Team meetings to introduce new coaches to the returning players are usually an upbeat time. Nothing out of the oridnary about that.
So it was not surprising when the Rebel players exited their first team meeting with new Ole Miss Fotball Coach Houston Nutt with smiles on their faces.
What was a little surprising were their thoughts on the contrast of the program they just left and the program they just entered.
"Everything is so positive. We are facing a big change," said senior LT Michael Oher. "This is going to be so much different in the way we are going to practice. I like a lot of the stuff Coach Nutt is bringing in here."
Oher belives Nutt's practice plans and schedules for the team are going to be beneficial.
"We will do more reps, but we will be out there a shorter time frame. He said he's going to keep us fresh throughout the season but that we will be well-conditioned," Michael continued. "He let us know we are going to work hard but that there is more to our lives than football and that he understands that."
It has been speculated some in recent weeks that Michael may pass on his senior season and make himself available for the NFL. So we asked him, point blank, about his future.
"I'm just waiting and weighing my options, seeing what Coach Nutt has in store for the team and seeing what my pro options are. Afer the meeting, I'm leaning toward coming back," he continued. "I would love to play for him. We are going to have fun and that's a big change around here. He said you spell FUN W-I-N and we are all about that.
"He told us no full-speed two-a-days in August. We'll have one walk through and one full-speed pactice on two-a-day days. He said we won't practice outside when it's 100 degrees, we'll use our indoor. He said football should be fun, not drudgery and we will have fun and he will keep us where we will still be fresh in November."
Nutt's teams are known for finishing seasons strong. Houston says it's because of belief. Oher said that is probably part of it, but being fresh late in the season has to have been a key for Nutt's Arky teams as well.
"We played with dead legs in November this year. We never let up. We never got to let our legs catch up until we had the time off in the open week. Then we played good against LSU with fresh legs," Michael continued. "I'm not saying anything bad about what we were doing. I'm just saying it's going to be different.
"We are going to be able to experience college life now under Coach Nutt and it's not just going to be football 24/7. It's going to be fun again."
Junior RG John Jerry said much of the same.
"The main thing I like is that Coach Nutt is going to give us a chance to enjoy college and not let everything be a blur," Baby J said. "We've been in a grind, man. We will most definitely enjoy the change.
"Someone asked me if some of the fun had left last season. I answered 'what fun?' We didn't have any. I expect things to be way more loose and relaxed around here and I can't wait for people to not be on pins and needles all the time."
John was excited about Nutt being more of an offensive coach too, but he realizes that puts more pressure on the offensive players.
"If the head coach is an offensive guy, he's going to expect us to carry a big load on the team. I like that challenge. I like the fact that Coach Nutt will be counting on us to lead the team," he added. "Man, it feels good to have someone in here who seems to understand that we are more than just football players."
WRs Mike Wallace and Marshay Green were two of the most outspoken about Ed Orgeron's dismissal - they didn't like it. Now they are singing a different tune.
"I'm very happy," said Wallace. "Both of them want to win, but Coach Nutt wants it to be fun too. Coach O was very serious all the time. All we seemed to do was grind. Coach Nutt wants us to have lives outside of football. He's going to make it fun for us.
"The main thing for me is that Coach Nutt is going to let us get more rest. He said coaching is a grind, but playing is supposed to be fun and he intends to make it that way for us. We won't have to be in the IPF all day and all night under him. We get our work done and we go do things we want to do. We got tired of coming here, to be honest, the past two years."
Marshay said he played with dead legs most of the season.
"I was just trying to make it through the year with my legs. They hurt all the time, it seemed. We battled through it because that's what we were asked to do, but it was tough," Green noted. "Coach Nutt told us we are not going to have to worry about that. We are going to have to work very hard and get in great shape, but we are not going to go into games worn out."
Wallace believes the new approach is going to pay instant dividends.
"I'm telling you right now, I guarantee it in fact, if we are having fun, we are going to a bowl game," Mike noted. "Our record will be a lot better next year if we are fresh and having fun. I promise it.
"We have a lot of talent here, man. We have as much talent as anyone we played, but there was so much pressure on us and tension and we weren't having fun."
Green said he can't wait to get started now.
"I am so excited about going to practice now, you can't imagine. I'm already ready for next year. We're not bragging, but I know in the right situation, in a situation where we are having fun, we are going to blossom," Green said. "We did all we could do last year, but I can tell you there were times we didn't want to be out there practicing because it was a grind.
"This year, the wide receivers improved the most of anyone on the team. Why? Because Coach (Hugh) Freeze shielded us from what was going on at other positions and we did have some fun, but even he couldn't hold off the grind, grind, grind. Coach O was under a lot of pressure and he brought that to us. I am not saying anything bad about him, I'm just saying that the way Coach Nutt is going to do it has us all excited and ready to go. He will get everything we've got because we will want to give it to him, we will want to be out there, we will be loose and relaxed, playing the game the way it's supposed to be played, not under the gun all the time."
But what comes first? Winning or fun?
"If we are having fun, we will win. Winning always comes first in our minds, but winning will be a byproduct of enjoying what we are doing," Wallace stated. "Coach Freeze showed us that. He showed us that football doesn't have to be all work and no play. If the whole team had been like the wide receivers, we would have won a lot of games this year."
Obviously, the players we spoke to feel an instant kinship to Nutt, but that's what he is known for, being a player's coach.
One meeting and that's already surfacing.
Players respond to Nutt
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