At least Houston Nutt isn’t Joe Pa

Published 12:20 am Sunday, November 13, 2011

I suppose there are worse ways Houston Nutt could’ve gone out.

He could have been involved in a massive scandal where an assistant coach was allegedly raping young boys and both he and the school administration did nothing about it for years and years.

For Ole Miss’ sake, the Rebel nation can be thankful the only think Nutt did was not win many games after Ed Orgeron’s recruits filtered out. But as Ole Miss watches the likes of Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and even Mississippi State pass it by, a change was obviously needed.

Email newsletter signup

The Rebels have not won a game against the aforementioned teams the past two seasons. (They’ve yet to play Mississippi State and LSU this year, but the Rebels will likely be underdogs heading into those games.) After going 9-4 in Nutt’s first two seasons, including a win over eventual national champion Florida in 2008, Ole Miss has had back-to-back losing seasons, and the program appears to be on a downward spiral, prompting the Rebel administration to go in a different direction.

Personally, I don’t think Nutt is a bad coach. It’s not exactly a secret that Nick Saban recommended to LSU that it hire Nutt after Saban left Baton Rouge to try his hand in the NFL. Nutt’s overall coaching record is 135-94 as of now, including a 75-48 record at Arkansas, second to Frank Broyles on the school’s all-time wins list.

His main problems at Ole Miss are two-fold, in my opinion: He hasn’t recruited to the standard that Orgeron did, and the strength of the SEC West seems to be at an all-time high.

Say what you want about Orgeron as a coach, but he was excellent at identifying talent. Nutt probably has the edge in coaching ability, but while Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and LSU have gotten better from a talent perspective, Ole Miss has seen a drop-off since Orgeron’s players have left.

And let’s be honest: There’s currently a three-headed monster in the SEC West — Alabama, Arkansas and LSU. Auburn’s having a down year, but is also coming off a national championship season in 2010.

It’s simply too unforgiving a division — and league — for Ole Miss if the school doesn’t have top-tier talent. To be fair, the Rebels’ freshman class is very talented, but they’re also very inexperienced, and it’s shown.

So where does Ole Miss go from here? Whoever the school hires, it’s important that coach surrounds himself with not just good coaches, but top-tier recruiters. That way, the Rebels won’t be at a talent disadvantage in a league that simply won’t allow it to win too many games without the best of the best the high school ranks have to offer.

Make no mistake, this next hire is going to be pivotal for Ole Miss. It will be the difference between the school challenging for divisional and conference titles versus staying mired in mediocrity. And the Rebel nation is certainly sick and tired of mediocrity.