Nutt reflects on 2010, pledges attention to detail
OXFORD, Miss. -- It's not known who will or won't be on his coaching staff.
It hasn't been determined who will be his quarterback next season.
However, Houston Nutt made a couple of things clear on Monday, two days after Ole Miss' season ended with a 31-23 home loss to Mississippi State: Nutt will be back for his fourth season with the Rebels, and before Brigham Young rolls into Oxford to kick off the 2011 campaign, Ole Miss' players can expect a much different offseason.
"We'll start work tomorrow," Nutt said. "Everything. We'll tighten up our shoes a little bit better, put on our socks a little better. Everything will have attention to detail."
Nutt said the offseason will be one in which his players will find out "if they truly love football. …There will be survivors left. It'll be the ones who have gone so far that they'll refuse to take a step back because we're going to push them to the edge if not all the way over. We're going to really take them there."
The Rebels will start that work with the same coaching staff that struggled to a 4-8 mark in 2010. Nutt said Monday he had been doing a lot of thinking and soul-searching about his staff over the past couple of days. While he didn't detail changes he's considering, he didn't rule anything out either.
"I'm still working hard in that area to look at everything that we've done," Nutt said. "The thing about that that's tough in our profession is this was a pretty good group for two years and then you have a bad year and all of a sudden they're bad coaches. That's what's really hard for me. I know what these guys stand for. I know what they're about. They're good people, good family men who try to make a difference in a young person's life. They're good coaches.
"They didn't become bad coaches overnight, but the bottom line is we didn't have a good year, so you have to look at everything. With us not going to bowl, the one thing you have right now is time."
Later during Monday's press conference, Nutt said that while he doesn't want to fire assistants due to the relationships he has with them, he knows that sometimes he has to "separate that and do what's best for Ole Miss. That's where it's hard. I'm not worried about saving myself. I don't look at it that way. I look at what's best for Ole Miss, how we're going to get to Atlanta, how we're going to win an SEC championship, how can we get the best players in here. I look at it that way."
Nutt called rumors that circulated on Sunday and Monday "ridiculous." He denied any interest in or from Minnesota or Colorado, a pair of jobs that were linked to Nutt over the weekend, primarily by Internet blogs not affiliated to news organizations.
Prior to meeting with the media Monday, Nutt met with athletics director Pete Boone. He met with his players later Monday afternoon.
WHAT HAPPENED TO REBS' D?: Nutt didn't point fingers Monday when asked about Ole Miss' defensive struggles. Instead, he said: "We didn't do a good job this year. That's the bottom line. We expected much better. You can point at some injuries, point a guy like (injured defensive end Kentrell) Lockett, but we still expected much, much better. …It seemed like everything that could go wrong went wrong this year. …It falls back on us as coaches and it starts with me."
NUTT PLEASED WITH YOUTH: Nutt pointed out Monday that everything in 2010 wasn't negative. Rather, he talked about the myriad of young players forced into starting roles who thrived as the season went along. Nutt praised offensive linemen Patrick Junen, A.J. Hawkins, Jared Duke, Evan Swindall, running back Jeff Scott, cornerback Charles Sawyer, linebacker Mike Marry and defensive end Cameron Whigham.
"If you look at how many young people that played, they're going to be very good," Nutt said.
IMPACT OF ABRAM'S DEATH: Nutt said the death of defensive back Bennie Abram during an offseason workout in the indoor practice facility had a profound impact on the Ole Miss program and perhaps shaped the way the remainder of that offseason was handled.
"That was really a tough way to start our offseason," Nutt said. "I think it affected us a great deal. I know it did. It also affected us as coaches as well. That's the first time we experienced that, and you have a tendency to pull back a little bit.
"I bring that up because just the work ethic, the attitude, the everything will be at a very, very high level. We'll demand that."
NO REGRETS ON MASOLI DECISION: Nutt took a public relations beating in July and August when he decided to bring in former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. Masoli started 11 of the Rebels' 12 games, and Nutt said Monday it's a decision he would make again.
"The record might not show it, but I think he helped us," Nutt said. "I think more importantly we helped him. Ole Miss helped him. He'll be locked into Ole Miss for a long, long time, the rest of his life. I think he was an awesome leader. I think he helped a very young offensive line. I think he helped us in the locker room. He did a lot of good things for Ole Miss that doesn't go in the locker room. …I'm glad I got to know him and his family. My hunch was right."
RECRUITING BECOMES PRIORITY: With National Signing Day just more than two months away, Nutt said he is looking for immediate help at a number of positions. Safety, cornerback, linebacker and defensive tackle are areas, Nutt said, are areas where "an older guy" can help immediately.
Nutt also pointed out quite deliberately that wide receivers "in this state" are a priority for the 2011 class. Ole Miss already has a commitment from four-star Donte Moncrief and it's not exactly a secret that the Rebels covet fellow four-star wideouts Nick Brassell and Tobias Singleton.
"We're looking for speed, playmakers and character," Nutt said.
REBEL RUMBLINGS: Asked about the future of the quarterback position, Nutt said Randall Mackey and Nathan Stanley will compete for the job in the spring. He said the Rebels will possibly sign a junior college quarterback and an incoming freshman quarterback. Ole Miss has a verbal commitment from Fulton, Miss., three-star quarterback Maikhail Miller. …Nutt said he feels real good about Ole Miss' chances to get a medical hardship for Lockett, who tore his ACL on Sept. 25 against Fresno State and missed the remainder of the season. …Nutt said he had not yet had a "set-down talk" with defensive tackle Jerrell Powe about the possibility of Powe's return next season.
Nutt said he expects minimal attrition from his program. Running back Rodney Scott isn't expected back. Several players who finished the season under suspension, including wide receiver Melvin Harris and linebacker Clarence Jackson, are expected back with the program, Nutt said. Decisions have not been made on linebacker Brandon Sanders, cornerback Tony Grimes and defensive end Delvin Jones.