Over the past few months, many have screamed for Houston Nutt's dismissal. Of course, most have said nothing, and I'm not talking to those who have stayed out of those threads on the internet message boards or the sports talk shows.
What I'm going to say now is that Houston Nutt is the right man for the Arkansas job. And, this is why:
First, Arkansas football is about solid coaching. It's about winning with lesser talent. It always has been that way. Arkansas has seldom gone on the field with better talent than the good teams on its schedule.
In the old SWC days, Arkansas was usually better than the Rice, TCU, Baylor and SMU teams ... the have nots on the schedule ... along with the nonconference opposition.
But, hardly ever did Arkansas have better players than Texas or Texas A&M. To beat them, Arkansas had to outcoach them. And, that often happened. The Hogs would play perfect in the kicking game, eliminatr penalties and turnovers and operate from a defensive philosophy that utilized quickness and speed. (We've not often had the kind of defensive tackles that could dominate the line of scrimmage against Texas and Texas A&M). Offensively, we've never been able to pound the opposition because of inferior offensive lines. But, we have often had enough of a passing game to win with balance. And, that's Arkansas football.
What we now see in the SEC, is a steady diet of Texas and Texas A&M types. What we saw over the last two months was an amazing run of solid teams on an upward swing. Yes, Alabama is sinking now, but that team was flying high when we went to Tuscaloosa. Never has Arkansas played a series of games like it did this year with UNLV, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Auburn over a two-month run. It's never happened.
I sat in the south end zone seats Saturday morning as Auburn warmed up. First, I watched Auburn's great Damon Duvall put on a clinic. He's spectacular as both a punter and placekicker. If you watched him in warmups, you know that he can take over a game when he's right. (Fortunately, he wasn't Saturday.) Then, I watched as the other segments of the Auburn team came on the field. They looked awesome. They were big, quick, talented athletes. I looked on the other end of the field, and we aren't quite there as far as linemen. Auburn's linemen were better.
But, I did see some things I really liked on the other end of the field. I saw quickness and speed in our backs. I saw some awesome looking quarterbacks warming up. And, I saw a great bunch of coaches.
To watch David Lee put the quarterbacks through their passing warmups, then get them loosened up with the option stuff was fun. I saw a great coach working with some wonderful young QBs ... all freshmen and sophomores. Then, for our team to go on the field and execute two different schmes and not make a turnover ... that was Arkansas football at its finest for the second straight week. Conversely, Auburn gave us all kinds of chances at turnovers with a senior quarterback. That's a lack of coaching.
Defensively, I love what I see with coaches like John Thompson, Bobby Allen, Dave Wommack and Chris Vaughn. They took an undersized bunch of athletes and had them in position to befuddle the Auburn coaches. Over and over, Daniel Cobb threw into coverage. There was just enough pressure to cause this, and it was fun to watch. Unfortunately, we didn't take advantage of all the Auburn mistakes, and catch those interceptions. But, the fact remains that the coaches had the defenders in great position to make those plays. They just didn't make them all.
Houston Nutt has taken Arkansas to three straight bowl games. There is now a chance to add a fourth straight. I don't know if they can pull it off, but it's going to be fun watching him try.
I can remember the strong years of the program with Frank Broyles and his staff. He kept adding coaches, and improving his staff. I see Houston doing the same thing. Part of it was attrition for better jobs as far as the coaches that aren't with him any longer. But, in some cases, he's pulled the trigger to improve the staff to the dismay of some. I think he'll continue to work to build a strong staff.
And, he'll be able to hire good coaches because he treats them well and fairly. He is a good man, and a good coach. And that will help him as he continues to develop a good staff.
Of course, we can see that Houston can recruit. He needs to focus on linemen, and that's been the central theme over the last six months as they've developed their recruiting board. They will go after great linemen, and I bet they get their share with this new stadium and the solid exposure that has been gained over the last three weeks with victories over South Carolina and Auburn, the last of the unbeaten teams in SEC play.
For the life of me, I do not understand the criticism of the coaches on these boards. Yes, you can second guess playcalling, but you can do that at any level. You can do that on every play with any team, even the championship teams.
These coaches have proven they can go up against good teams and win with freshmen and sophomore quarterbacks. It took them a few weeks to get things worked out, but they did it.
Here's my advice for the rest of the season: Enjoy your team. Enjoy your coaches. They have earned the right to do their jobs without constant negative comments on these boards and on radio talk shows.