Fitting the Mold

I'm not going to kick this program while it's down. No piling on. No stating the obvious.

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Ole Miss lost to Louisiana Tech in a runaway game Saturday night. Announced attendance was over 44,000. Actual attendance, umm, was well short of that number. The student section emptied at halftime. Those left in the remaining stands weren't far behind.

The success or failure of this football team is no longer the story. No, full attention turns -- if it hadn't already -- to the hiring of a new head coach and a successor for Pete Boone as athletics director.

A head coach comes first. In the fourth quarter, the game already out of reach, the video board showed old stock footage of Archie Manning being interviewed. Manning is the co-chair, along with Mike Glenn, of a five-member committee whose hands hold the future of Ole Miss football.

The search is in its infancy stages. A number of names are being bandied about, including Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, former West Virginia and Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez and former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach.

Other names to keep in mind, to name a few, are Arkansas State head coach Hugh Freeze and Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora and Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Freeze and Glenn have a longstanding relationship. That relationship can't be discounted when the search really gets going. And like Leach, Freeze already has a groundswell of support.

Ole Miss has to make the right hire. I know, easier said than done. What I mean is a hire to energize the fanbase, even if the energy isn't felt immediately. Ole Miss should seek out a particular "type," a coach that can take this apathetic fan base and struggling program to the field each Saturday with a chance to win against the Alabamas and LSUs and Auburns.

Because with where things stand today, and considering the schedule next season, a repeat of this season or last season is a real possibility.

Larry Fedora
Associated Press

Ole Miss sorely needs a gimmick. Leach and his "Air Raid" offense; Rodriguez and his spread-option; Fedora and his wide-open variation of the spread. You get the idea.

Go for offense. Offense gives Ole Miss a chance next season. Offense, an innovative offense, allows some hope when the Rebels travel to Tuscaloosa or Baton Rouge.

Ole Miss can't play Alabama football against Alabama. Or LSU football against LSU. You know, stingy defense and just enough offense. It won't work. Ole Miss can't recruit nationally against those schools, and the pool of talent in Mississippi isn't deep enough. Smart, to me, doesn't make much sense. Neither does Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz, though, from sources I've talked to, there's uncertainty surrounding his candidacy for the position.

Again, go for offense. Leach won more with less at Texas Tech. His Red Raider teams won eight games four times, nine games three times and 11 games once, in 2008. Rodriguez was a terrible fit at Michigan. But while at West Virginia, he orchestrated a dominant offense. He's a pioneer of the no-huddle. The Mountaineers won four Big East championships in five years, and from 2002-07, accumulated a 57-16 record, winning 78.1 percent of their games.

Offense. Offense. Offense.

After a win over Mark Hudspeth, another rumored candidate (not likely), and Louisiana-Lafayette, Freeze has Arkansas State at 8-2 (6-0) and in prime position for a Sun Belt championship. The Red Wolves were 4-8 last season. Arkansas State leads the Sun Belt in 11 different statistical categories, including total offense and total defense.

His offense is similar to that of Malzahn, another candidate Ole Miss is sure to speak with. Malzahn, however, is considered a top candidate at North Carolina, if not the leader in the clubhouse to be named head coach. Malzahn's former A.D. at Tulsa is now the A.D. in Chapel Hill.

The 2011 season was over after Ole Miss was blown out at Vanderbilt. There is little or nothing to write about. Two games remain in what is one of the worst seasons in Ole Miss history. The Rebels have never lost 10 games in a season. They're 2-8. LSU and a road trip to Mississippi State are up next.

This program and this fan base are starving. Both need an infusion of hope. Hope can't be delivered without trying something different. A different approach. No retreads. Tommy Tuberville -- a name we've heard often this week -- makes zero sense. Go for offense. Go for excitement. Go for some gimmick.

Houston Nutt said following his resignation/dismissal Monday afternoon this program isn't far off. Yes, Houston, it is.

The "type" matters.

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