Nutt Shoots Down Rumors

FAYETTEVILLE--Having watched nine of the 12 Holiday Hoops Basketball Tournament games in Bud Walton Arena last week, I had planned to write today's entire column about the event.

But there were so many message board rumors flying around about the Arkansas football program over the weekend that I decided first to address some of those with Hogs coach Houston Nutt on Sunday.

Nutt had returned early Sunday morning from the Heisman Trophy ceremonies in New York — a city he had never visited previously — and said he was proud of Heisman runner-up Darren McFadden and his mother for their on-camera performances on Saturday.

Nutt didn't get to see much of the city this time, but did walk around Times Square a bit on his way to the Nokia Theatre.

Before beginning a staff meeting in the Broyles Center on Sunday, Nutt checked on the logistics of his family's trip to Oklahoma City for the funeral today of his mother-in-law, Armedia Thomas, then welcomed me into his office for a chat.

Nutt just shook his head when, for levity's sake, I repeated some of the rumors:

• UA athletic director Frank Broyles has threatened to fire offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn if any of the UA players from Springdale transfer;

• Broyles and UA Board of Trustees member Jim Lindsey may be at odds over Nutt's status;

• Alabama is privately interested in Nutt;

• Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones might want to hire Nutt as coach after next season;

• A few of the UA seniors, in a players-only meeting last week, called out quarterback Mitch Mustain for things he said about Nutt in the yet-to-be-released book "Year of the Dog."

Taking them in order, Nutt said he knew nothing of the first two rumors and he expects Broyles to be Arkansas' AD as long as Broyles lives; that Alabama had expressed no interest in him, nor did he expect Alabama to do so; and that he has a good relationship with Jones but has no reason to believe Jones might want to hire him in the future.

Nutt confirmed the players' meeting. While he doesn't know what was said, he noted that some of the seniors might not have understood the (2005) timeline of the Mustain quotes.

Other players came to Mustain after the meeting and expressed their support of the freshman.

"I need to sit down with Mitch," Nutt acknowledged.

Mustain will have a good opportunity to win the No. 1 quarterback role in the spring and, in fact, has a good opportunity to win it for the Capital One Bowl game against Wisconsin, Nutt said.

"I've encouraged him every day," Nutt said. "He just needs to stay tough."


Fayetteville High went 1-2 in the Holiday Hoops, but help is on the way.

Jamal Speed, a 6-foot-4 sophomore transfer from West Helena, becomes eligible in January.

"He's the best shot blocker I've ever had," FHS coach Barry Gebhart said.

Sean Graham, a 5-9 sophomore guard move-in from Wynne, showed promise with 15 points in a loss to Forrest City. And 6-1 sophomore guard Fred Gulley averaged 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in the tournament for the Bulldogs.

Springdale High went 0-3, but boasts a pair of notable 6-foot sophomores: Albert Dillard, nephew of former UA sharpshooter Alex Dillard; and Ladarius Eckwood, nephew of former UA star running back Jerry Eckwood.

Dillard scored 14 points with 4-of-7 threes against Columbus, Miss., New Hope, and Eckwood averaged 9.7 points.

James Anderson, the 6-7 MVP from Junction City, scored a tourney-record 115 points for a 38.3 average.

Former Hog and NCAA free throw leader Tommy Boyer took one look at Anderson's form and correctly guessed that Anderson was a 73 percent free throw shooter.

Arkansas guard Patrick Beverley was on hand to cheer future teammate Nate Rakestraw, who made 13 of 22 3-point tries for tourney runner-up Springdale Har-Ber.

Duncanville, Texas, a 66-59 winner over Har-Ber in the title game, was ranked No. 9 in 5A in Texas.

The 12th annual tournament drew an estimated 6,500 fans — an average of about 500 per game. Gebhart said the event might move to FHS next year, but a tournament organizer said he knew of no such plan.


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