Nutt believes Rebels can solve fans’ hunger|[08/06/2008]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 6, 2008

OXFORD – New Ole Miss football coach Houston Nutt called it “The Hunger.”

For four years, Ole Miss fans have had a hunger for a winning program.

Former coach Ed Orgeron couldn’t deliver it, but Nutt thinks he can and he has the background to prove it. Nutt, his new staff, and both new and returning Rebel players believe it, too. On Tuesday they met with the press at the Ole Miss media day at the team’s indoor practice facility.

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“I felt that hunger when I saw the fans at the Rebel Clubs throughout Mississippi this summer,” Nutt said. “I felt their enthusiasm and it has filtered down to our players. I can see the hunger in their eyes and how much they want to win.”

In 10 seasons at Arkansas, Nutt took the Razorbacks to eight bowl games. His teams won 42 games in the Southeastern Conference. Last year, they were 8-4, including a 50-48 triple overtime win over the eventual BCS national champion LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge.

“Houston Nutt’s body of work is out there for everyone to see,” said new Rebels offensive coordinator Kent Austin. The former Ole Miss quarterback comes back to Oxford after spending 15 years in the Canadian Football League. Last year, he led the Saskatchewan Roughriders to the Grey Cup – the Canadian equivalent of the Super Bowl – as the head coach.

“It’s been great to be back, but it’s been that way because of Houston Nutt. On so many levels, he has a plan that is conducive for success. He builds people up, not down. And he’s very unselfish. He brings people around him. He knows what it will take to get us a ‘W.'”

Ole Miss senior wide receiver Mike Wallace can see a difference already from last year at this time.

“Confidence,” Wallace said. “There is a lot more of it around here, now. Coach Nutt knows a lot about the SEC and how to win in this league.”

Junior running back Cordera Eason of Meridian, who enters fall practice as the replacement for the graduated BenJarvus Green-Ellis, agrees.

“There is a huge difference. A lot of little things,” Eason said.

The biggest will be the work schedule. No more full pad, two-a-days that were commonplace last August with the Orgeron regime.

“We may have had seven or eight of those types of days,” Eason said. “But with Coach Nutt, it’s different. They teach us in the morning and then in the afternoon we’ll have the one full pad practice. I think that will save the toll on our body.”

Nutt says that has been part of his plan at Arkansas and it’s one of the things he has transferred over to Ole Miss.

“We got away from two-a-days for the past three or four years. It doesn’t do you any good to do it if you have 11 guys in bed with IVs,” Nutt said. “I feel like we have a great classroom setting here with this indoor facility. We want to be able to teach our concepts in the morning and then take it to the field with full energy in the afternoon. I think it will keep them fresh.”

Nutt is also hoping it keeps them from dwelling on last year, when the Rebels slumped to a fourth straight losing season at 3-9, including a winless 0-8 mark in the SEC.

“That’s our biggest hurdle. Did you win a game in the SEC last year? No,” Nutt asked and answered. “Did you go to a bowl game? No.”

Nutt, firmly believes, that can change and can change this fall.

“It’s all about getting the components to fit. It starts with the seniors and then you identify your playmakers. Who are the guys who can make plays? I think we’ve found one in our quarterback Jevan Snead. I trust his decision making,” Nutt said.

Snead, a transfer from the University of Texas, is set to play football for the first time in two years since playing in 2006 as a Longhorn back-up to Colt McCoy.