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Notes on Mike Gundy’s Sugar Bowl Press Conference



Coach gave the press about 22 minutes on Monday covering the Mason/J.W. situation, prepping for Ole Miss, reminiscing a little about Ole Miss, and talked assistant coaches and B-Weeds a little. What a great season this has been in so many weird ways!

• Opened up with: “Things are going real well. Mason is going to take some team reps today. He’s out of his boot. He’s moving around better. Seaton’s back to playing. Jarwin’s back.”

Previous Bowl Games with Ole Miss

• On the 2004 Cotton Bowl: “The first time I was here with Coach Miles, right? We played good. Eli Manning kept the ball away from us at the end of the game. I know he completed an out-cut on like, 3rd and 12. It was 31-28, or something like that. Good game.” He can remember plays and scores from 11 years ago, but calls Barry Sanders 21?!

• Then, to the 2009 game…also the Cotton Bowl: “In the Cotton Bowl, we just didn’t play good. That was just not a fun game.”

• Coach was asked, essentially, “In that game Zac was hurt. Did you ever think about not using him? You had a pretty good guy over there (Weeden). This was his spectacular answer: “I don’t know who was in charge of that. He just didn’t fit our system. We ran a lot of option. Brandon just didn’t look good in practice doing that.”

On Ole Miss Prep

• The OL seems confident that you will run the ball better in the ball game: “I’m not sure exactly how much ground we can make up on either side of the ball. There’s two things that need to happen in this game: we need to be better and play more gap-sound and stop the run on defense. And then on offense, we have to find a way to be able to establish 125 yards of offense rushing.”

• The $1,000,000 question – what’s the quarterback situation? “With the increased role and number of practice reps J.W.’s gotten, we would expect him to play at least half the game either way, depending on Mason’s health.”

• But, if Mason is healthy, wouldn’t you be inclined to go ahead and start him? “It’s hard for me to answer that because I don’t know what he’s going to look like in practice or what his health is going to be like a week from now. The one thing we can’t forget…we can’t disregard the amount of reps JW’s gotten up to this point. If he’s healthy he certainly needs to play in at least half of the game.” Seems like half the game for each of them is the consensus.

• Isn’t Mason much more of a downfield threat? “You know it’s interesting – J.W. throws the ball down the field as much as Mason does. He just hasn’t had as many reps. If you take him out of goal line situations, the percentages are pretty close.” OK – that is interesting. I’d like to make a formal request for OKC Dave to look into this.

• How is the new situation running special teams coming along? “Special Teams is one area you have a lot of concern about going into a bowl game. You’ve had a month off and a lot of things can change.”

• How about Jalen McCleskey’s development? “I think he’s going to develop into a good punt return guy. He’s gain some experience and he settled in. You still take some chances, and that’s okay.”

• Is it tempting to do some of the same things you did last year in the Cactus Bowl against U-Dub, i.e. Castleman, or is this game too important? “We’ll always have new plays in a bowl game. We want to have some fun with the players in the game.” Wheeee!

On the Assistant Coaches

• Is this one of the better assistant coaching staffs you feel like you’ve ever had? “I’m very comfortable with our staff. I think this is one of the best recruiting staffs we’ve ever had, I think. We’ll find out.”

• “They have really good continuity. They check their egos at the door. They’ve worked well together and I think the team feels that.”

• Have you ever considered a high school coach? This was interesting, too: “We always evaluate a high school coach. There’s a lot of areas you have to take into consideration. Some of the better coaches out there are high school football coaches.”

Miscellaneous and Closing

• Did you get to see Weeden play? “I saw one highlight play where he threw a bootleg pass and scored a touchdown. And that’s all I saw. I did text him and he responded back. I told him I was proud of him. I think they’re going to find out they’ve got a pretty good player. He’s a company guy. He’ll say, ‘Yes sir and no sir’ and just work hard.”

• Will you spend time this spring developing a second situational quarterback (another J-Dub)? “We’ll have to evaluate and see what we have. If there is a player who can help us win games in September, we’ll certainly accommodate using another quarterback.”

• And this – this was great. It came very early in the conference, but I thought it was a great closer. Coach was asked, “Is it hard to jump out and be Dad for Christmas and then jump back into football?” A great answer followed: “Not really. For the most part, we (he and his boys, I’m guessing) do something every day. They’re with me here at practices. They’re out of school now, so they’re here today.” That’s pretty cool.

Hope everyone has a great Christmas, a wonderful and safe New Year, and … Go Pokes!

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