Little by little, new Rebel Football Coach Houston Nutt is inching away at putting some life back into the Ole Miss program.
His first week on the job left him facing and making a lot of decisions.
Here's a brief recap and some observations and quotes.
When Nutt flew into Oxford last Sunday, he brought OL Coach Mike Markuson, DB Coach and Recruiting Coordinator Chris Vaughn, TE Coach James Shibest and Football Operations Clifton Ealy with him. The intention was for them to stay in Oxford and hit the road recruiting.
That plan changed Monday. After talks with Ole Miss AD Pete Boone, it was decided the best bet was to give those guys an Ole Miss phone to call Rebel recruits with, but send them back to Arkansas to help the Hogs in their bowl preparations.
That left Houston "alone" at Ole Miss to handle everything.
He quickly got to know and trust Football Secretary Chyna Ward and started leaning on holdovers Graduate Assistants Brad Villavaso and Joel Rodriguez and Kent McLeod, Assistant AD for Football Operations.
After learning his entire staff from Arkansas would not come to Ole Miss, he hired two University of Louisian-Monroe assistants - Ron Dickerson, Jr, and Kim Dameron - to come on board. Dickerson played for Nutt at Arky and Dameron coached with Nutt at Murray State as his Defensive Coordinator.
"Both of them are outstanding recruiters and passionate coaches," Houston said. "We feel very fortunate to have them here."
Nutt said he did not know which positions they would coach at Ole Miss yet, but it did not matter.
"Both are capable of coaching several positions and Kim has coached on both sides of the ball. We are not worried about that right now. When I get a better feel of how everything is going to shake out with my staff at Arkansas, I will piece all of that together," Houston stated. "Right now, the important thing is that they get on the road recruiting."
Dickerson headed to the Coast to see top recruits Willie Packer, DeAndre Brown, Alonzo Lawrence and Josh Chestang.
Dameron went to South Panola and Clarksdale for Tig Barksdale and Charles Mitchell and several others.
Houston made his way to Olive Branch to secure a re-commitment from Quistor LB Marlon Walls, who was reported to be looking elsewhere. Nutt made an impact and Walls said he's sticking with the Rebs.
Meanwhile, Houston was having second thoughts about letting the entire staff of Ed Orgeron go. After checking all the recruiting lists and getting feedback from several sources, he opted to give Tony Hughes a chance to gain a spot on his Rebel staff.
"Tony has so many Mississippi connections in high schools and junior colleges. He's a wealth of resources for us in our home state," Nutt explained.
Hughes was immediately put on the road with Dickerson on the Coast and the resulting visits garnered favorable comments from South Mississippi prospects.
Later in the week, Nutt hinted that DL Coach Tracy Rocker and Offensive Coordinator David Lee had confirmed to him they would be coming to Ole Miss from Arkansas. Lee was being courted by Southern Mississippi to replace Jeff Bower, but withdrew his name late in the process. Both were isued Rebel phones, which is as close as we can get to confirming he now has seven "for sure" members of his on-the-field coaching staff - Markuson, Lee, Dameron, Dickerson, Vaughn, Shibest and Rocker - and Hughes pending a firm offer/commitment.
It is thought, but not confirmed by Nutt, he is waiting on word from Arkansas DC Reggie Herring and Bobby Allen on if they will come to Ole Miss. Herring is the acting head coach for Arkansas in their Jan. 1 Cotton Bowl clash with Missouri.
In the meantime, Houston met with all the support personnel - trainers, equipment managers, academic support, compliance, facilities, Loyalty Foundation and administration - getting more of the lay of the land.
In a brief conversation with Houston Thursday night, Nutt said "just about" everything was going smoothly.
He said he could tell Ole Miss was "special" and a "sleeping giant ready to go forward in football."
He stated the football facilities are "much better" than he anticipated and the support personnel on board "are quality people who want to help this program flourish."
The only concern he expressed the whole week was how many quality high school and junior college athletes in the state are struggling academically.
In two interviews with media members who cover Ole Miss regularly, he said it is imperative to sign players who will be on board in August and are academically qualified.
Consequently, it appears he has dropped off of some players Ole Miss has been recruiting, even though he did say he would always oversign by a few knowing some would not make it academically.
Nutt expressed the current team - from a talent standpoint - was workable, but his concerns are the low numbers at certain positions (TE, CB, QB, LB specifically) and the low total number of scholly players.
On Friday, Houston flew out to New York via Fayetteville for today's Heisman Trophy banquet to be with his Arkansas star RB Darren McPhadden.
Tomorrow (Sunday), it's back on the recruiting trail. Houston is heaed to Texas, a fertile area for Arkansas during his 10-year tenure there.
Nutt has stated he will not recruit current Arkansas commitments unless they call him first. Word has it there could be three or four Hog commitments who are contemplating jumping off the Razorback ship.
Week one for Houston Nutt was eventful and productive. Next week is the last recruiting week before the dead period. Expect more news during the week, then expect a slow time until after New Year's when his full staff can join him in Oxford.
A recap -
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