“It’s no secret. They’re a lot like us,” said Nutt of the Tennessee Volunteers, who enter the game 3-6 overall and 0-5 in Southeastern Conference play.
The Rebels, meanwhile, are 4-5 and 1-4.
Both picked up victories over the weekend. Ole Miss beat Louisiana-Lafayette 43-21 in Oxford, while Tennessee won big at Memphis 50-14.
“It’s all about how you finish now,” Nutt said. “Both of us still have bowl possibilities. So there is a lot to play for. We’ll have their best. There’s no doubt in my mind. Hopefully we’re going to give them our best.”
Nutt said the Volunteers are still a talented team.
“They have some guys that can run,” he said. “Chris Walker on defense is as good a defensive end as there is. Janzen Jackson really shows up in the secondary. He’s returning punts for them now, so he’s a very athletic guy.”
Getting players back:
The season of injury continues as well as the year of the concussion. The Rebels have had to deal with several of both during the fall of 2010.
Starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli sustained a concussion on a touchdown run against UL-L Saturday night.
“We don’t know his status yet,” Nutt said. “Still have some tests today and tomorrow. Concussions are looked at whole lot different now. Hopefully he will be OK (for Saturday), but we just don’t know right now. It’s not 100 percent (that he will be ready)."
And if not, there’s Nathan Stanley, who entered Saturday night’s game in the second quarter and finished, leading the Rebels to victory.
“As you saw Saturday night, we went back to doing a few more things that he does,” Nutt said. “We’re a little bit more bread and butter as far as play action, drop back, a lot more handoffs underneath the center. That’s his game, and we have to do what’s best for our offense if Jeremiah’s not there. We’ll work part of the practices doing that and have that ready to go.”
Nutt said while Masoli said he was ready to go back into the game in the fourth quarter, there was no way the staff – training or coaching – would have put him back in.
“As he crossed the goal line it was helmet to helmet with that safety,” Nutt said. “He got up fine, but (OC) Dave Rader knew instantly. He said ‘You’d better go check him.’ He saw something, and sure enough five minutes from that point, (Jeremiah) didn’t know he had scored, so that tells you.”
Jonathan Cornell, who had an injured hip, was back at practice Sunday.
“It was good to see him back,” Nutt said.
Nutt hopes to have other injured players back this week as well, like Jeff Scott with a calf injury and A.J. Hawkins with a tweaked ankle.
Gerald Rivers also returned to practice.
“He just got back Sunday and has been out of the loop a little bit,” Nutt said. “Hopefully we’ll get him going and into the rotation. But he just got back for the first time yesterday.”
A Rose(y) season thus far:
Bryson Rose, the Rebels’ sophomore placekicker from Raleigh, N.C., has been stellar to date. He’s 14 for 16 on field goals, including 5 for 5 against the Ragin’ Cajuns Saturday night, and 36 for 36 in the extra point department.
“He’s done an excellent job for us,” Nutt said. “He works hard and has a good work ethic. I never thought he would be so consistent, but I’m very proud of him.”
Bobby Massie was announced Monday as lineman of the week in the SEC. Nutt said his progress and importance to the team has been significant.
“We saw this coming the last three weeks,” Nutt said. “His practice habits have picked up. He’s really intense. He’s finishing blocks. He’s our best lineman and really working hard in practice. It’s showing up because he takes it to the game. Things are slowing down for him.”
Nutt said Massie is learning what it takes to play at this level of football.
“I remember a year ago at this time, he was still trying to figure things out,” he said. “I’m excited about Bobby. His work ethic is the key, though. That’s why he’s gotten better. He’s a good practice player who takes it to the field. He’s protecting better. He’s a good listener and works hard.”
A Marry start:
Ole Miss outside linebacker Mike Marry got his first career collegiate start Saturday. Nutt had high praise for the talented player.
“Mike Marry for his first start was outstanding,” Nutt said. “I’m very proud of how hard he played. He was playing with a lot of instinct. Ty (Nix) had him ready to go, and it was good to see that in his first start. It’s always interesting to see how young players will react in their first start. He did some good things. He’s a physical player, and I’m excited about him.”
Marry had a team-leading 11 tackles in Saturday's one-sided win. Nutt said Marry has come a long way in a short period of time.
“He’s young, and he’s had to grow up in a hurry,” Nutt said. “We always felt he would be a good player for us because he’s physical. He loves contact. Now as we start getting him in the scheme of things, he’s starting to realize exactly what he’s supposed to do. He always knew how to go tackle the guy with the ball. But there’s a lot more to it when you get a lot more responsibility.”
Nutt also mentioned a couple of others who excelled – starting defensive ends D.T. Shackelford and Jason Jones.
“D.T. and Jason both were very active,” Nutt said. “D.T. brought a lot of energy. He played about 48 snaps. He made some things happen. I’m excited about him.
“He’s been so outstanding and so valuable because he was at linebacker and then we got so many injuries up front that we moved him down. He’s fighting them hard and putting pressure on those tackles and ends. Really pleased with him and got to keep improving. He’s quick and we felt like he’s our best blitzer and to put pressure on them. We saw that from the linebacker spot. It only made sense to put his hand down and go from there.
“Jason Jones, it just seems like he’s around the ball. He got a fumble recovery at Tulane. He got another one against Auburn. He’s really doing some good things and getting better. I’m excited about both of them.”
Run Game improvement:
Ole Miss rushed for nearly 300 yards against the Cajuns – 298 to be precise. Nutt said he was happy with that and hopes the Rebs can sustain it.
“No disrespect to Louisiana, because they played hard, and I did think we improved,” he said. “But we’ll play a much more athletic team now that we’re jumping back in the SEC. Gotta hold your blocks longer. Gotta finish. Gotta keep working and getting better.”