FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt met with the media on Sunday to review the 2005 football season. Below is a brief transcript of the press conference
“After watching LSU, I was very proud of the effort of all of our players. I hate that we didn’t win. But the thing even until the last play when (Darren) McFadden made the tackle on the interception, there was just a lot of effort and a lot of heart that was laid out on the field. We talked long and hard the last month about hanging on the ropes, never letting go and keep playing hard. I have to give a lot of credit to the few seniors that we had…Brandon Kennedy, Pierre Brown. Vickiel Vaughn played one of his best games as a Razorback. Kyle Roper was not full speed and he was out there playing.
“We had trouble moving the ball, as you know, offensively in the run game against an excellent run defense. That was the toughest thing. We tried to get some things going. We had our chances. We just let that slip through.
“We have learned a lot this year and hopefully we can take it into the off-season and just keep growing and keep playing with that passion and that energy. We will learn from our mistakes and be a much better football team.
“I’m really proud of our defense. I think they came the furthest. There is no comparison if you take the last three or four games and then take the first two or three games. We are on the right track and I’m really proud of them. You just hate the season is over.
“But we are going to move on. We will probably give them a week off to really concentrate on school and get academics in order and then get back to lifting and training.
“I just feel like this last month we have come so far as a team, playing together. The whole team really grew up together and became a better football game. You just wish you could rewind the clock, which is not reality, but that is the way you feel. You have to learn from this and get better.”
(On what was learned this year)
“When things don’t go just right, you can always identify the real players that will step up. We have every intention of going to a bowl game this year and boy you stumble a little bit and it hurts. Sometimes you feel like the only thing you have is that (meeting) room (the team). I think they handled a lot this year. Especially some young guys grew up with a lot of learning experiences. I think they just want to win. They want to be successful. There are some fans that really stood behind us and we really appreciate them.”
(On what needs to happen in the off-season)
“I think just a total rededication and a total commitment by everyone. We need their best off-season. Last year was tough and it will be tougher this year. Where every single day when you go to sleep at night, ‘Did I do all I can today to help my team win? Did I do everything I can to help my team be better?’ I think every player has to ask that every single day.”
(On the process with evaluating the program with Coach Broyles)
“After each year we always sit down and I always visit with him (Frank Broyles). He had some other commitments and needed to go out of town, so we are just getting into it. We will continue that.”
(On whether there will be staff changes)
“I don’t know. After each season, we sit down and re-evaluate from top to bottom starting with myself and going all the way through.”
(On timetable of making potential changes or adjustments on the staff)
“Again, it is one step at a time, one day a time. I know there are going to be rumors and rumors of, but until you here it from right here I don’t think there is truth to that. I will let you know as soon as things happen.
“I will go back and meet with Coach Broyles tomorrow. We will continue our conversation there. This week is a week for evaluating this program from A to Z. We are going to take one step at a time and step back from everything. You can’t get in a big hurry. I know that recruiting is going on right now. That is important. I’m just trying to be deliberate and do what is best for the Arkansas Razorbacks. That is all I want to do.”
(On evaluating staff and making potential changes as one of the toughest things to do as a head coach)
“Absolutely. You get close with your coaches, you work with them day in and day out. You sweat together, laugh together, cry together and win ball games together, all those things. The toughest thing is this profession is that we aren’t tenured we are year to year. You are evaluated every Saturday in front of 70,000. It is about winning.”
(On frustration of this season)
“I know it is frustrating when you don’t have a winning season. We had every plan everything we dedicated from last year was to get to a bowl. When I say we are not far off, there are four or five games where we are talking about a play, point, kick, catch, defend a pass or a few plays that would really make a difference. It is about finding a way to win. That is the frustrating thing is that when you know how close you are. There are going to be good things for Razorback fans. To me, there is no question about that.”
(On knowing that the last two years could be difficult and what it was like going through it)
“You don’t ever accept it. Back when we made that statement, we knew that we didn’t get the high quality on signing day a couple of times. You never accept it. You still feel like we are going to find a way to win. We always have. So to experience a back-to-back losing seasons was tough.
“This has been the toughest year of my life. Adding on top of that losing a father, this has been the toughest year for everything.”
(On the future with so many players returning)
“I’m so excited. That was real ball game (LSU). If anyone watched that game that was a real football game. To look in those eyes and see the competitiveness and see the eagerness to win, that was exciting. In the fourth quarter, our guys believed we were going to win the game. Our defense really believed that they could not score on them anymore. That is exciting.”
(On how decision to play Casey Dick and how it helped this team)
“That decision really helped us. He gave us another dimension. He sat in the pocket even when the protection was poor because we were beat up a little bit, he would sit in there until the last possible second, sometime too long, but that is just learning. He made some plays. He got (Marcus) Monk back involved and Cedric Washington involved. Dedrick Poole, Cedric Logan and Peyton (Hillis), he got all those guys involved. We needed that along with the running game. He lifted us a little bit.”
(On whether it is tougher to recruit after back-to-back losing seasons)
“I think it is harder, but I do think we are going to have a good recruiting year. And I can say that because of the response I got from Saturday night phone calls. Anyone who watched that game, anyone who witnessed the LSU game, knows things are bright. That is the reaction that I’ve gotten.
“It is sad, but true, that you seem to do a better job when things don’t go just right. You are more thorough, you are evaluating a little bit harder when you’ve lost and so you almost have your best years when things don’t go just right. That doesn’t sound right and shouldn’t be, but my experience says there is some truth to that.”
(On how playing better down the stretch helped recruiting)
“Going by the latest phone calls I have had with recruits and student-athletes, they were pretty high after watching us at LSU and after Ole Miss and Mississippi State. That helped.”
(On future of Peyton Hillis and any type of position changes)
“I will sit down and meet with all these guys. He is not transferring. I don’t know who is saying that. He is not transferring. I’ve talked to him. That is not true. So we need to stop those rumors. He is going to be a Razorback. We have to sit down and evaluate what is best.
(On whether they want Hillis to move to defense)
“Not really. I am sold that he is the best fullbacktailback, h-backreceiver in the conference. Boy he can be so good right there.
(On whether it was tough to get Peyton Hillis to buy into his role)
“I really think I did until about midway through the year. I think if you look midway through the year, I think he bought in. I think he played with the highest energy he has had. We put him on the kickoff team and he goes down and makes tackles in Oxford. He is punt returning. He is catching balls out of the backfield he is running the ball. He plays such a role. I think he practiced the last four or five weeks, I think he bought in.”
(On Darren McFadden and Felix Jones and their freshman seasons)
“What two great and special guys. I can’t say enough about how they compete. Some freshmen, bless their heart, are not ready. It is a big boys’ game. They think they are coming from Friday night lights but they are not. These two guys and a host of others were. (Darren) McFadden and Felix (Jones), you want them on your team because they want to win. They will do whatever it takes. I’m just proud of them. I’m proud of the way they played. They played with all their heart and made a lot of things happen.”
(On addition of Reggie Herring and improvement of the defense)
“I think once they started understanding what Reggie (Herring) truly wanted and what he demanded they responded. Even after the USC game, the one thing that I know about Reggie is what he wants. He wants his players to be the best. He wants his players to be the hardest working defense in America. He wants them to have an unbelievable passion and a toughness and a desire to get to the ball. And he is going to let you know when you don’t go full speed.
“That is what you love about him. You look at him and you see defense. You look at Reggie Herring’s face and you see defense. All you have to do is go back and watch the film when he played. He was a ferocious competitor that would hit you. That is what he wants. That is all he wants. It is pretty simple. It is a high standard.”