When Houston Nutt took the Ole Miss coaching job in late 2007, there was an opening for offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.
When that search ended in Canada, Kent Austin headed home to fill the position in a place with which he was familiar.
The Brentwood, Tenn., native had played quarterback for the Rebels from 1981-85. Ole Miss didn't have a lot of success on the field during those seasons, but Austin found success in the CFL. Playing 10 years with four different teams, he led Saskatchewan to the Grey Cup, the CFL's equivalent of the NFL's Super Bowl, as a player (1989) and as head coach (2007).
Then he came home to Ole Miss. Austin is still second in career completions (566) and attempts (981), and third in passing yards (6,184). He remains fourth in passing touchdowns and fourth in total offense (6,179).
In a couple of games during his career he was almost perfect in the passing department. Once against Tulane, he was 18-of-19, and against Tennessee completed 15 straight passes.
Last season, as the Rebels moved from a 3-4 mark to a 9-4 final record, they proved to be among the nation's best teams offensively. With weapons galore and effective play-calling, along of course with execution, Ole Miss scored 417 points in 13 games. In the final four, they averaged more than 45 points per outing.
All signs point to another superb offense for the Rebels in 2009.
"We got a lot in in camp," Austin said of the offense. "We got a lot on film. We worked on a lot of things. Now we'll scale it back and try to fit it into a gameplan and what we're anticipating (from Memphis)."
As for what to expect from the Tigers defensively, Austin said the Rebels will try to be ready for a multitude of things.
"They were defensively a little different philosophically at the end of last season than they were when we played them (a 41-24 season-opening win in Oxford for Ole Miss)," he said. "They have some transfers in there now, and we're going into it prepared for what we saw throughout their season last year."
Austin said he's more comfortable himself heading into year two with the Rebels than year one when all things were basically new.
"Things are obviously better. I don't know if you're ever completely comfortable as a coach and in this profession," he said, laughing a bit.
He said the program begins at the top, and Houston Nutt makes things go.
"We work for a great guy. That's where it starts," Austin said. "When you work for a guy like Houston, who just gets it on so many levels, treats his staff great, he has high expectations of us but he lets us coach. He builds into the lives of the people around him unselfishly. He understands the value of that. Because of that, it makes working here a real pleasure."
Austin said the entire staff believes in what they are doing and that they work very well as a team of coaches.
"It's an honor to be here and a privilege to be here. I understand that," he said. "There aren't a lot of these jobs, and I don't take that for granted. But Houston does such a great job motivating this staff, putting together a staff of quality guys that are very unselfish, that don't care about their titles. There's no jealousy. All they care about is doing well as a coach and winning. That's a model that comes from the head man. And that permeates throughout the entire team."
He's had a year and a half now to become acclimated to Oxford and Ole Miss again. He said some aspects are familiar, while other areas are obviously different in the 20-plus years he was away.
"It's actually changed a lot. The campus has changed. The city has changed," said Austin, inducted into the Ole Miss Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000. "But at the end of the day, it's still an SEC football town that loves the Rebels and are supportive of us."
He and his family - wife Shelley and children Kendall, Kassidy and Wesley - have enjoyed the move to Oxford.
"It's a great place to live," he said. "It's safe. I know that my wife and my kids are safe. I don't worry about that. We're just like every other family. I'm just trying to do right by my job and do right by my wife and my kids. Just trying to do the best I can, professionally be the best coach I can. And to be the best husband and father I can."
Kent Austin: Year Two
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