Luper Talks About Nutt, Auburn Offense

Auburn running back coach Curtis Luper talks about his relationship with Houston Nutt and getting the offense back on track.

Auburn, Ala.--While the reunion between Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt may get much of the headlines on Saturday, a less known one will come when Nutt has a chance to talk with the Tigers' running back coach Curtis Luper.

A wide receiver under Nutt's guidance as a player at Oklahoma State, Luper said the current Ole Miss head coach made an impression on him early in his career and has been one of the guys he's leaned on as he's made the climb up the coaching ladder.

"We have a phenomenal relationship," Luper said. "When you're a young coach you have three or four guys that call for you. Coach (Gene) Chizik was one of those guys. Coach Nutt was another and Coach Larry Coker was on the staff at Oklahoma State. He was my third guy. That's some pretty heavy hitters."

Known for being an emotional coach on and off the field, Nutt has had success at Ole Miss after moving over from Arkansas and if things had worked out a little different Luper said he just might have been on the other sidelines this week.

"I know him really, really well," Luper said. "He always promised to hire me but it never worked out. He's a good friend of mine and a great man. He's the epitome of a players' coach."

Nutt has his Rebels playing their best football of the season after they drubbed the Razorbacks last week in Oxford. While quarterback Jevan Snead and speedy Dexter McCluster get much of the talk, the strength of the team has been on defense where Ole Miss allows just over 13 points and 300 yards per game to opponents. It has gotten Luper's attention in a big way as the running back coach said the Rebels may be more athletic than either Tennessee or LSU on that side of the ball.

"I would say they probably have three or four guys on that defense that will be drafted on the first day, maybe not this year because they've got some underclassmen," Luper said. "They have a great defense, very athletic. Tyrone Nix does a great job with them. He keeps those guys in a position to make plays and they make them. It's just another outstanding SEC defense."

Facing that kind of firepower on defense, it will be important for the Tigers to be at or closer to full strength. That means getting speedy Onterio McCalebb back on the field making plays. Without his role in the offense being a threat, Auburn has struggled to score points in recent games.

"We're missing him because he gives us a chance of pace," Luper said. "He gives us some speed and suddenness. We miss that and we need it back."

If McCalebb is unable to go or still isn't full speed on Saturday it could be a position by committee as players such as Mario Fannin, Travante Stallworth and Anthony Gulley have all worked there some in the fall and could get a look if called upon.

Getting the offense back on track would go a long way towards putting an end to a string of three consecutive losses for the Tigers. If that happens it would likely be because of a good start on Saturday, something Luper said is big for a number of reasons.

"Especially with our guys because some are young and having gone what they've gone through, early success is important for us as an offensive unit," Luper said. "It's important for us as a team. We're going to do everything we can to put our guys in position early to make plays and get some momentum going and get the crowd going and just rev it all up."

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