Q. Maybe you can talk to us a little bit about the one on one battles, [Laquon] Treadwell versus [Kevin] Peterson?
DAN WERNER: The thing I have seen is that they will lock up on those outside receivers. And we feel good about all of our receivers. And they, obviously, feel good about their corners because they have been doing it all year. That, to me, is a key part of the game. Because, obviously, if we get the matchups, we’re going to take our shots. And, if they’re able to cover us the way they have against a lot of good receivers that they faced, then we’ve got to change our game plan. And that would be tough situation for us.
Q. So, clearly, a good mix of running and passes, your game plan?
DAN WERNER: We’re always a 50/50 team and depending on what the defense is trying to stop, if they’re trying to play soft and stop the pass, we will run it and vice versa.
Q. Everybody thinks this is going to be a shootout. Do you get that impression as well?
DAN WERNER: Both of us have good offenses. And I don’t like a shootout because it just goes on forever. But, you know, if it’s 10-7 or 47-46, whatever it is, as long as we come out with one more point than them, I will be happy.
Q. Another one on one battle everybody is looking forward to is [Laremy] Tunsil versus [Emmanuel] Ogbah. Tell us about that matchup.
DAN WERNER: That’s going to be a good one. Both of them probably, future NFL players so that will be interesting to see. You know, he moves around a lot. So it’s not like it will be he will be going against Laremy every play. But, when they do, it will be interesting to watch.
Q. Of course we’re in New Orleans. Everybody loves Archie Manning. Of course, everybody at Ole Miss does, too. The last time you played in the Sugar Bowl was in 1970 when he led to a victory. Where were you in 1970?
DAN WERNER: I won’t tell you how old I was. I hate to even say I was alive at time, but I was. I was a youngster. I was a football fan at that time. And everybody knew Archie Manning. And now, being at Ole Miss as long as I have, getting to know Archie and everything, especially coaching the quarterbacks, we have sort of bond there. For us, as a team, and for me individually, it’s just an honor to be able to come here to New Orleans and play in the Sugar Bowl and have Archie be a part of it and let him see that, it’s been huge for us and for just the Ole Miss fan base.
Q. Chad Kelly, he has had a great year, but does he really need to make a statement in this game?
DAN WERNER: No. Chad needs to go out and play the way he has played all year. If he does, we feel like good things will happen.
Q. Talk about the weapon Chad is as far as he does a great job when he is scrambling certainly looking for a run lane, but he keeps his eyes downfield and a lot of times very effective when he scrambles to throw.
DAN WERNER: He does. That’s when we call it “scramble rules,” which the receivers know that they need to stay alive. And, when you do it in practice and the receivers see that they have a chance to catch a ball because of it, it creates a lot of throwing lanes. And Chad is really good at that. And, if it’s not there, he will tuck it and run it. And he has been real successful with the run game here lately.
Q. What is the attribute of a quarterback that allows him to be good at that? Because not all of them are good. There are some that have to make a decision right off the bat. I’m going to run or I’m going to sit back and stay and throw. He seems to be able to move around and kind of play by the field.
DAN WERNER: Yeah. And it’s all decision making. Because, you know, sometimes you will think a guy is open because of the lane. But, when you’re on the run trying to throw across your body, he is not. So the big key is decision making. Also, like I said, if he does make the right decision to pull it and run it and get the first down. If it’s third and eight and you feel like he is running and get eight, go get. And he has done a good job with that.
Q. Has Jim Kelly been around much? I noticed he’s coming down for an FCA event. But has he been around much with his nephew?
DAN WERNER: He came to the one game and spent the whole weekend and fell in love with the place. I was actually at Miami years ago. And I had met him. So, you know, I have a little bit of a relationship with him.
Q. An impressive guy.
DAN WERNER: All he has been through has been phenomenal.
Q. Well, what are your thoughts? Oklahoma State gave you a lot of praise. Talked highly about [Chad] Kelly and compared him to [Baker] Mayfield. What are your thoughts on their defense? And are they better than their stats?
DAN WERNER: There’s no doubt they are. It’s so hard to tell, because in their league everybody scores a lot of points. So they’re all up tempo, like we are. And they’re probably all similar to our offense. So their stats are not going to be great. But I just look their talent and their scheme. And they have got a couple of really good players. Their corners are really good. And they have had a defensive end that is projected to be a first round pick. And, schematically, they do a lot of things that caused some problems. So we’re going to have to, obviously, play well
Q. What about their takeaways? Seems like they did that as well as anything this year.
DAN WERNER: That’s the thing that scares you, because that’s what will turn a game around. So we preach every single day protect the football. That’s the number one thing on our list. So, hopefully, we can do that. But they’re obviously good at taking it.
Q. Do they look like anybody now that you have gotten a chance to watch several weeks of video on them?
DAN WERNER: I hate to compare them to other teams. But, I mean, they’re a physical, fast, well coached team.
Q. Seems like he is as good as anybody that you’ve seen?
DAN WERNER: He definitely is. It will be a fun matchup when he gets against Laremy. Or they will move him around, so he will go against Fahn sometimes and see how Fahn handles him.
Q. What has been the approach of the team? Now that the breaks come, you kind of get them back. You obviously saw what they were like at Oxford. Do you feel like they’re very focused and make up for last year?
DAN WERNER: No doubt. That’s the one thing that Coach Freeze has been hammering home. We come here. This is a business trip. Obviously, we want our players to have fun. And that’s part of the bowl experience. But this is all business, and we want to go and play well.
Q. Did you notice a difference between last year and this year?
DAN WERNER: I do. And it’s really more the coaching staff, I think ilast year it was sort of like, hey, let’s go have some fun and we will go win this game. And this year, like I said, we want to have fun and we want our guys to enjoy it, but this is business this year.
Q. You took a step last year because you played those first two bowls at that level. You took a step. Maybe that’s what it was.
DAN WERNER: At the time we didn’t feel it that way. It’s not like we went into it saying, “Who cares?” But this year, as a coaching staff, starting with Coach Freeze on down, we put a lot more pressure on us as coaches and on the players to make sure that we’re taking this thing serious and be ready to play.
Q. Is that curfews and how you go about the week as far as meetings and everything?
DAN WERNER: Yeah. The schedule has not changed that much. It’s just that we talk about it a lot more about, focus and energy at practice and all of the things that we feel like it’s going to take to be successful.
Q. Do you notice, too, that the kids have kind of, as they have gotten older and know how to deal with it, that they have gotten better from going back to even I guess the juniors were around for the Music City Bowl. Do you know how much different they are just from an approach?
DAN WERNER: I think the guys have been through the whole thing. Some of them have been in a bowl now every year. And each year the bowl has gotten a little bit bigger. So I think they’re probably maturing a little bit. I think last year we go in and we, obviously, didn’t play well. So right away you’re looking at, okay, what was wrong? If we would have played well, we would look back and say, man, we handled it perfectly. Maybe it was just one of those days. And TCU was a great team, and we sort of ran into a buzz saw.
Q. I think TCU was highly motivated.
DAN WERNER: But we’re going to use that and make sure that we cover our bases, obviously.
Q. Was there a game that you felt like, as you look back maybe in an evaluation standpoint, that you were really, really the best? Would you say that’s my best game, best production of all that have gone through the program?
DAN WERNER: I don’t know.
Q. Or how do you look at the years from an offensive standpoint?
DAN WERNER: Just the fact that we felt like we started getting better at the end of the year. And I felt like we sort of locked into what we wanted to do, and the players bought into it. And, after the Memphis game, I think that our guys probably our senior leadership sort of took over and said, “Look” the seniors and some of our juniors said, “Look, we have to step this thing up and finish this season right.” And we did.
Q. That’s when you played the rest of those games as consistently as you have all year?
DAN WERNER: I felt like that, yeah. Not getting Laremy back was a huge part of that. That’s no coincidence.
Q. Coach, first thing, how has your focus been since you guys arrived down here in New Orleans?
DAN WERNER: I think it’s been awesome. That’s one thing that we have been on Coach Freeze has been on us as assistant coaches. And we have been on the players about staying on top of things. We want to enjoy ourselves. We want to have a good time. That is part of the bowl experience. But we have to focus in and make sure that we’re ready to play.
Q. The guys were telling me the fan base has been pretty vocal in telling them how important the Sugar Bowl is to them. Is that true?
DAN WERNER: The fact that we haven’t been here in so long and that Ole Miss has a tradition back in the old days of the Sugar Bowl, it’s a big deal. We understand that. We don’t need somebody else to tell us that. That has been something that we shot for when we took the job here. And the fact that we’re here, Archie Manning is around, it’s been awesome for us. And we want to come out and give a good showing.
Q. The bowl game last year, obviously, that left a bad taste in their mouth. Is there a lesson learned from that, or is there anything you want to do this week?
DAN WERNER: You want to learn from everything you do, good or bad. And, obviously, that didn’t work out well. So it’s easy as a coach to say, hey, for you guys who were here last year, obviously, we did something wrong. We’ve got to fix it. And we have gone through and talked about the things that we felt like we needed to fix. And, hopefully, we will learn from it.
Q. I was just asking Edmond about, after the Arkansas game, you finally get to the bye week. Was that maybe not a turning point but a crucial moment for this team to refocus? You get the two big rivalry teams that you go out and win and set yourselves up to be here?
DAN WERNER: Yeah, that was huge. I have been coaching a long time, but I’ve never played ten weeks in a row. And that was hard on us. But we felt like we competed all throughout it. And the fact that we got a week off before those two huge games, I think we got rejuvenated and we played well in the last two.
Q. Probably Treadwell’s last game. And you don’t have to speak for him, but what has it been like seeing him for three years up here?
DAN WERNER: Well, it’s nice when you can tell your quarterback, look, if he is singled up, whether it’s a run or pass, throw it to him. And it’s not quite that simple, but it’s pretty close. And for the most part he has made plays for us in a lot of huge games.
Q. They were saying, too, he keeps everybody accountable, too, being at their best every day.
DAN WERNER: He is definitely one of our leaders. And we have a few really good leaders, and he is definitely one of them. And I know the guys look up to them.
Q. Was there a moment or maybe moments that you knew that Chad Kelly was the guy for this team?
DAN WERNER: It’s funny. Because last spring, when he first came in, he didn’t really show that whatever it is that he has. And, if we would have had to pick a starter, he would not have been it after the spring. And that summer he just worked his tail off and came into the summer workouts and to fall, just like a whole new quarterback. And it was evident right off the bat that he was making plays that we had not seen in the spring. And it just seems like he has carried on as we have gone and just keeps getting better.
Q. Is there anything you can put your finger on that might have changed? Was he just getting acclimated?
DAN WERNER: I think that’s what it was. As a quarterback it’s not like people think that all of a sudden it just clicks. It usually doesn’t just happen. You usually have it or you don’t. The fact that he learned the offense and spent a lot of time to where, instead of thinking what the play is and what his reads are, he can now attack the defense and all the different things he has to do.
Q. Do you figure by the end of the Alabama game he knew?
DAN WERNER: That was a big one. To walk into that place and your first really big start, against, you know, a great team like Alabama at their home, to play the way he did, obviously, it shows you something.
Q. When you look at this Oklahoma State defense, what areas stand out to you the most.
DAN WERNER: The big thing is the defensive end is a guy that you’re going to have to account for. And then the fact that they have a lot of confidence in those corners. And I just haven’t seen a whole lot of teams and they, obviously, played a bunch of really good receivers. And I haven’t seen whole lot of receivers just beat them. So that’s a big part of our package. If we get singled up, we want to take shots. And, if they can cover our guys, that’s a problem.
Q. You mentioned Ogbah. What has made him so special when you look at him on game film?
DAN WERNER: He is really physical, but he’s also fast. One time he may bull rush. You’re setting up thinking he is going to try to rush around you. And he will just push you right back into the quarterback. And other times he will just beat you right off the edge.
Q. With that in mind, how much do you take into mind, when it comes to your blocking schemes, of keying on him and making sure that he doesn’t single handedly
DAN WERNER: We have a number of different protections. So some of them will make sure that we’re sending it to him. Some of them will have guys help on them and things like that. So we have several different answers, and it depends on what pass play we have called.
Q. Are there any defenses in the SEC that you can liken this Oklahoma State defense to?
DAN WERNER: I don’t really compare defenses. That doesn’t make sense to me. But, I mean, this is a team that, obviously, has a lot of talent. And they have a good scheme that causes a lot of issues. There are a lot of things that we’re going to have to audible in and out of and things like that. So it definitely makes you prepare and makes you think.
Q. I want to ask you one thing off the path a little. I was driving down here yesterday, and I was listening to [Mel] Kiper who was talking about Laquon as a pro prospect. He said he has got concerns about his speed and that kind of thing that might drop him in the lower part of the first round. You coached him a while. How much for him is speed an issue going on to the next level?
DAN WERNER: I just see he is so physical that, when you throw the ball his way, he is going to catch it. And he never gets caught. You know, so everybody talks about speed and how important it is. If you catch a pass and they don’t catch you, you go score a touchdown, how fast do you have to be, you know? We will see how it all plays out.
Q. Does he remind you of anybody you’ve coached previously or you’ve seen in the NFL?
DAN WERNER: I was a GA when Michael Irvin was playing, so I got to coach him. He’s real similar to Michael in the fact that he is very physical. But he is also such a competitor. It’s almost like he may get out of position or something, but he was such a competitor that he would find a way to make the play. And I think Michael was the same way.
Q. How has he been different as a player physically since the injury?
DAN WERNER: I haven’t seen any difference. I think that was just obviously, it was a bad incident. But he came back just the same way, if not better.
Q. What do you see in Emmanuel Ogbah, their defensive end?
DAN WERNER: He is a guy that is very physical but also has a lot of speed. One time he may speed rush you. Next time he may bull rush you which puts a lot of pressure on an offensive tackle.
Q. Are there people you have seen this year that you would compare him to?
DAN WERNER: I don’t like to compare guys, but he is your typical SEC defensive end. They pretty much have to prepare for every week in this league. But this is definitely one of the better ones we have seen all year.
Q. The run game numbers for you guys since Laremy has returned have been noticeably different. Is it only about Laremy, or are there other things involved to help you run the ball better?
DAN WERNER: That’s no coincidence. I think the fact that we sort of settled in and said, Look, these are the runs that we want to do and let’s run it and with our pass options obviously off it.
But I think that the other thing is a lot of the defenses have started to soften up a little bit. Because we’re throwing the ball down the field so much, we had so much success throwing it, the people said, We can’t let this team just throw fade balls all the time and beat us so they’re playing softer. And, obviously, the run game is going to flourish because of that.
Q. Coach [Glenn] Spencer from Oklahoma State said even with the success sustained that they have had, he still doesn’t feel like they can get anywhere they want to be in recruiting going indoors? Do you feel like you guys are able to do that at Ole Miss right now? He was saying that even with the sustained success that Oklahoma State has had that it’s still harder for them to recruit some of the highly rated prospects, national prospects, or to go anywhere in the country and recruit successfully that they might like to. How do you feel about Ole Miss’s recruiting right now?
DAN WERNER: We definitely are. I don’t talk a whole lot about recruiting, but I know we’re on some really good players and our staff does a phenomenal job. And it starts from Coach Freeze on down. And it’s all about relationships and, obviously, the success on the field. I think the type of scheme that we run helps. We have got guys putting up stats and things like that. But we definitely are in on some guys not only just in the South but all over the country.
Q. About Coach Freeze’s journey, he started as a girls’ high school basketball coach in Arkansas and here he is coaching at Ole Miss. What is it about the guy that you think has allowed him to make that jump? There’s a lot of high school coaches who dream of doing what he has done. How has he done it?
DAN WERNER: I think just like an athlete, some guys have it and some don’t. He has just got it. I was on the staff with him when we were at Ole Miss the previous time. And here he was a high school coach just coming in. His first snap ever coaching college football, he was a tight end coach and I was the offensive coordinator.
And to see him go and move up so quickly was astonishing to me. To be honest, when I took the job, I felt, “I don’t know about this, I don’t know he is ready for this level.” And the very first staff meeting he came in and just took charge. The very first team meeting he just captures those players and has been phenomenal for me to see how he has done it and it’s amazing. And obviously the proof is in what we have done.
Q. In talking with some of the players, they even mentioned when they were being recruited and they were told that kind of story and his grassroots, kind of level where he started off, is that part of the allure do you think for some of these kids where they see what he has done and think, Here is just some guy who chased a dream and here he is?
DAN WERNER: Maybe. I think it’s just the relationship that he builds with these guys. He is a true down to earth person, and he actually cares about these players. And that’s I have worked for a lot of coaches and very few everybody says they do but very few actually do. And he is definitely sincere, and they can see that.
Q. And I know you’re worried about Oklahoma State’s defense. But what they have done on offense with the two quarterback system where they have been wildly effective with the red zone guy, it makes he wonder: Have you ever dealt with the two QB system? Have you ever tried that out maybe out of necessity? And how do you make that work?
DAN WERNER: We have. It’s situational. When you have a certain guy that does one thing well, another guy that does something else well, it’s sort of been a little bit of a trend here lately because of the quarterback runs and things. And when I was a younger coach, I never would have even thought about answering that question. But it’s true and we have done it here at Ole Miss. It just so happens Chad [Kelly] right now is doing both things well. So we feel like we can just work with him.
Q. At what point did you realize just how productive of a runner that Chad could be?
DAN WERNER: I think in the middle of the season when we decided we needed to start running him more, especially down in crucial situations. It just seems like every time we did good things were happening.
Q. Glenn Spencer, OSU’s defensive coordinator, even kind of compared him a little bit to Baker Mayfield in the fact when he runs, it’s intentional and he has a purpose and he knows where he’s going and it’s not just a scramble. Can you maybe see that? You just said you’re not into comparisons. But is this a guy when he pulls the ball down, you can say he knows where he is going and he knows where the first down marker is and he is intentional about it?
DAN WERNER: Well, we talk about that all the time, know the situation. That’s one of our big rules, is know the situation. So if it’s third and three and you have to scramble or we call the quarterback run, you had better know where the sticks are and how to get to them.
Q. Chad had mentioned this is an offense that has really evolved over the years and really kind of figured itself out. What has been your guys’ biggest strength as you enter this game and what do you feel most comfortable about this year?
DAN WERNER: I feel just the fact that we can be multiple, and we’re going to make the defense cover the whole field. If they decide to take away the pass, we feel like we can run it and vice versa. With the fact that we have a bunch of good receivers, we’ve got a bunch of good backs, and a quarterback that can run and throw, we put a lot of pressure on the defense.
Q. There’s a national perception out there that Big 12 defenses don’t stack up with SEC defenses and it’s more hocus pocus offenses and then the spread and everything like that. But obviously what happened last year, you’re going to against TCU and what you have and even scouting film what is your perception of Big 12 defenses? Is that overblown?
DAN WERNER: I promise we haven’t fallen in that trap. After last year we’re coming in this thing like this is the best defense we will face. And they obviously have a lot of talent. They do a great job schematically. So we know that we’re going to have to play a great game to get a W.
Q. I’m assuming that you watched some of the Oklahoma State video. What enabled Oklahoma to have so much success on the ground in that game?
DAN WERNER: They had a couple of really long runs. It’s not like they were just hammering all the way. But they had a couple of breakout you know, 60 , 70 yard runs. And you get two or three of those and your stats are going to be really high. But Oklahoma did a great job against them obviously and did move the bail.
Q. Were you surprised maybe you weren’t surprised, but I had not seen, I guess, Jordan and Akeem together run with the type of physicality that they did against State. I mean, just the collisions and to keep on going.
DAN WERNER: That’s something that we have been looking for. I mean, we have been wanting that type of a back for 40 years now, I guess. And to see them come up and run the way they did, that makes it nice when you know you call a run play. And, even if it’s not blocked perfectly, they’re going to run and get four or five yards. Or it’s blocked for a four or five yard gain and they run over somebody and get eight or nine. So that’s a big plus.
Q. What do you think caused it to just all come together right there?
DAN WERNER: Maybe their confidence. They haven’t had a whole lot of reps, because both of those guys are sort of backups. So they haven’t had a whole lot of reps throughout the year. And I think the more they keep running it and the more confidence they get, the more powerful they are going to run.
Q. What have you seen of Jalen in his career? I look at him, and I see a guy that obviously has worked hard in the weight room. And I see effort on the field. Pound for pound it looks like he has been very productive. What have you thought of his career?
DAN WERNER: No doubt. I remember last year against State, you know, obviously, the long run that he had to reverse the field. But he had a bunch of short runs that looked like again there was nothing there, and he would run over somebody. And here he is, 175 pounds or whatever he weighs, running over guys and breaking tackles. So he has been doing it for four years. I mean, it’s amazing to see what he has done in a league like the SEC, the SEC West. And to be the starter for a good portion of that.
Q. I apologize if you already answered this, but Ogbah, their defensive end, how tough of a matchup is that going to be?
DAN WERNER: It’s going to be a tough one, because he is a really good player. And they will move him around. It’s not like we can zero in and say, okay, we know we’re going to send it this way or we know that Laremy is going to be blocking or whatever. So we’re going to have to come up with some answers for him. No doubt
Q. What makes him so special?
DAN WERNER: He is a physical guy as well as a speed rusher. And any time that you put those two together, you’re sitting back and thinking, okay, I know he is coming around the corner and going to be trying to speed rush me. And all of a sudden he locks in on you and tries to bull rush. That makes it tough.
Q. We asked Fahn have you seen a guy like this this season that you compare him to and he said Fadol Brown, the guy you see every day in practice. Is Fadol may be a good example, or do you have an opponent that looks like
DAN WERNER: I don’t like to compare players. I mean, all I know is he is a good player, and we have to find a way to block him.
Q. Throughout your coaching career, where does Laquon Treadwell stack up in terms of the guys that you have coached?
DAN WERNER: He is up there with some of the best, you know. I mean, here is a guy that, if he gets singled up, he is going to make a play for you. And it makes it easy, as a quarterback coach especially, to tell your quarterback, “Look, forget all of your reads. If he is single, throw it to him.” And it’s not that simple, but it’s close. And he, for the most part, has made plays for us throughout his career.
Q. He said, when he was in Atlanta for the awards show, he said something to the effect of, “Look, I could increase my production by a lot.” I mean, what was his ceiling? What could he maybe have done? I know he had ton of yards and a ton of catches already, but what do you think?
DAN WERNER: I don’t know what he was talking about. I’m happy with how he played. And, you know, I’m just glad he is on my team.
Q. What do you see from him after the injury that made him come back and be as productive as he can?
DAN WERNER: Just the fact that he was so positive and worked hard in the rehab and then in the weight room. And our medical staff did a great job with him as well as our strength staff. When he came back, I honestly did not see one difference. He actually lost some weight, which probably made him faster, but he is still physical. That’s the nice thing.
Q. Chad said that he told him or Klein (phonetic) told him he had lost fat when he lost the weight. He didn’t look like a guy who had a lot of fat to lose.
DAN WERNER: No. And it’s not like he lost a ton, but I think he just leaned up. And that was his thing to try to help out his speed. But, like I said, he is so physical and he knows how to use his body. He is like a rebounder in basketball. When you throw it out there, he knows how to get in between the defender and the ball.
Q. I don’t know how much you’re aware, but he gets so much attention. Can you see where that opens up opportunities for other receivers?
DAN WERNER: Oh, yeah. Most defenses will find a way to kick the coverage to him. And that has helped, you know, our tight ends as well as our backs and the other receivers. Somebody told me I’m not a huge stat guy but we have maybe six or seven guys who had over 25 catches. And that doesn’t happen very often. It just shows that, you know, even though he caught a bunch of balls, a bunch of other guys are catching some, too.