The majority of Nutt's staff stayed in Fayetteville for Cotton Bowl preparation, but the Rebels survived thanks to two coaches who arrived from Louisiana-Monroe. Safeties coach Kim Dameron and wide receivers coach Ron Dickerson joined the graduate assistants in place and held the program stable until reinforcements appeared in early January.
"I couldn't have made it without those two, the two Gas – Joel Rodriguez and Brad Villavaso – and Kent McLeod when he was here," Houston Nutt said. "If Kim and Ron had not been here with me during that time, I don't really know, but I think we would have been way behind. They held it up"
Dameron agrees and thinks those first couple days and weeks were especially critical with establishing contacts and meeting as many people as possible - within the program and incoming recruits.
"It was extremely important when Ron Dickerson and I got here early to hold things together some," Dameron said. We were spread pretty thin for a couple of weeks, but at least we could get out on the road and hit as many of the commits. We could start to get to know people. It's a lot better now that we have the rest of us here."
The entire coaching staff is focused on relationships, and that is a major part of the early process. Building bonds and making sure the players know and trust the coaches, and vice versa, is key to success in all areas of the program. Stern but accommodating describes most of the coaches' plans for leading.
"When you look at the army or look at your dad, you have to respect that person," Dickerson said. "I want that respect, and I want to show them that respect. If they have a family or school problem, I need them to be able to talk to me about it. I want to be that general on the field and in the indoor. It is respect, but I won't put my players in any position that will harm them."
Dickerson's group should especially welcome that approach considering it is similar to the family-type environment the receivers thrived in last season under former position coach Hugh Freeze.
When the players were awaiting to hear what coaches would be overseeing each unit, the style the staff is planning to apply seemed to be the overwhelming hope by the returning athletes.
"We are ready to work hard, but you always want to know the coach and know he is there for you as well," Mike Wallace said right after Nutt was hired. "The receivers have become a big family. The coaches need to be a part of that and lead this thing."
And Nutt's staff is on its way to doing so. Dameron and Dickerson's quick arrival from Louisiana-Monroe opened the lines of communication early and began a sense of normalcy and familiarity.
The two have been in Oxford the longest, while the majority of the rest of the staff has been together at Arkansas. Also, recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach Chris Vaughn played for Dameron and Nutt at Murray State. So, the two secondary heads are not strangers even though they are just beginning to coach together.
In fact, hardly anyone on the staff is.
"We (Dameron and Nutt) were raised the same way," Dameron said. "My dad and Houston's dad used to play softball together. It's a great feeling of trust and familiarity to one another. I'm not sitting around wondering what Houston's thinking. I've got a pretty good idea."
And as time passes, the coaches believe the players will embrace the system and become more productive because of it.
"The guys will pick up on how us coaches interact," offensive line coach Mike Markuson said. "Our families will be around, and the players can be comfortable coming to us with anything. We are here to coach, but trust is a big part of it, and that process starts now."
Coaches Continue Building Trust
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