The first day of spring practice is over for the Southern football team. Stump Mitchell was there, from start to finish. If he’s staying there on a permanent basis? Well, that’s a little more difficult to decipher.
Wednesday night, Mitchell briefly answered questions from reporters for the first time since news spread of his interview with the St. Louis Rams this week. Here’s a transcript of what he said:
On the first spring practice:
“It was awesome. It’s been a while since we lost that Bayou Classic. This is our third season. We went out and got the players that we think we need to go with the guys we had our first two years. We’re excited about it. It was an awesome day.”
Your name has been in the headlines a lot this week, with a possible move to the NFL. Where does that stand, or can you flat-out tell us that you’re here at Southern, and that’s where you’re going to stay?
“Yeah. I’m only going to answer questions regarding me being here at Southern. This was Day 1 of 15 (spring practice sessions). We’ve got 14 more to go. I’m excited about them. We’ll be here Friday at 10 o’clock to practice. We’ll be back out here Saturday at 10 o’clock to practice.”
You’ll be here for the other 14 days?
Your third season (at Southern). What are your goals this year to continue to build up that win total?
“Hey, it’s got to be huge. No question about that. We’ve got to win a lot of games. I mean a lot of games, and I understand that, and that’s what I was brought here to do: to help the APR, to help enrollment, to help put people in the seats. We haven’t quite done that, but hopefully, this will be the year.”
You said you’ll be here for the next 14 (practices). But will you be here Sept. 1, 2012?
“No, I won’t be here. I’ll be in Albuquerque.”
NOTE: Albuquerque, N.M., is the site of Southern’s season opener, at the University of New Mexico.
Did you have to address (your situation) with your players, maybe just to put them at ease?
“I don’t have to put these guys at ease. They understand what the business is all about. If they don’t … do well in their classes, they won’t be on the football team. It’s that plain and simple. This is a business. These guys, they know what football is all about. They know what coaches are all about. But their job is to come here and prepare hard in the classroom and to do whatever the coach is asking them to do on the football field.”
Can you tell us about some of the assistant coaching changes?
“Yes, O’Neill (Gilbert) is not here. As you see, coach (Ricky) Diggs is not here today. There were some coaches here (today) that probably won’t be here, before it’s all said and done, but that’s the way it goes in this business.”
NOTE: Until spring practice, Mitchell had not confirmed the departures of some of his assistants from last season, including Gilbert, his defensive coordinator, and defensive backs coach Donnie Henderson. Former SU kicker and graduate assistant Breck Ackley has replaced Diggs as administrative assistant. It was similar, in some respects, to last spring, when he introduced two new assistants to the team on the first day of practice.
Is coach (Tayrone) Odums your defensive coordinator on a permanent basis?
“Yeah, he’s going to be the defensive coordinator.”
And that’s coach (Manny) Martin with the defensive backs?
“Yes, coach Manny Martin. He was coaching high school in Miami. He played at Alabama State, so he’s familiar with the SWAC, and we’ve got some guys coming in from Miami, so I wanted them to have a coach that they could relate to. Hopefully, they can relate to all of us, but to have someone from that area, I thought that would benefit those guys immensely.”
NOTE: Martin had not been introduced to the team until spring practice began.
What excites you about being here now, with three recruiting classes under your belt?’
“The alumni involved this past spring and fall … going to the games and watching the needs that we have for this team in order for us to be successful. They’ve given us some leads on some players in this recruiting class, and I’m just excited about the help that they’ve given us.”
These guys, with everything going on, did you have to talk to them (about not) being distracted by everything with you?
“No. These guys know. I tell these guys about business. They know, from day to day, we all have to take care of our business, and that’s what we’re going to do. Regardless of who’s coaching who, they have to do what they have to do, and we as coaches have to do what we have to do.
“They know I’m going to do everything I possibly can to put this university and this football team in a position to win. If I think it’s better without me, then I’ll do that. If I think it’s better with me, then that’s the decision I’ll make.”
How long would you like to stay here? In the grand scheme of your career?
“Forever. Forever. … I would love to be here forever, until I’m done. Forever.”
Is there anything you can share with us about your talks with the Rams?
“I think they’ve got a great coaching staff. I think they have a great owner. It’s a great city. I started there, and you never know: I may end there. But it’s awesome.”
Is coach (Jason) Palermo moving permanently to the defensive line?
“Like I said: There’s some coaches here right not that probably might not be here. That’s just the coaching business.”