Nutt 'soul-searching' about changes

OXFORD – The Ole Miss coaching staff that just oversaw a 4-8 season is the one that will be with the Rebels on the road to recovery, at least in the beginning.
Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt announced no staff changes at his season-ending press conference on Monday, but that doesn’t mean changes won’t be coming, he said.
Nutt’s four-year contract has rolled over through 2014 and he’ll make $2.7 million next season. Now, he can begin tackling the question of who will rejoin him on the Rebels’ staff.
In a 1-7 SEC season that finished with six-straight conference losses, the Rebels ranked ninth or lower among league teams in every major defensive category. They are third in rushing offense, fifth in total offense, seventh in scoring points.
These numbers may be adjusted some after other teams complete bowl games. The league record is Nutt’s worst in his 13 SEC seasons.
“I’ve been thinking and soul-searching. I don’t know about staff changes yet,” Nutt said. “I’ve been looking hard in that area.”
Nutt and athletics director Pete Boone met to discuss the football program on Monday morning. Nutt was light on the specifics of the discussion, saying only they talked about everything from “A to Z.”
Boone said he doesn’t suggest personnel changes to his coaches but acts as a “sounding board” if his head coaches ask his opinion about the coaching staff. Nutt did ask for that opinion, Boone said.
“He asked me what I thought about coaching. I said, ‘like everybody else, as a fan, I could see we didn’t have a very good defense. I could see there were five yards between a defensive back and a receiver,’” Boone said.
Boone said he trusts Nutt’s judgment on staff matters.
“It’s different dealing with someone of Houston’s experience and someone of less experience. If asked, I will give my opinions as to what I see.”
Three members of Nutt’s coaching staff – cornerbacks coach and recruiting coordinator Chris Vaughn, tight ends and special teams coach James Shibest and co-offensive coordinator Mike Markuson – have been with him for at least 11 years. Markuson, who coaches the offensive line, has been with Nutt for 17 seasons. Making personnel decisions is not easy, Nutt said.
“I don’t want to. That’s the most difficult thing there is. It’s family. It’s people you know and love. It’s hard, but that’s where you have to separate that and do what’s best for Ole Miss.”
Nutt cited injuries and off-field distractions as factors in the team’s defensive struggles.
“But we still expected to be much better,” he said. “The bottom line is we gave up big plays. There were times we weren’t lined up right, times we mis-played the ball.”
In other news …
• A players’ meeting originally set for Sunday was held Monday afternoon.
• Nutt said it “looks good” for a medical redshirt season for senior defensive end Kentrell Lockett in 2011. He expected to begin talks with defensive tackle Jerrell Powe either later Monday or today about his future. Powe is in good academic standing and on course to regain the season of eligibility he lost as a partial academic qualifier in 2007.
• Nutt promised hard work and attention to detail, off-season program that would include “survivors” when it is finished.
• Nutt said his agent, Jimmy Sexton, does not float his name for job openings and called the reports that he would be hired at Colorado “rumors.”
• Nutt said he believes his name appears in connection with some job openings because people looking for coaches respect Jimmy Johnson, Lou Holtz and Frank Broyles – coaches with whom he has a long history – and call them to suggest candidates.
• Nutt appears optimistic that most of the players he suspended during the season will return. He said he expects WR Melvin Harris and LB Clarence Jackson to return. He will meet with LB Brandon Sanders this week. He is “still checking on some school things” on CB Tony Grimes and DE Delvin Jones.
• Sophomore running back Rodney Scott, who left the team of his own accord prior to the LSU game, appears to be leaving the program, though that is not settled, Nutt said.
• Nutt said he will look to junior colleges for help at safety, cornerback, linebacker and quarterback.
• Bringing dismissed Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli into the program was the right decision. “My hunch was right. I would do it all over again,” he said.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or parrish.alford@djournal.com.

PARRISH ALFORD / NEMS Daily Journal