Nutt’s reign will affect next coach at Ole Miss

Published 11:41 am Thursday, December 1, 2011

Boy Scouts are taught to leave each campsite “better than you found it.”

Houston Nutt didn’t have that approach at Ole Miss. Just look at the depth chart.

But the aftershocks of his misrule will hurt worse than the $5 million still owed the former coach. It’s likely that his era will keep the Rebels from getting the coach they need to turn things around.

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Just look at the names being thrown out there. None of them is a name with any cachet. Hugh Freeze, the Arkansas State coach, has made somewhat of a silk purse out of a sow’s ear in Jonesboro, but the SEC isn’t the Sun Belt. Mark Hudspeth, who has turned Louisiana-Lafayette into something more than a laughing stock, has done the same, but is tainted with Mississippi State ties and has bowed out of the race. Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is paid handsomely to play Robin to Nick Saban’s Batman and Smart could be in line for even more lucrative jobs in the future. His salary ($750,000 per season after a 2010 raise) is more than Hudspeth and Freeze make combined, and they’re head coaches. Gus Malzhan, the Auburn offensive coordinator, gets $1.3 million a year and the Rebels would likely have to double that just to get him to listen.

Other candidates, like Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora and Houston coach Kevin Sumlin, are likely to be the subject of a bidding war with plenty of higher-profile suitors like Penn State, North Carolina, Arizona State and Kansas in the mix.

The Rebels missed the boat on two big candidates, as Rich Rodriguez (Arizona) and Mike Leach (Washington State) have resurfaced in the Pac 12. But Ole Miss, paying Nutt not to coach, probably couldn’t have afforded their asking prices.

In Bruce Feldman’s insightful 2007 book, “Meat Market,” he details the ugly details of college recruiting and unknowingly recorded the building of a team that former Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron would never get to coach.

Enter Nutt, who was hired in November 2007 and vultured Orgeron’s recruiting riches into two Cotton Bowl wins.

But as the saying goes, recruiting is like shaving, when you take a day off, people notice. Nutt didn’t recruit particularly well when the Rebels had momentum from two 9-4 seasons.

In the book, when talking about assistant coaches and their hauls, Orgeron said over and over again, “You can always tell a trapper by his furs.” The problem was, he could get the furs, but he didn’t know how to make a coat of them when they got to Ole Miss.

Well, Nutt wasn’t much a trapper and wasn’t much of a coatmaker either. The quarterback situation, since Jevan Snead left, is still a mess. For all of the hype, Randall Mackey is not a SEC-caliber quarterback. Neither is Zack Stoudt or Barry Brunetti. Hyped prospect Raymond Cotton and former starter Nathan Stanley transferred.

The Jeremiah Masoli farce last season was a black eye for Ole Miss and he wasn’t a SEC quarterback either.

The running back situation is even worse. In three years, Nutt has recruited just one bonafide SEC-caliber tailback, Enrique Davis, who made an impact. The rest of the depth chart is littered with tiny-mite speedsters who can’t run between the tackles.

When Nutt took over Ole Miss, he arrived with a cupboard stocked with talent. It was a great job, loaded with talent and great facilities. Now that he’s gone, the cupboard is down to dust, a few cobwebs and a few gems. Fortunately, those great facilities are still here.

Hope that’s enough.

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