Another long season in the cards for Ole Miss

Published 11:39 am Thursday, July 28, 2011

It’s hard to believe that an offseason ago, Houston Nutt was on top of the world at Ole Miss.

His team was coming off two straight Cotton Bowl victories, one stirring, the other lackluster. The Rebels appeared to be on the cusp of being able to compete with the big boys in the SEC West. Finally, they had the coach who would allow them to do it.

But alas, the cracks were already beginning to show. Quarterback Jevan Snead decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and leave for the NFL draft after throwing an interception for every TD pass. A great class of talent recruited by Ed Orgeron — players like Dexter McCluster, Marcus Tillman, Mike Wallace and the Jerry brothers, John and Peria — was completely gone.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Last season, with Oregon transfer Jeremiah Masoli at the helm, the Rebels flat-lined to 4-8 and 1-7 in the SEC, the worst record since 2007. It was unbearable, pun intended, like the mascot controversy.

The defense, once one of the SEC’s best, couldn’t stop anyone. Not even Jacksonville State in the opener. The quarterback situation was a disaster as Masoli was a round peg in Nutt’s schemes, which didn’t look so ingenious without top-flight talent.

Now grumbling is beginning to fester on message boards. Is Nutt on the hot seat entering his fourth season? Nutt appeared flustered at SEC Media Days when asked about Mississippi State’s billboard campaign declaring “Welcome to our State.”

But his reply, if a bit snippy and long-winded, was correct for the most part. Ole Miss recruited well last year, if you’re judging strictly by the stars given by Scout and Rivals recruiting services.

But how many of those four-star, can’t-miss guys will turn into real stars? That’s the real challenge.

As for Nutt’s fourth year in Oxford, it’s hard to believe it would be a make-or-break year, even if the Rebels have lost the last two Egg Bowls. Sustaining 10 wins or more every season at Ole Miss has proven problematic, as Billy Brewer, Tommy Tuberville and now Nutt can attest.

Nutt admitted after the season that the strength and conditioning program wasn’t what it once was. He cut ties with another offensive coordinator, Dave Rader, even though he really needed to fire the real playcaller: himself. Supposedly, he did that by hiring back David Lee.

There will be some talent. Brandon Bolden is the SEC’s most underrated tailback. Bobby Massie and Bradley Sowell are two of the SEC’s best offensive linemen. But the quarterback situation and the defense will be huge question marks.

That’s not going to be enough to crack the top three in the SEC West. The non-conference slate has a trip to Fresno State and a home game against BYU. Neither one are patsies. The tough games are at home, but in a division with two national title contenders, it’s going to be another long season in Oxford.

Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. You can follow him on Twitter at vpsportseditor. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, ext. 142 or at