November 26, 2014  

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CATCHING UP WITH HEAD COACH ELLIS JOHNSON

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Q: How would you rate pre-season practice to date?

A: It has gone really well. We’ve had two full weeks and four extra days without pads. We’ve worked out some in the mornings to avoid the rain. We’ve had a few players dealing with nagging injuries, but overall I’m very pleased with our progress.

Q: So much attention has been focused on the quarterback race, now that four-year starter Austin Davis has moved on to the pros. How are the candidates looking to fill that spot?

A:It has been a pretty even battle, but the race hasn’t cleared up yet. They’re all going to keep getting reps as we move forward to the first game. But I’d feel comfortable with any of them leading our team.

Q: So far, who has stood out to you for their performance in practice and that you’re counting on to be leaders for the team?

A:On offense, Austin Quattrochi (center) Jeremy Hester (running back) and Justin Sims (wide receiver) have had really good performances in pre-season practices. Mike Nunez (defensive tackle) had a great preseason too, as did Allan Howze (linebacker), Deron Wilson (cornerback) and Jacorious Cotton (defensive back). On special teams, we’re excited about the potential Tracy Lampley (wide receiver) offers as our return man, and I feel comfortable with the others who are our specialists.

Q: What can Southern Miss fans expect from this team?

A:Any team I put on the field I want to play hard, physical and smart. I believe this team is going to play that way too, but we need to get more consistent. We’ve got the potential to be a big-play team on both offense and defense.

Q: You took the head coach job back in December. Has the experience so far lived up to your expectations?

A:There have been so many positive things about this job, being here at the University and in Hattiesburg. The one thing that stands out to me the most is the staff I’ve surrounded myself with. We’ve had a lot to overcome, but they’ve done a great job and are so supportive.

Q: If you weren’t a head football coach, what would you be doing instead?

A:At one time I thought I wanted to be an architect, but my football coach in high school (Joe Tubberville at Winnsboro, S.C.) inspired me to follow in his footsteps. I really admired him as both a coach and a person, and after being around him I knew I wanted to be in the same line of work. I can’t imagine doing anything else.