Nutt regime begins

Ole Miss Football Coach Houston Nutt arrives in Oxford today to begin a journey the Rebel faithful will be following closely and supporting excitedly.

The ticker-tape parade in the form of a packed house at the Ford Center Wednesday and the coronation of Ole Miss Football Coach Houston Nutt are over.

Since then, he's been in Arkansas trying to align his staff, as much as he possibly can, and tie up some loose ends on the home front.

Houston arrives in Oxford today to begin a journey, a fresh start as the Ole Miss football kingpin.

He's ours now. And we are his. There's no turning back, no second thoughts, no regrets. Just the rolling up of a lot of sets of sleeves, digging in and plowing ahead.

A lot of preliminary questions still need answering. Some answers could be revealed today; others will be determined later. A modicum of patience will be required by all parties.

Will he keep any members of the former staff? It appears only two or three have a shot - Hugh Freeze, John Thompson and Tony Hughes (most likely) - but that is speculation. We know for a fact they want to stay and we can state without hesitation they did excellent jobs here, even in the midst of a floundering program.

Would he like to bring his main strength coach with him or will he give current Football Strength Coach Aaron Ausmus a go? Again, remains to be seen. We know Aaron would do a fine job for Nutt, as he did for the former regime. Double-A is a company man, so to speak. If Nutt wants to keep him, he will run the strength program exactly how Houston wants it run, to the letter.

Who will be his operations guys? We were told he's bringing Clifton Ealy with him today, who served in an operations capacity with Nutt at Arkansas, but we are uncertain of his new role at Ole Miss at this juncture.

Houston has revealed that "at least" five of his Arky staff - OL Coach Mike Markuson, DB/Recruiting Coordinator Chris Vaughn, LB Coach James Shibest (these three are expected here today along with Ealy), OC David Lee and DL Coach Tracy Rocker have reportedly committed to come. He has also indicated there could be more off that staff joining him later. Again, that's drifting in the wind.

Freeze, Thompson, Hughes and Ausmus are personal friends of mine, but I am also objective about the situation with the possibility of them being retained. If he keeps them, or some of them, Nutt would have, in our opinion, helped himself.

Having said that, it's his final decision and I will back it totally. If he thinks there are some out there - either at Arky or elsewhere - who are better, more power to him. And more power to Ole Miss because I know first-hand how good these guys could be on his staff. Hell, they were excellent in a bad program. Imagine how good they could be in a good one.

Our assumption is Nutt and the guys coming with him, and the ones he retains, if any, will hit the ground running, especially in recruiting.

I'm sure they will want to make a thorough evaluation of all current commitments and start by contacting them first.

I'm also sure there are going to be new names popping up on the recruiting radar. Every staff has different "tastes" in athletes and there will be some surface the Orgeron staff was not recruiting who he likes and probably some he has had prior contact with when at Arkansas.

Either way, it's going to be fun getting in the mix on this deal, trying to figure out the who, what and when.

This is my seventh head football coach since I have been doing The Ole Miss Spirit. Steve Sloan, Billy Brewer, Joe Lee Dunn, Tommy Tuberville, David Cutcliffe, Ed Orgeron and now Houston Nutt.

I can honestly say I am more excited about Houston than any of those. Why? He's proven on this level, in this conference, in this division.

I'm not dissing the others. Some turned out just fine. A couple did not. The difference in them and Houston is there is little guesswork involved with him. He already knows the ropes in the SEC and has the proper respect for the strength of the league and the proper experience to deal with it right out of the starting gate.

There is no learning curve with Houston Nutt.

Sure, he'll have to get to know Ole Miss, the intricacies and the details, but from a coaching standpoint, he's been there and done that. He's faced LSU in Death Valley, and won. He's marched into Tuscaloosa and captured victory. He's torched Auburn at Auburn. He's owned Mississippi State. He knows everything there is to know about Arkansas, except what it feels like to beat them, which he will in time.

I'm not much of a betting man, but when I do venture to a gaming house, I don't like longshots. I like low odds and favorites.

Houston Nutt is not a longshot to succeed. The odds are that he will. Heck, he already has under very similar circumstances.

There will be those who will say he was a one-pony show in Arkansas and recruiting was easier. Some will suggest he had more resources to play with there.

I suggest Ole Miss - although different in many ways - has just as many assets and resources as Arkansas. It's Houston's job to identify those and tap into them the same way he tapped into the Razorbacks' resources.

Nobody knows the little things right now - who will be working with him in the wee hours of the morning, etc - but the big picture is bright.

Houston is proven. Our facilities are excellent. Our fans are as good as any when they have a unifying, common cause, which he provides us. Apparently our administration has seen the light and has loosened the purse strings to make sure this deal has every opportunity to succeed.

All the stars are aligned for Houston Nutt's tenure to be fun, exciting and successful.

And all the action begins today.

Stay tuned and enjoy the ride. I know I will.

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