Austin takes cerebral approach

Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Kent Austin knows every SEC quarterback must have good physical ability, but when you talk to him about playing QB on this level, his first thoughts always center around the mind.

When Rebel Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach Kent Austin was under center for Ole Miss in the mid 1980s, he was known as one of the most accurate passers in Reb history.

But one always got the feeling he'd rather be known as being one of the smartest, which he also was.

He applies that approach in his coaching style as well.

Whenever the discussion comes up about what he wants from the Rebel quarterbacks, his answer always starts with the brain.

"First and foremost, I want my guys to be great decision makers," said Austin, in his first year as the Rebel OC, "within the offensive scheme they are working in. It really starts there. If they can't be great decision-makers then they can't put our offense in the best position possible to be successful.

"They have to have a thorough understanding not only of what we are trying to do offensively, but of what the defense is trying to do to stop what we are trying to do offensively."

After that, Austin is all about the proper mechanics of playing the QB position.

"I'm pretty big on fundamentals and making sure the QB is giving himself, mechanically, a chance to be an accurate passer and perform physically," Kent continued.

Through just a week of practices in fall camp, Austin sees those things developing and sees those skills beyond the level of where they left off in spring.

"We are able to execute things now that they were real fuzzy on early in spring," Kent stated. "They are in much better shape in their understanding of the offense than they were in spring. I can see it in their eyes and see it in their performance. It's clicking much better now."

Through five practices, the Rebel quarterbacks - led by sophomore Jevan Snead, backed by Billy Tapp and surprising freshman Nathan Stanley - has drawn mostly praise from Austin, but he is quick to use the "work in progress" line as well.

"We are advancing. The rate of progress has been good, but I don't think anyone will tell you we are a finished product yet at quarterback or anywhere on the offense," he added. "Get back to me in a couple of weeks to see where we are then. Hopefully, we'll be further along and closing in on being ready for the season."

Austin came to Ole Miss, leaving a secure job as a highly successful head coach in the CFL, for several reasons, but number one, it seems, was the opportunity to work with Houston Nutt and his staff.

"My brief time here has been great and it's because of Houston," Kent said. "He's as good a person as I have ever worked for. He gets it on so many levels that he makes the environment conducive for success.

"He understands the value of not only building in to his players' lives but into his staff's lives. He builds up, not down. He gets all of that. He's also very unselfish. He has all the qualities that I really believe in and he puts people around him who embody those same qualities."

Austin said the grapevine talk of whose offense it is the Rebs will run, who will be calling the plays, and so on, are irrelevant to the overall cause.

"It's easy to make a marriage, so to speak, work when both sides are accommodating," Austin explained. "I don't have an agenda and neither does Houston. All the both of us want to do is win. I don't care who calls the plays. I don't care if we run 80% of the time or throw 80% of the time. The only thing that is important is winning.

"Titles mean nothing to me. I take my job seriously and I am going to try as hard as I can to be excellent at it. Houston and I both believe that stats are for losers. The only thing that matters is wins and losses. He gets that and so do I."

How do they accomplish those things? Simple, said Austin.

"We will have sound gameplans. We are going to be smart in what we do. As a coaching staff, it is our job to put our players in the best possible position to win, individually and collectively, and to get our players to believe that what we do schematically will work and bring us wins. That's our job and we are all on the same page with that job description," Austin pointed out.

Austin and his family are extremely happy at Ole Miss.

"It is awesome to be back. This is a place I love, obviously," he closed. "It really is an honor to be here. It's an honor to be with Coach Nutt, it's an honor to be with this staff, it's a privelege to be a part of this.

"I realize that when Houston hired me it took a lot of faith. He had never worked with me before and yet he was entrusting me with a lot of responsibility. It's a privelege, really. I don't take that lightly and I will honor that in return. I will do everything I can to make sure they are proud I was given those responsibilities."

In the meantime, it's back to the drawing board with his pupils - Snead, Tapp and Stanley - in tow.

"We are making progress, but we are a work in progress as well," Austin closed. "They are focused and into the task at hand, so we expect good results when the season comes around."

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