Backstage chatter for college coaches

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – If you’ve ever wondered what five high-profile college football coaches together in one room with idle time might discuss, keep wondering.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt was light on specifics but did volunteer a bit of information from his time with former Rebels coach Ed Orgeron when the two were participating in the filming of “The Blind Side” movie in the spring.
Orgeron, now the defensive line coach at Tennessee, will be on the sideline at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium om Saturday for the first time since Ole Miss lost 41-24 to No. 1 LSU in 2007. The Rebels lost 17-14 to Mississippi State the following week, and Orgeron was fired the next day.
“The Blind Side,” adparted from a best-selling book, chronicles the rise of Orgeron recruit Michael Oher from poverty to Ole Miss All-American to the NFL. Before the coaches took to the stage for their individual parts, Nutt and Orgeron were among a group of coaches – including Tommy Tubervile, Phillip Fulmer, Lou Holtz and others – together in a back room with time on their hands.
“We talked a little bit about different players. He commended me on the job our staff did last year. I commended him on bringing in those defensive linemen,” Nutt said.
The Tennessee media relations office has said Orgeron will not grant interview requests this week. A career assistant when he was hired to replace David Cutcliffe, Orgeron was 10-25 overall, 3-21 in the SEC in three seasons at Ole Miss.
Noted as a top-level recruiter, the talent Orgeron attracted to Ole Miss was put on display when Nutt’s first team won its last six games and went 9-4 last year.
While Nutt praised the defensive line assembled at Ole Miss by Orgeron, he was less complimentary of other positions on the team.
When Nutt’s first wave of seniors graduated he talked of problems with depth in other areas this season, most notably offensive line and secondary.
“I was told I didn’t have a secondary, didn’t have linebackers, not have this and that and would lose two or three scholarships to APR (the NCAA program for academics and retention),” Nutt said. “I heard a lot of things.”
McCluster’s break ends
- Break time is over for Dexter McCluster, who played only two plays in the Rebels’ 38-14 win over Northern Arizona.
McCluster carries roughly 170 pounds on his 5-foot-9 frame and has become increasingly active in the Rebels’ offense of late, posting more than 200 total yards in a 30-17 win over Arkansas and a 33-20 loss at Auburn.
Nutt has talked about the importance of using McCluster wisely to keep him healthy through the end of the season.
“I feel fresh. I felt good at practice yesterday. I felt faster,” McCluster said. “I could have played last week, but I wasn’t really needed and they wanted to hold me back a little bit. I played more than I thought I would.”
Also back in action this week will be wide receiver-kick return specialist Jesse Grandy (thigh bruise) and strong safety Johnny Brown (groin).
Correcting the big plays
- The Rebels continued a recent trend of allowing big plays on defense with five plays from the Northern Arizona offense going for more than 20 yards. Four of those were in the passing game.
Nutt hopes to get that corrected this week, starting with his cornerbacks.
“All through the year we’ve not given up big plays, and we put a lot of emphasis on that,” he said. “It goes back to your eyes. Marshay (Green) and Cassius (Vaughn) are both better than that, and they came out with the right attitude on Sunday.”
Tennessee has overcome early struggles by quarterback Jonathan Crompton and is now the No. 3 passing offense in the SEC with 232.2 yards a game.
The Vols are getting 100.1 rushing yards a game from senior tailback Montario Hardesty, fourth-best in the league.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or parrish.alford@djournal.com