Details, Details

NOTES: Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt covered a lot of ground in his season-ending, state-of-the-program address Monday inside the team meeting room of the indoor practice facility Monday.

But not all involved the incessant, and mostly fabricated, coaching rumors of the past day and a half.

Rather, Nutt broached a myriad of topics, including an offseason strength and conditioning program he expects to be far more strenuous than ever before. Putting the finishing touches on the 2011 recruiting class is also on the to-do list, with Ole Miss holding 19 verbal commitments as National Signing Day approaches in February.

Houston Nutt

"When you have a season like we just had, you start all over," Nutt said. "You get back to the very beginning. You evaluate everything, starting with myself and going all the way down from there."

Ole Miss finished the 2010 season 4-8 overall and 1-7 in Southeastern Conference play. With no bowl game to prepare for, players will soon be left mostly to themselves in terms of workouts, outside of the NCAA-allotted times with strength and conditioning coach Don Decker.

"Now it's more on their own," Nutt said. "They've got to take an awesome responsibility to go to work on their own.

"It's what you do after you have the hours with Don Decker. It's catching those extra balls, it's backpedalling, it's getting a pass rush. It's doing those things, and it takes a lot of discipline."

And it won't be easy, according to the now fourth-year head coach.

"This'll be an offseason where they'll truly know whether or not they love football," Nutt said. "There'll be survivors left. We're going to push them all the way to the edge, if not over."

Nutt has no regrets in bringing in Masoli:

Jeremiah Masoli already faced significant pressure, well before he took his first snap as Ole Miss' starting quarterback.

Masoli, who wrapped his only season at Ole Miss in a 31-23 loss to in-state rival Mississippi State, faced criticism following his well-documented transfer from Oregon.

Jeremiah Masoli

The NCAA initially restricted Masoli from playing football for Ole Miss until the 2011 season, but a subcommittee overturned the ruling four days later.

Nutt, asked of whether bringing Masoli in was worth it, was overwhelmingly supportive of his now former quarterback.

"It was worth it," he said. "Number one, I think he helped us. The record may not say that, but he helped us. I think, more importantly, we helped him. Ole Miss helped him. He'll be locked into Ole Miss for a long, long time – the rest of his life."

Masoli started 11 of 12 games for Ole Miss, completing 167 of his 296 pass attempts for 2,039 yards and 14 touchdowns.

He also broke Norris Weese's single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 544 yards. He had six rushing touchdowns.

"He was an awesome leader," Nutt said. "I think he helped us in the locker room. He did a lot of good things for Ole Miss that doesn't go in the record books. I would do it all over again. I sure would. Glad I got to know him and his family.

"My hunch was right. When we brought him in, we felt like he would do everything the right way. Boy, to this day, he's done everything we've asked him to do. He's been a excellent citizen, a good student-athlete. Very proud of him."

Quarterback situation a question mark:

With Masoli gone, Ole Miss will now turn to one, or both, of Randall Mackey and Nathan Stanley to run its offense.

Stanley opened the year as the team's starting quarterback in a double-overtime loss to Jacksonville State, only to give way to Masoli a week later at Tulane. Stanley saw his most extensive action when Masoli suffered a concussion in a win over Louisiana-Lafayette earlier this month. Mackey redshirted as a junior college transfer from East Mississippi Community College.

"That's where we've got to be good," Nutt said. "Randall Mackey, Nathan Stanley, we have those two guys here on campus ready to go. It's going to be the guy that makes the play, the guy that takes care of the ball, the guy that gets the team into the end zone. It goes back to that leader in the huddle."

Ole Miss currently holds a commitment from three-star quarterback Maikhail Miller of Itawamba Agricultural High School. However, Nutt intends on signing at least two quarterbacks, possibly including another quarterback from junior college.

"We'll possibly sign a junior college guy, possibly sign a high school guy," Nutt said. "We'll see how that goes. We're going to try and get two more in here. I think it's important."

Nathan Stanley

Holes to fill:

Nutt said the coaching staff is already full-speed ahead in rounding out its 2011 recruiting class.

"Those recruiting classes every year, they have to be in order. You can't slack at any time," he said.

There are plenty of holes to fill, mostly on defense, where Ole Miss lost six starters and a handful of other reliable contributors. Nationally, Ole Miss ranked near the bottom in most statistical categories this season.

"We didn't do a good job this year (on defense)," Nutt said. "Bottom line. We expected much better.

"The bottom line is we gave up too many big plays. It seemed like everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong this year. From every bounce to every step, it was just bad. Again, it falls back on us as coaches, and it starts with me."

Among the departed are linebackers Jonathan Cornell and Allen Walker, defensive backs Johnny Brown and Jeremy McGee, and defensive linemen Lawon Scott, Ted Laurent and LaMark Armour.

Jerrell Powe, also a senior, could return should he choose to exercise his final year of eligibility. Kentrell Lockett, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury against Fresno State, will apply for a medical hardship waiver for a sixth year of eligibility.

"I've talked to Kentrell. Everything looks good there," Nutt said. "There's some paperwork, some things they'll handle as far as the medical part of it. But I feel real good about Kentrell. I'll speak with Powe either today or tomorrow. We'll see what he's thinking. I have not had a sit-down talk with Jerrell yet."

Offensively, Masoli and wide receiver Markeith Summers are the lone starters lost. Nutt mentioned wide receiver as a targeted area of need. Ole Miss currently has three wide-receiver commitments in four-star Donte Moncrief and three-stars T.J. Worthy and Collins Moore.

Jerrell Powe

"Safeties, corners. Safeties, corners. All in a basket," Nutt said of recruiting needs. "Safeties, corners, linebackers. A defensive tackle. Wide receivers, not necessarily junior college, but wide receivers. Starting in this state. There's plenty (of wide receivers) in this state. I love that.

"I'm anxious to get into these young men's living rooms. We get a little extra time to recruit, so it's full-speed ahead."

Nutt relayed the criteria of what he'll be looking for on the recruiting trail.

"Looking for speed, play-makers, character," he said.

Nutt evaluating suspended players:

Melvin Harris was the latest player suspended for a violation of team rules. Harris served his punishment Saturday, a one-game suspension, in the team's season finale against Mississippi State.

Harris was one of many players suspended during the season. Others included linebackers Clarence Jackson and Brandon Sanders, guard Rishaw Johnson, cornerback Tony Grimes and defensive end Delvin Jones.

Running back Rodney Scott quit the team prior to Ole Miss' meeting with LSU.

"Melvin Harris, we'll get him back going again," Nutt said. "Rodney Scott, I figure he'll be one of the first ones to talk to me. He'll probably want to leave. Not 100 percent on that, but I think that's right. Clarence Jackson, probably get him back going, get him going in our program. He's done everything we've asked him to do. He's done some community work, he's doing much better in school and getting his life in order. He'll still have to do some extra things for us. Brandon, probably same way. We'll probably have a meeting with him this week. We've still got to check on school and stuff with them."

OM Spirit Top Stories