  • On RB Damien Harris: “I think Damien’s a great player, I thought he was a great player for us last year. … This year, he’s stayed healthy and hopefully he’ll continue to be able to do that. I think he’s a little bit more confident this year.”
  • On DB Minkah Fitzpatrick: “We’ve had some really good defensive backs here, and they’ve played really well for us. Minkah’s played extremely well and done a really good job.”
  • Said he considered promoting Mel Tucker to defensive coordinator when Kirby Smart left, but timing didn’t work out.
  • On Tennessee RB John Kelly: “I think he’s a really dynamic player, probably the best running back we’ve played against all year long. … He’s an outstanding receiver as well. He’s probably the most productive offensive player we’ve seen at this point, especially at his position.”

Butch Jones, Tennessee:

  • On upcoming matchup with Alabama: “Obviously a great, great challenge ahead for us. Great opportunity, playing in a rivalry game. … Obviously playing a complete football team in all three phases, very, very well-coached. … Just a complete, complete football team with great depth, and it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”
  • On rivalry with Alabama: “This game means so much to so many people. … When we came here, it was an educational process of trying to educate our players on what it means. … Just have a tremendous amount of respect for their football program, what they have there.”
  • On Alabama’s defense: “They’re very disruptive up front. They do a great job with their blitz patterns. Minkah Fitzpatrick’s as good of a player as there is in the country. … It’s a reason why they are who they are.”
  • On Alabama RB Damien Harris: “I think sometimes people can take great players for granted. He truly is a great player.”
  • On Alabama’s offense: “I think each team is different. I think what they do a great job, they play to the skillset of their players. No matter who their offensive coordinator is, it always starts with a big, imposing offensive line. … I think where they continue to evolve is at the quarterback position.”
  • On playing No. 1 team in country: “There’s a lot of messages. First of all, it starts with us. … We’re playing a great, great opponent, but like any opponent, it starts with us, first and foremost.”
  • On rebuilding over past five years: “You really don’t know until you get here, and I think we’ve come monumental steps from where we came. … Obviously, we still have a long ways to go in our program and being 3-3 is not what we expect. … We have come a long way, two nine-win seasons, three consecutive bowl wins.”

Bret Bielema, Arkansas:

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  • On upcoming matchup with Auburn: “We’re excited to get back home, get in front of our crowd. … Auburn’s a team that we’ve had some good games with, at home especially. … Guys are eager to get back here.”
  • On Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham: “They’ve had a couple different looks, different guys, different types. Obviously when they’re rolling, he’s done an extremely good job. … A talented player that understands the vision of his coaches and can run the offense, has a lot of good players around him.”
  • On series against Auburn: “There’s a lot of players on both rosters that know each other, going back to high school. … I think with Gus’ [Malzahn] history here, from the outside world looking in, they thought there was going to be something there between us, but I think that was parlayed more by the media.”
  • On watching Auburn tape from last week: “The start of a game is so important, and the same can be said about the second half. … In the second half, there was a lot more opportunistic plays, LSU got their hands on some balls at the line of scrimmage. … I think it was just a tremendous momentum swing into the second half for LSU.”
  • On rebuilding over past five years: “It’s fun for us as coaches. You want to win immediately. … To walk into a situation like this, as a head coach, you always want to have success in Year One. … You tend to go at such a pace that you may not see these potential landmines that lay in front of you. … There’s a lot of different factors that roll into it. … I knew I had my work in front of me, we were a 3-9 team coming in.”
  • Said QB Austin Allen didn’t practice, but there’s a “real possibility” of him playing this week and that he’s continued to make strides.

Barry Odom, Missouri:

  • On upcoming matchup with Idaho: “Idaho’s playing tough. Really besides one game, it’s all been about a one-score game and they come up short a couple times. I know they’ll come ready to play. … Our team is healthy.”
  • Said defensive tackle A.J. Logan will be back in action this week.
  • On improvement last few weeks: “We all want to win, and the urgency to do that is off the charts. Our guys have continued to prepare the right way. … We’ve got to translate it over into a competitive arena, and I thought we’ve done a better job of that the past two weeks. … We’re anxious to go put a full game together.”

Matt Luke, Ole Miss:

  • On upcoming matchup with LSU: “Coming off a home win against Vanderbilt, I really liked our energy on defense, caused some turnovers, had some sacks. The balance in our offense was helpful. … Big game against LSU, very, very good football team. … Huge challenge, but looking forward to playing another big SEC rivalry game.”
  • On Ole Miss-LSU rivalry: “I remember ’97, going to Baton Rouge after they had just beaten Florida. That was a big win for us, going on the road and winning there. … It’s just always been a special game for me.”
  • More on rivalry: “To me, it’s a big game. I just think that’s always been the case.”
  • On LSU’s secondary: “Very talented. They’re very good. We played against some of the guys last year, but the new guys stepping in have been very talented.”
  • On LSU’s offense: “You can’t just focus in on the running back. You have to be aware of the speed sweeps, you have to be aware of the play-action pass. … It’s hard to simulate in practice how fast that speed sweep gets on you, and you have to play it with certain people.”

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M:

  • On upcoming bye week: “The open date for us comes at a good time. In this stretch, we’ve played some really close, competitive SEC games.”
  • On preparing young quarterbacks: “I think the first thing with all young quarterbacks is you have to establish a relationship with them. Most of these guys are all pleasers, they want to tell you what you want to hear. … You have to build a relationship where you don’t find out on Saturday what they don’t know. … It’s not about what you like as a coach, it’s more about what they like or see on the field.”
  • On recruiting in Texas: “I think there’s been more attention brought to it since we joined the SEC. I don’t know the numbers reflect that. … It’s the fact that we are in the league brings more attention to recruiting in Texas in the SEC. The SEC has always recruited Texas, and recruited it very well. … It’s always been competitive. There are a lot of great players here, great high school coaches.”
  • On recruiting, playing young quarterbacks: “I don’t think we’ve ever recruited a quarterback that we didn’t think could play early. … Over the course of time, every coach is looking for the same things — leadership qualities, ability to throw, ability to process.”

Mark Stoops, Kentucky:

  • On upcoming matchup with Mississippi State: “The team’s in a bit better shape, as far as more rested. We had an opportunity to have the bye this past week and the team’s a bit more rested and healthier than we’ve been in a while. … We’ll need to play some very good football here this week on the road.”
  • On quarterback play in SEC: “We look at things one week at a time, and we kind of get zeroed in on our own team and our opponent. … I know at this point, just from looking at the quarterbacks in conference that we’ve played, definitely look very good, very well-coached and very talented. Nick Fitzgerald’s playing very good football, have a lot of respect for him.”
  • On WR Garrett Johnson: “He has quite a bit of experience. He’s one of those guys that you’re looking for when he’s in his fourth year, in his senior year, that you’re looking forward to taking that jump, and he’s done that. … He’s been very unselfish, he’s been blocking, he’s been leading and motivating his team.”

Dan Mullen, Mississippi State:

  • On upcoming matchup with Kentucky: “It’s great to be back home again for the second week in a row. … We played well at home last week, we’ve got to continue that streatk because home-field advantage is so critical in the Southeastern Conference.”
  • On developing quarterbacks: “Everybody’s so different. Each guys is such a different individual. … You have no idea how long it’s going to take to develop all of those things. I don’t think there’s really an exact science.”
  • On Todd Grantham’s impact on defense: “He has us playing with that kind of aggressive edge that I really like, that I expect our defense to go play with. … He’s making sure we’re putting guys in position to have success on the field.”

Will Muschamp, South Carolina:

  • On upcoming bye week: “We’re just trying to get healthy here. … Other than that, I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
  • Said RB Rico Dowdle had surgery on Tuesday to repair his broken fibula.
  • On redshirt freshmen players: “We’re excited about our guys that we signed this past year. … Certainly the guys that are not playing are guys that we’re excited about.”
  • On what needs to improve after bye week: “We’ve got to finish drives. At the end of the day, we’ve not finished drives in the red zone. … On both sides of the ball, third down. … Defensively, when we have struggled is when we haven’t gotten off the field.”
  • On QB Jake Bentley: “Jake is mature beyond his years, and I think in the excitement of the win, for us, obviously saw a young man that had played extremely hard in the game.”
  • More on entering bye week: “I think that the thing that I’ve been most pleased with has been our effort.”

Gus Malzahn, Auburn:

STORY: Gus Malzahn updates Auburn injuries after Tigers’ ‘best practice since the season started’ 

  • On upcoming matchup with Arkansas: “Last time we were there, I think it went four overtimes and they got us at the very end. We know we’re going to get their best.”
  • On recruiting quarterbacks: “They’ve got to have the talent. You have to look to see if they have the talent and skillset that fits what you’re looking for. Then, probably the next thing is their ability to lead and ability to win.”
  • On Arkansas QB Austin Allen: “Austin’s a very tough guy, and I’m sure he definitely wants to play in this game. So, yes, you have to be prepared for both and we are preparing for both.”
  • Said OT Mike Horton practiced in a limited basis, but he’s “looking pretty good.” He’s day to day.
  • Said DE Marlon Davidson will be ready to play on Saturday.
  • On backup QB Malik Willis: “He gets more and more comfortable each week. His practice reps are getting higher and he’s more comfortable doing what we’re doing. … If called upon, I think he’s in a good spot.”