Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:17 pm
Edited on: November 8, 2011 3:17 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
In his post on Houston Nutt's firing at Ole Miss on Monday, our own Jerry Hinnen said that Mike Leach will "be along any minute to mention how much he'd love a shot at coaching in the SEC." Well, that minute is now.
On Tuesday Mike Leach told The Commercial Appeal that if Ole Miss is interested in hiring him to replace Nutt, he isn't hard to find.
“I haven’t heard from anybody, but I’m not too hard to find,” Leach told the paper. “It’s a great job. I’m sure the (Ole Miss) administration has a certain individual it is looking for, and I’m sure they’ll find the right guy.”
As for whether or not Leach will be a target or get the job, nobody knows.
The fact of the matter is that anytime an opening is created at a program these days, Leach's name is mentioned as a replacement. Just recently he was mentioned as a candidate at Tulane, his name has come up in rumors about Arizona, and he was mentioned at places like Miami and Maryland last season as well.
He's yet to be hired anywhere, and as long as he has his current lawsuit against his former employer Texas Tech, the odds are he won't be on the sidelines anywhere. Which is a shame. Leach is one of my favorite coaches in the sport, along with one of the best, and this sport is just better off when he's a part of it.
Posted on: November 7, 2011 11:53 am
Edited on: November 7, 2011 1:04 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The SEC has its first (and possibly only) coaching casualty of the 2011 season as Houston Nutt has gotten the ax at Ole Miss. Here's the essential questions that need answering in the wake of the Rebels' decision, and our best attempt at answering them:
Two seasons ago Nutt won his second straight Cotton Bowl, the best back-to-back seasons for the Rebels since their 1960s heyday. Now he's staring an 0-8 SEC season in the face and unemployed. What happened?
Several things, but none more damaging than that Nutt's last couple of recruiting classes weren't nearly as good as advertised. Ed Orgeron left the cupboard well-stocked for his successor, and to Nutt's credit he made far more use of Dexter McCluster, Jevan Snead, Peria Jerry and other stars than Orgeron ever did. But his seeming emphasis on quantity over quality -- unfortunately, the 2009 38-member signing class that spawned the SEC's 28-signee "Houston Nutt Rule" may be as much his Oxford legacy as those two bowl victories -- left the 2010 and 2011 Rebels entirely devoid of difference-making SEC stars. (It didn't help that several of his highest-profile signees, like now-exiled receiver Patrick Patterson, wound up being total busts.)
Nutt hasn't done a good job of day-to-day coaching (by any stretch of the imagination) these last two seasons, and his utter failure to develop a reliable quarterback for this 2011 campaign may have been his single biggest mistake of all. But on a broader level, his losses and misssteps on the recruiting trail meant that once Oregeron's players graduated, he was starting down the barrel of a sizable talent disadvantage against nearly every SEC team he faced in 2010 and '11.
Why now? Why not wait until the end of the season?
If the Rebels have the funds necessary to buy Nutt out of his ginormous contract, it really doesn't make any sense to wait--with LSU still on the schedule, Ole Miss's best-case scenario at the end of the season is a 4-8 overall, 1-7 record in the SEC. Coming off of last season's disappointment and with no reason to think next year will be dramatically better, that sort of record should result in Nutt's canning as long as the athletic department has the cash to get rid of him. Since they apparently do, now the coaching search can start in earnest ... and the sooner the new coach is hired, the sooner he can try and salvage something out of the Rebels' 2012 recruiting class.
Speaking of: who will the Rebels target?
Until he actually moves on from the Plains, the first name on any list of candidates for a mid- to lower-tier SEC job is going to be Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, even with his Tigers taking a step back offensively this season after Cam Newton's departure. The former Arkansas high school coach may not be able to resist the chance to prove he could outperform his old boss (and now bitter coaching rival, according to many) at the same position.
But the job is attractive enough that the Rebels may be able to pick-and-choose if they decide Malzahn's not the right fit (or vice versa). According to one report boosters have already contacted Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin, and Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables. It would make sense for current Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora to be in the mix, too, after taking his Eagles to 8-1 on the year. And of course there's always Mike Leach, who'll be along any minute to mention how much he'd love a shot at coaching in the SEC.
Tags: Alabama, Alabama, Auburn, Brent Venables, Cam Newton, Cotton Bowl, Dexter McCluster, Ed Oregeron, Gus Malzahn, Houston, Houston Nut fired, Houston Nutt, Jerry Hinnen, Jevan Snead, Kevin Sumlin, Kirby Smart, Kirby Smart, Larry Fedora, LSU, Mike Leach, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Patrick Patterson, Peria Jerry, Pete Boone, SEC, Southern Miss
Posted on: November 7, 2011 11:11 am
Edited on: November 7, 2011 12:39 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
UPDATE: From CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman
Expect to hear that former Ole Miss great Archie Manning and FedEX VP Mike Glenn to be announced as heading the Ole Miss search committee to replace Houston Nutt. Rebel AD Pete Boone will step down, which may get categorized as him "retiring" and have no real role in the school's coaching search, a source at Ole Miss told CBS Monday morning.
It's a move that most people have been expecting to happen, but Ole Miss' 30-13 loss to Kentucky on Saturday appears to have been the final nail in Houston Nutt's coffin. According to reports, Nutt has been informed by the school that this will be his final season at Ole Miss.
Nutt came to Ole Miss in 2008 after serving as head coach at SEC West rival Arkansas from 1998 to 2007. Nutt's tenure at Ole Miss started with a lot of promise, as his Rebels went 9-4 in each of his first two seasons and won consecutive Cotton Bowls. Since then, however, things haven't been nearly as encouraging.
Nutt's team followed those Cotton Bowl wins with a 4-8 record in 2010, including a 1-7 mark in SEC play. So far in 2011 the Rebels are 2-7 and 0-6 in conference play, including a school record 12 consecutive conference losses. His team's only wins on the season have come against Southern Illinois and Fresno State.
Nutt's record at Ole Miss is currently 24-23, but it's the 10-20 mark in the SEC that has ultimately led to this.
Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:45 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
But the stakes were so high for their win over Alabama, the rewards so lavish, that there's no real need to split those kind of hairs. LSU will now be the unquestioned, unanimous No. 1 team in the nation in every available poll, BCS standings included; they are only two games away from clinching the SEC West championship, one of which is against a team that's lost 12 straight SEC games and the other at home against a team whose last two road trips ended in death-defying escapes from that same 12-game losing streak team and Vanderbilt; they are three SEC games, then, from playing for the national championship in their own home state, at the same site where they won it in 2003 and 2007. And they accomplished all of that by defeating what might be their bitterest rival's best team in 20 years in that rival's own stadium and forced their forme head coach under the .500 mark against their current head coach. It's 100 percent possible LSU just cleared the highest hurdle between themselves and the national championship and did so in the sweetest possible fashion.
Not bad for 60-plus minutes of work.
LOSER: "Make his ass quit."
But in recent big games, the Tide have been strangely unable to force anyone on the other side to "quit"--and in fact, have come closer to doing it themselves. There was the fourth-quarter failures against LSU in Baton Rouge last season. Then the fall from 24 points ahead against Auburn. And tonight, there was this in the second half: five first downs, 104 yards, two turnovers and three three-and-outs, the last of which was the disastrous overtime possession which covered minus-10 yards. LSU did next-to-nothing on offense in regulation too, of course, but in overtime their Jordan Jefferson/Michael Ford speed option still worked as well as it ever did.
Result: another championship-level game in which it was the other team outplaying the Tide over the final 30 minutes-plus and walking off the winners. It's not conditioning (we have little doubt every team at this level is as fit as they're going to be), but those second-half woes are something Saban's going to have to figure out all the same if he wants his teams hoisting trophies again.
WINNER: the Baton Rouge ticket market.
The stipulation was always that the best scenario for a rematch was for Alabama to win a narrow, competitive game over the Tigers that left voters wondering what would happen on a neutral field. We got the "narrow, competitive game" part, but voters won't need to see LSU on a neutral field ... since they've already beaten the Tide on Bryant-Denny Stadium's highly hostile field. Beyond that, while the first half featured plenty of smart offensive football countered only by outstanding defense, the second more often seemed like a sloppy, grind-it-out affair with neither team taking much in the way of offensive risks or producing anything resembling attacking "flair." Aesthetic value shouldn't play a part when deciding who gets to play for a national title, but voters are human all the same--and they may not be thrilled by the prospect of a second touchdown-less meeting.
WINNER: Joker Phillips.
There were more than a few people who saw Kentucky's opening-week slog against Western Kentucky, their wipeout against Florida, the epic pratfall at South Carolina, and pegged them for an 0-8 season in the SEC. Even as recently as last week, a dispiriting double-digit home loss to Mississippi State didn't suggest a corner was about to be turned.
But Phillips kept his team believing, and Saturday they comprehensively outplayed an Ole Miss team that -- at the very least -- has more offensive playmakers and comparable defensive talent. No one, Phillips included, would claim he's done a great coaching job this season, but likewise no one would argue he and his staff didn't badly outprepare the staff on the opposite sideline.
LOSER: Pete Boone.
Whether he chooses between them now or at the end of what will likely be an 0-8 SEC campaign, the Ole Miss athletic director has two choices ahead of him after today's Rebel loss in Lexington: he can either stand behind Houston Nutt and make his own less-than-popular hold on the AD's chair that much less popular, or he can swallow Nutt's gigantic contractual bullet and go in search of a new coach even as he also fundraises for a new basketball facility and other capital improvements. Before today, Boone could entertain the possibility that a big finish by Nutt would allow him to put the ax away for at least one more year and still save face. Not any more--Nutt will enter 2012 as a virtual lame duck, or employed somewhere else, and there's nothing else Boone can realistically hope for any longer.
WINNER: Jeff Demps.
For weeks, Demps has been nagged by various injuries. And not coincidentally -- though God knows the Gators' issues weren't that simple -- for weeks the Gators' ground game has all the effectiveness of the proverbial submarine's screen door. Against Vanderbilt, Demps finally looked like his old self, and not just on the juke-the-first-tackler-out-of-his-j
LOSERS: Mark Richt's circadian rhythms.
That's not to say, of course, that Richt wouldn't take having his team control its own destiny in a heartbeat over the alternative. But we're guessing there's a few more exhausted stares at the digital clock at 2:47 a.m. this week, too, now that Richt knows the fallout from a loss will be greater than ever.
Tags: Aaron Murray, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Auburn, Dennis Johnson, Florida, Georgia, Houston Nutt, Jeff Demps, Jerry Hinnen, Jordan Jefferson, Kentucky, LSU, Mark Richt, Michael Ford, Mike Gillislee, Mississippi State, New Mexico State, Nick Saban, Ole Miss, SEC, SEC Winners and Losers, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky
Posted on: October 23, 2011 3:03 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 3:11 am
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
A handy recap of who (and what) really won and really lost in the SEC's Week 8.
WINNERS: Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson. On the eve of the 2011 season, the LSU quarterback situation was supposed to be the team's Achilles heel. The senior Lee had spent his entire career as erratic at best and a turnover machine at worst; Jefferson was suspended and might never return; and despite intense fan interest, Zach Mettenberger hadn't been able to beat either out for so much as the backup's job. But after the Tigers' demolition of Auburn, it's time to give the Bayou Bengal quarterbacks their due: not only are they not a weakness, they're a major reason LSU is 8-0 and now preparing for an undefeated megatilt against Alabama.
The stats are argument enough: a combined 16-of-23 for 219 yards (9.5 an attempt), three touchdowns, and no interceptions. (This was LSU's fifth straight game without a turnover, by the way.) But the two touchdown throws they made in the second quarter -- one by each, both of 40-plus yards, both to the rapidly-improving Rueben Randle -- are an even better argument. On the first, Jefferson was leveled by an Auburn blitzer and stood strong in the pocket to deliver Randle a precision strike; on the second, Lee "dropped it in a bucket," as they say, allowing Randle to beat double coverage. The end result was that a quarter that began 7-3 and with Auburn in a dogfight ended with LSU up 21-3 and the game over. If those two throws are examples of what LSU can expect in two weeks, even Alabama might not be good enough to beat the Tigers. At this point, it seems obvious no one else in the SEC can.
LOSER: Houston Nutt. Honestly, this isn't entirely fair to Nutt, who just coaxed the best performance from his team all season and has nothing to hang his head about, final score-wise; losing to a legitimate top-10 outfit like the Razorbacks by five points is an accomplishment, especially when the outcome is still in doubt in the final minute. Still: a 17-0 second-quarter lead over that kind of opponent -- not only one of the best teams in the country, but an opponent whose fans enjoy needling Nutt and the Rebels about their failures -- is the kind of golden opportunity that Nutt and his team simply couldn't afford to let slip through their fingers. In the end, solid performance or not, it's just Nutt's 10th straight SEC loss ... and another few before the year's end could be the end for Nutt.
WINNER: James Franklin. On the other end of the spectrum, we've got a coach for whom beating Army isn't really that big a deal ... but beating them by a comprehensive 23 points is. The Commodores had only one week of study for the Black Knights' triple option and held them to 288 total yards anyway, forcing three turnovers in the process. The 'Dore running game racked up a stout 344 yards and Vandy may have finally found a quarterback in Jordan Rodgers, who didn't set the world on fire (10-of-27, one touchdown, two interceptions) but whose 10 completions did go for better than 18 yards a pop. In short: this was the kind of performance that suggests the 'Dores 3-3 record wasn't a fluke, and that they could go bowling in Franklin's first year. It won't be enough to win him Coach of the Year with Miles and Saban around, but it's still a heck of a job.
LOSER: Drama. Another week, another series of blowouts in the SEC. Save for Arkansas's escape from Oxford, the average score of the four Week 8 games involving SEC teams was 41-13. After another week of winning their two games by some outrageous combined score -- 66 points' worth this go-round -- LSU's and Alabama's average margin of victory has ballooned to a full 30 points. It's a good thing the Tide and Tigers have next week off; not only will it give us another week to savor the buildup to the Game of the Century of the Year, but maybe it'll give us a chance to enjoy more than a single helping of competitive SEC football.
WINNERS: Alabama's receiving corps. The Tide's wideouts were alleged to be the team's one weakness entering this season, and doubly so once Duron Carter was ruled ineligible. But Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks and Kenny Bell made that expectation look more ridiculous than ever in the second half Saturday night, hauling in acrobatic circus grab after acrobatic circus grab and eventually totaling 11 receptions, 213 yards, and Bell's game-clinching touchdown. AJ McCarron didn't have his best night, but Maze, Hanks, and Bell made him look awfully good all the same.
LOSERS: Auburn's special teams. The way LSU (and their quarterbacks in particular) are playing, it didn't matter what Auburn did today. But the one area where you can't show any weakness vs. Les Miles's team is in special teams, where they will kill you with field position if given the opportunity. Given the Tigers' strength in this area so far in 2011, Gene Chizik was probably expecting a draw in this phase, at least. Nope: punter Steven Clark had his worst game of the year, repeatedly failing to pin LSU deep when given the chance, and dynamic freshman kick returner Tre Mason fumbled away a second-half return to turn the game from decisive LSU advantage to full-on rout.
LOSER: Matt Simms. Ugly as Simms' final line in the box score was (8-of-17, 3.4 yards an attempt, no touchdowns, one interception), he was facing Alabama on the road; lots of quarterbacks would have looked just as bad, and Simms did play a role in getting the Vols to a 6-6 halftime tie. But Derek Dooley's decision to burn Justin Worley's redshirt late could indicate a move towards getting the freshman snaps at Simms' expense, and though he had a lot of company on the Tennessee sideline, he wasn't able to do much in preventing the Tide onslaught in the second half.
WINNER: College football. No. 1 LSU and (now consensus) No. 2 Alabama are going to meet in two weeks, both undefeated, both extremely heavy favorites to finish their regular season schedule perfect and run a way with the SEC East with a win over the other, both having established their national championship contender's bona fides weeks ago. It really, really, really shouldn't get any better than what we now know we'll see Nov. 5.
Tags: AJ McCarron, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Darius Hanks, Derek Dooley, Duron Carter, Gene Chizik, Houston Nutt, James Franklin, Jarrett Lee, Jerry Hinnen, Jordan Jefferson, Jordan Rodgers, Justin Worley, Kenny Bell, Les Miles, LSU, Marquis Maze, Matt Simms, Ole Miss, Rueben Randle, SEC, Steven Clark, Tennessee, Tre Mason, Vanderbilt, Winners and Losers
Posted on: October 22, 2011 4:24 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
ARKANSAS WON: For a half, it looked like Houston Nutt had his magic upset mojo working and working hard, with the Rebels dominating the line-of-scrimmage on both sides of the ball, Randall Mackey looking sharp (that's him scoring a first-half touchdown at right), and Ole Miss eventually going up 17-0 halfway through the second quarter. But from that point on it was -- almost literally -- all Razorbacks, with Tyler Wilson warming up after a scattershot first half and Dennis Johnson finding plenty of room for his biggest game of the year on the ground. Result: 29 straight Arkansas points just enough cushion to hold off the Rebels' late rally..
WHY ARKANSAS WON: Because the Rebels didn't run out of gas in the physical sense ... but they did in terms of their game-planning and innovation. Nutt's team burst out of the gate with plays designed to include any number of play-making weapons -- freshman receiver Nickolas Brassell foremost among them -- and sly misdirection that gave Mackey several easy throws. The junior former JUCO transfer responded by starting 8-of-9 and throwing the best pass of his career -- a beautiful lofted 31-yard throw to Donte Moncrief -- that gave the Rebels a 10-0 lead.
But as soon as Bobby Petrino got his team into halftime still in the game (thanks to a Johnson 53-yard touchdown run on 3rd-and-14, a major turning point), adjusted to shorten Wilson's frequent (and frequently unsuccessful) downfield throws, got Johnson going, and never looked back. Nutt and his staff deserve plaudits for their early-game approach, but once the game turned, they had no answers--as seen most clearly on a second down on their own 1-yard line, late in the third quarter, already down 24-17. With Mackey having already looked deep on first down and failed, the Rebels tried a simple sweep to the right for Jeff Scott, and the Hogs snowed it under for an easy safety. By the time Nutt and his staff reclaimed their offensive spark, it was too late.
WHEN ARKANSAS WON: The game looked well over at the 8:30 mark of the fourth quarter, with Arkansas taking over at their own 42, up 29-17, with all the game's momentum. But the Rebels forced a three-and-out, drove 80 yards for a touchdown on their ensuing possession, and then recovered an onsides kick to start at their own 43 with 1:23 in which to score the game-winning touchdown. But Mackey was sacked on first down, and threw an interception on second to end the game.
WHAT ARKANSAS WON: Not a lot of kind words from Petrino and their coaches after that start. But Johnson looked like he's ready to give the Hogs a legitimate ground game for the first time all season, and we doubt anyone in Fayetteville's going to turn down a W after staring at a 17-point hole on the road. (And that said comeback came against Houston Nutt? Well, then, all the better.)
WHAT OLE MISS LOST: the Rebels' 10th straight SEC game, a school record. It would be encouraging to stay as competitive as Ole Miss did against a top-10 team after the blowouts they've already endured this season ... except that that 17-point lead represented the kind of golden opportunity Nutt simply can't afford to blow if he's going to coach next season. His job remains on a knife edge.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 2:53 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
OLE MISS WILL WIN IF: Houston Nutt reaches into the deepest crevices of his bag of magic tricks to find the last remaining pixie dust that produced results like his 2007 upset of No. 1 LSU or the 2008 upset of Florida. Jeff Scott may not be able to bring that wood like Darren McFadden, but the Razorback defense hasn't exactly been stout against the run, giving up an average of 290 yards on the ground through their last three games. If Scott can break a couple of long runs ... and quarterback Randall Mackey can use his legs and the occasional accurate throw to keep the Hog back seven off balance ... and the injury-ravaged Ole Miss defense can make the handful of big plays necessary to avoid getting swamped ... then realistically speaking, the Rebels might lose by only two touchdowns. But that's discounting the effect of that Nutt pixie dust, which has made the highly unrealistic happen before and could again.
ARKANSAS WILL WIN IF: they simply play their game. If Tyler Wilson performs like the high-quality quarterback he's established himself to be, and the Hog offensive line gets the sort of push against the banged-up Rebel front it's capable of getting, and the nation's deepest receiving corps avoids dropping a handful of receptions directly into the Ole Miss secondary's hands, Arkansas will have entirely too much firepower for the lo-fi Rebel offense to keep pace. Add in the advantages of home field and the Razorbacks' bye week, and the only thing that can really stop Arkansas this week is Arkansas.
THE X-FACTOR: It would be an enormous help to the Rebels if the most likely source of lightning-in-a-bottle points was on their side ... but in this matchup, that honor belongs to Joe Adams, the senior jitterbug who added to his early-season collection of punt returns for touchdown with a game-changing 93-yard scoring run against Auburn two weeks ago. Ole Miss has a hard enough task preventing the Hogs from driving the length of the field for points; if an Adams score (or two) keeps the Hogs from having to make even that much effort, the Rebels won't have a prayer.
Posted on: October 17, 2011 12:25 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
If you're an Ole Miss fan, you probably entered Saturday's ritualized slaughter against Alabama thinking things would be bad ... but that after losing 30-7 to Vanderbilt earlier in the year, nothing the Tide could do to you would actually make things worse.
Sorry, Ole Miss fan: things have gotten worse. Houston Nutt announced Sunday that senior defenders Wayne Dorsey and Marcus Temple, both of whom left the Alabama game with injuries, will now miss the rest of the season. Both players' Rebel careers are over.
"Two really good players and two captains that have done a lot for us," Nutt said.
Temple broke his right ankle early in the game, while Dorsey fractured his right arm in the fourth quarter.
Both players had taken on pivotal roles for the improved (really) Ole Miss defense this season, and not only in the leadership roles Nutt mentioned. Temple had nabbed two of the team's eight interceptions and was a major part of the Rebel pass defense moving into the top half of the FBS in yardage allowed after finishing 103rd a year ago.
But Dorsey is, almost without question, the even bigger loss. The former JUCO transfer had led the Rebels in both sacks (with three) and tackles-for-loss (five), and not surprisingly was leading the defensive line in tackles as well. As pointed out by the Clarion-Ledger, Dorsey's production had essentially doubled the production from the other defensive end spot.
The Rebels' 2011 season already in a deep, deep hole; at 2-4 overall (0-3 SEC) and with their only remaining conference home games coming against heavy favorites LSU and Arkansas, Nutt faces a steep uphill battle just to hit four or five wins, much less bowl eligibility. And with Temple and Dorsey gone, that hill has now gotten just that much steeper.