It's the letter writing, the text messaging, the e-mailing, the availability of highlight tapes, and the Internet. It's so fast-paced, so aggressive. It's like an unyielding animal. It never lets up and it's always in your face. There are so many ways to attack it. It's hard to just make that one call a week the NCAA puts on you. There are still so many ways to contact a kid and develop a relationship with him that wasn't available in the past.
Do you think UM currently puts enough emphasis on recruiting players from South Florida?
Absolutely. We had all but a couple of our staff recruiting Dade and Broward. Then again, you always deal with grade and character issues. What you think might be good players might be kids you're unable to recruit. The first thing when finding a kid is to show him to your whole staff. Go to the guidance counselor, go to his assistant coach, go to his head coach, his basketball coach, and collect all the information you can. Find out what his core GPA is, what his SAT score is. I ask everyone I see. Girls in the hall – everyone has an opinion. Sometimes not recruiting a kid is a good thing. We're paid as coaches to recruit – to collect info.
How close a relationship do you maintain with a lot of your former offensive linemen at UM?
We have an extremely close relationship. When I was let go, there were players there as well as players I previously coached. They helped me. It was a hard thing for me to go through. It meant a lot to me that they called, offered support. That showed me that our relationship mattered to them. Once you get past the wins and losses, it's all about your relationship with those kids. I was hard on them but we had a lot of fun, too. I watched them become men, graduate, compete, and I'm real proud of them.
A lot of people have commented on how it seems like UM is recruiting too many athletes lately versus recruiting football players. The results can't argue against that so what are your thoughts on that?
I don't know if I agree with that. I think an even bigger reason is how of the 20 number one picks we had in five years, 10 of 11 of them were juniors. A couple of them were even sophomores. That makes it very difficult to replace those guys. They've been doing the draft since 1936 and no school has ever produced the number one picks like we did for a period of time. Replacing great players isn't easy and we've had to deal with that a lot.
A lot of people have talked about the increased entrance requirements for football players to get admitted into UM. You see guys like Ali Highsmith signing here and then a year later starting at LSU. How much has that changed since when Butch was here and how much of an impact do you think it's had, if any?
I know this – the graduation rate, the eligibility index, those are things the NCAA is gonna use to deduct scholarships. In this business, we were up around 95, 98, and even over 100 kids on scholarship. Within the last 15 years, they put it at 85. It has leveled the playing field. That's why you see teams like Virginia Tech, Rutgers, Kansas State, and Louisville coming out of nowhere and making runs. There are still powers but they just don't have all the tailbacks and all the tight ends now. We were blessed in our backyard with such a plethora of good players. That's why we need a playoff. Why is college football the only sport in the world that doesn't determine its champion on the field?
You said after last year's Virginia Tech game that you guys were 64-8 in your last 72 games and nobody blew you out. You said the biggest reason for that is because you guys ran the ball and played good defense. What happened just a few games later against LSU?
I'm still very proud of the fact that in our 100 games, we were 83-17 and didn't get our asses kicked but once. In college football today, that's ridiculous. I think after Thanksgiving, when we were ranked third in the country, on an eight-game winning streak, and we had just lost a gut-wrenching game to Georgia Tech, I think that took a lot out of our team. That same night, Fresno State was having a track meet with USC. We went from playing for a conference championship and a possible national championship to playing in the Peach Bowl for the second straight season. I thought our team wasn't motivated. LSU was pretty motivated, considering they were coming off an ass-whipping to Georgia in the SEC title game. You can make all the excuses but we still got our asses whipped.
How is life in the SEC?
The style is a little different than some other conferences. We prepared our asses off at Miami and that's why we won the way we did. People to people, it's different. I don't care where you are, you better be working hard. There's a lot of pride involved. The greatest thing about college football isn't just the fierceness and the battles and physical contact but the chess games that go on. There are so many ways to skin a cat. I don't know who developed it. For people too old to play, like me, coaching is the closest thing and it doesn't matter where you're doing it.
Has your approach changed at all since going to Ole Miss?
No. I love the game of football. I love the head coach I'm now working for. I think we're gonna win here. I enjoy the coaches I'm around. I was blessed at Miami and I'm blessed to be here at Ole Miss. We're in a competitive industry. It's nice to know that when you get up, you're having an impact on young lives and you have a passion for what you're doing.