Nutt's Options

In his post-season wrap up on the 2005 season, University of Arkansas head coach Houston Nutt goes over a variety of topics about this just completed season and what changes might be in store for 2006.

While Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said Sunday he wouldn't rule out hiring an offensive coordinator, he also said hiring one wasn't a given.

"I know that talk's been out there, but I still got to give it some more thought," Nutt said. "I've got to do what's best. This program's not far off now. It's not far off at all. We're close.

"No, I'm not ruling out anything. It's one step and a time, one day at a time. I know there's going to be rumors and rumors of but until you hear it from right here now, I don't think there's truth to that."

Nutt met with several assistants Sunday and said he would meet with several more Monday.

He said nothing had been decided yet, though, about their futures.

Nutt met briefly with athletic director Frank Broyles on Saturday and planned to meet against with Broyles on Monday.

"Just go back in there (Monday), I'm meeting with (Broyles) again," Nutt said. "We'll continue our conversation there. This week is for evaluating the program A to Z and just take one step at a time, just step back from everything and can't get in a big hurry."

Nutt Impressed With Young QB

Four of Arkansas' five top passing totals came in the final four games of the season, after true freshman Casey Dick took over at quarterback for the Razorbacks.

"That decision really helped is," Nutt said of his decision to put Dick in for struggling quarterback Robert Johnson after the Razorbacks' loss to Georgia. "He gave us another dimension. He would really sit in the pocket. Even when protection was pool and we were beat up a little bit, he'd sit in there until the last possible second, sometimes too long but that's just learning. But he made plays. ... He got (Marcus) Monk back involved. He got Cedric Washington involved, the Dedrick Pooles, Cedric Logans, Peyton (Hillis). He got all those guys involved and that's what we needed along with the running game."

So what was it that kept Nutt with going with the freshman earlier?

"We ponder that over and over and over," Nutt said. "Here's what was the bottom line, we really were counting on Robert Johnson. This was going to be his third year and he did some good things early. ... (Dick) did some things that caught your eye but we thought with Alex Mortensen, Cole Barthel, they're still coming, they're older and we've got enough right here.

"Every coach goes through that with freshmen."

Nutt, who transferred from Arkansas to Oklahoma State himself as a player, didn't know if Dick's emergence as the starter over the final four games would lead to one of the other quarterbacks on the Razorbacks' roster looking elsewhere.

"I know all quarterbacks want to play and I understand that better than anyone," Nutt said. "Right now, I don't know that. I don't anticipate it. I won't know until I talk to them."

A team meeting is scheduled for tonight.

Hillis Staying Put

Nutt refuted reports that Peyton Hillis would transfer, while leaving the door open to a move to defense.

"He's not transferring," Nutt said. "I've talked to him, that's not true, so we need to stop those rumors.

"He's going to be a Razorback. We just need to sit down and evaluate exactly what's best."

Hillis led the Razorbacks with 38 receptions, was fourth in rushing yardage and was Arkansas' main punt returner.

Although Nutt said Hillis could move over to the defense, likely as a linebacker, the coach's preference is to leave him on offense.

"I'll tell you, I'm sold," Nutt said. "I'm sold that he's the best fullback/H-back, slot back, receiver in the conference and boy, he's so good right there."

The problem, Nutt acknowledged, is getting Hillis to buy into that notion. Nutt said he felt Hillis didn't do that until halfway through the season.

"I think he bought in. I think he played with the highest energy he's had, especially we put him on kickoff team, he goes down and makes tackles in Oxford, he's punt returning, he's catching balls out of the backfield, he's running the football.

"He plays such a role. I think the way he's practiced the last four to five weeks, I think he's bought in."

Hit The Recruiting Trail

Nutt said recruiting necessitated that any staff changes be done relatively quickly but also stressed that he would take time to do what was best for the Arkansas program.

"I know recruiting is happening right now, that's important, the most important thing probably," Nutt said. "And just trying to be as deliberate and do what's best for the Arkansas Razorbacks, that's all I want to do."

Nutt wasn't worried about Arkansas' struggles leading to problems in recruiting, saying the last three games have really helped.

"I can say that because of the response I got from Saturday night phone calls," Nutt said. "Anyone who watched that game, anyone who witnessed and watched the LSU game knows things are bright. That's the reaction I got."

The Razorbacks' recruiting situation could also be helped by the fact their strong season-ending performance against LSU came on national television. Arkansas' only other nationally televised game this season came in a 70-17 loss to No. 1 Southern California.

"That's the question that was asked, ‘You were on TV the first time against USC, are you going to be ready to put on a better show? I think we answered that," Nutt said. "I think that's how far we've come from really being embarrassed to playing the No. 3 team in the nation. ... It's two different teams. ... Young people will see that and also they see that we're not scared to play true freshman."

Herring Paying Off

While much of the talk this week circles around prospective changes in the coaching staff, the one change Nutt made last year appears to have paid off.

After a suffering the early season loss to USC, giving up 70 points, Arkansas defense turned in solid games late in the season under first-year defensive coordinator Reggie Herring.

"You look at him and you see defense," Nutt said. "You look at Reggie Herring's face, he's defense. ... A ferocious competitor that will hit you and that's what he wants. That's all he wants. It's pretty simple, but it's a high standard."

Even after that big loss to Southern California, though, Nutt remained confident that Herring was the right person for the job.

"I had a lot of people that didn't believe that he was going to get it done," Nutt said. "But I know him. I know what he's about. He's hard and he's fair, demanding. ... I don't like change so much. It's hard. Change is always hard, but that was a good change and that's what you have to evaluate."

Bledsoe Moving?

Nutt also said Fred Bledsoe could move back to the defensive side after shifting to offense this season.

"I don't know, we'll start that next week and really look at it," Nutt said. "That's the kind of bodies we were trying to block ... Friday and we couldn't. Those were the kind of bodies that we were trying to block, (Claude) Wroten, Kyle Williams, 295-300 pounds that are so strong and quick and just relentless, and so I think if he ever made the commitment, I think he really could be a defensive tackle, I really do.

"But it's 24-7."


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