SCOTT: All not well in Razorback camp

Arkansas is 10-3, ranked 12th, the SEC West champion and headed to the Capital One Bowl with the SEC coach of the year and the SEC offensive player of the year. Yet all is not well in Hogville.

A soon to be released book, "Year of the Dog: One Year, One Team, One Goal," doesn't portray a very flattering picture of Arkansas coach Houston Nutt, his relationship with true freshman quarterback Mitch Mustain or the tension that exists between offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn and Nutt, as well as other members of the coaching staff.


The book tells the story of the Springdale (Ark.) High School football team's 2005 season, when Malzahn and Mustain led the Bulldogs to an undefeated season and a Class AAAAA state championship.


Written by Kurt Voigt, prep sports editor for The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas, the book is an inside look at the coaches and players throughout the season. Malzahn and the players gave Voigt nearly unlimited access to the behind-the-scenes life of the team.


Some of these scenes don't paint a very pretty picture for Nutt. Voight wrote that Mustain once referred to Nutt as a "dork" and criticized Nutt's offense.


"We're doing more stuff on offense every week on a high school team than they are. And they're in the SEC," Mustain is quoted as saying. Mustain also describes Nutt's conservative game plan as the "same old boring offense."


At one point, Mustain was watching television at Voigt's home on the Sunday following Arkansas' 2005 victory at Ole Miss when Nutt came on the television speaking about a key touchdown pass, saying, "That was a called play, and I called it."


Mustain soon stood up, pointed toward the television and told Voight, "Oh my God, did you hear that? Old 'H' has lost it. He has absolutely lost it. How can they let him get away with that? They ought to fire him on the spot. Of course, they'd have a better chance of getting me if they did."


It wasn't much longer before Mustain backed out on Arkansas and decided to commit to Notre Dame. Mustain eventually re-committed to Arkansas and signed with the Razorbacks, but only after Nutt hired Malzahn as his offensive coordinator. Two Springdale teammates, receiver Damian Williams and tight end Ben Cleveland, also signed with Arkansas.


There are more interesting stories to be told, including some that question the honesty of Notre Dame Charlie Weis and his recruiting methods


Conspiracy theorists are already convinced that Mustain lost his starting job this season despite an 8-0 record as a starter because Nutt learned of Mustain's comments in the book. Those same conspiracy theorists are also certain that Nutt is trying to get rid of Mustain or that Mustain will soon transfer out of the program.


While all of that remains to be seen, Nutt isn't saying much about the book. Neither is Mustain.


Asked if he planned to read the book, Nutt said, "Not at all. Not at all. I'm not planning on reading it. I keep two or three good books to read in the season. I've got them lined up."


Nutt also said he was putting his time and effort into preparing for the Capital One Bowl.


"I've got all my focus and energy on recruiting and Wisconsin," Nutt said. "Those (Springdale) guys did fine here. They are here in the program. I'm focused on next year's class. I'm focused on Wisconsin. I'm not worrying about that (book). I'm excited. I'm excited about where we are going. That's what I want to look at."


As for Mustain, he said, "It's not something I want to get into. People have their opinions about it." Nutt also insists Mustain has a "great opportunity to play" against Wisconsin on Jan. 1.




In other Nutty news, SEC fans may have missed the fact that Nutt actually voted Auburn ahead of Arkansas on his Dec. 3 USA Today coaches' poll.


Nutt admitted he voted Auburn No. 8 and Arkansas No. 10, despite the fact that Arkansas won the SEC West and won 27-10 at Auburn on Oct. 7.


Auburn is No. 10 and Arkansas No. 13 in the coaches' poll, due in large part to the fact that Arkansas lost consecutive games to LSU and Florida at the end of the season.


Nutt told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that he figured most coaches would vote the Tigers higher than the Razorbacks and he didn't want to appear he was favoring his team and compromising his vote.


"Even though I know we beat (Auburn) on the field legitimately, I also know every coach is going to put Auburn ahead of us because they won their last game and we've lost our last two," Nutt said. "I didn't want to be the oddball."


Sixty-two coaches voted in the final poll, with 13 coaches voting Arkansas higher than Arkansas. That group included SEC coaches Mark Richt of Georgia and Sylvester Croom of Mississippi State, as well as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Boise State's Chris Peterson.


"We know we beat (Auburn) on the field," Nutt said. "So I don't worry about (the polls)."




LSU coordinators Jimbo Fisher and Bo Pellini aren't the only SEC assistants being discussed for numerous head coaching vacancies.


Three Auburn assistants – offensive coordinator Al Borges, running backs coach Eddie Gran and wide receivers coach Greg Knox – have all been mentioned as potential head coaching candidates.


In fact, Knox has interviewed at Tulane and Gran has interviewed at North Texas while Borges said he would listen if Stanford came calling.


"Most of the guys that are interviewing have been with me for 12 years and are growing up," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "They are getting a lot more experience and people are starting to notice the success we've had. They are getting to the age to be head coaches.


"It's a reflection on the entire staff. As I tell all of them, I don't want them unless they can be head coaches one day. Every coach on this staff is capable of doing that."


One former Tuberville assistant, Bobby Petrino, is now the successful head coach at Louisville. Another, Gene Chizik, recently became a head coach for the first time at Iowa State.


Meanwhile at South Carolina, defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix's name has been connected with North Texas, Tulane and Tennessee Tech. Nix, 34, has turned down a chance to formally interview for all three programs and said at this point he prefers to spend his time and energy recruiting and preparing for Houston's high powered offense in the Liberty Bowl.


"I'm just happy to have a job," Nix said. "I've got enough issues with Houston. I've got to find a way to slow them down."




Swinging over to basketball ...


Alabama obviously wasn't up to its No. 4 ranking last week in a 99-85 loss at Notre Dame and, even more important, it was evident Crimson Tide senior Ronald Steele wasn't up to his preseason status as one of the nation's top point guards.


Steele played one of the worst halves of his college career in the second half, but it wasn't because of effort, attitude or focus. His right knee is bothered by tendonitis, with extensive bruising and inflammation under his knee cap. It has forced him to miss two games and parts of others as well as significant practice time.


For a player with a reputation for a hard-nosed work ethic, a positive attitude, strong leadership qualities and a willingness to lead the SEC in minutes played last season, this has been a difficult and frustrating season for Steele.


"I do anything I can to ease the pain (but) it gets old," Steele said last week.


With Steele at less than his best, Alabama is less than its best. It would be less discouraging if Steele could simply take some time off and return for the SEC schedule, but getting rid of tendonitis isn't that simple. Realistically, Steele might not be 100 percent for the remainder of the season, a major disappointment for a player who might be college basketball's most complete point guard.


"I don't think we're very good right now," Alabama coach Mark Gottfried said. "We've got a long way to go. ... We're not there because he's not there."





Alabama isn't the only team working through injuries at this point. In the midst of its 76-58 victory over then-No. 16 Memphis last week Tennessee lost junior guard JaJuan Smith to injuries to his left hand and wrist.


Initial X-rays were negative but Smith will need some time off before he can return to practice. Fortunately for Smith and the Vols, they don't play again until Saturday when they host Western Kentucky.


At Kentucky, sophomore center Jared Carter aggravated his injured right shoulder at practice on Thursday and will need season-ending surgery to repair the damage.


Carter originally suffered a dislocated shoulder in mid-November and missed Kentucky' first five games. He will likely receiver a medical redshirt this season.


"I'm disappointed for Jared, because I know how hard he's worked," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "But this will allow him plenty of time to heal from the surgery and strengthen those muscles before next season."




Richard Scott is a Birmingham-based sports writer, author and a featured columnist for Tiger Rag. Reach him at

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