Nutt hires old friend to lead offense

By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – For Houston Nutt, the hardest part of bringing David Lee in was the decision to let go of play-calling responsibilities.
The Ole Miss head coach changed offensive coordinators Monday. Lee, with whom he has a long relationship, is taking over for Dave Rader.
The bigger story, though, may be Nutt’s willingness to give up play-calling responsibilities.
In two stints with Nutt at Arkansas, Lee called some plays but was not considered the “primary” play-caller.
Nutt has always said he receives input from his offensive coaches but has made the final call himself.
“It’s the funnest part of the game, really,” Nutt said. “You get in there and compete hard against the other guy across the field putting guys in the best spots.”
The Rebels were sixth in the SEC in total offense (399.83 ypg), seventh in scoring offense (30.58 ppg) as Rader shared coordinator responsibilities with offensive line coach Mike Markuson last year.
Rader’s chief task was quarterback development. When he was hired he had a lightly experienced sophomore in Nathan Stanley and a redshirt freshman in Raymond Cotton. The landscape changed, and Rader adjusted on the fly when Cotton transferred out, and former Oregon standout Jeremiah Masoli transferred in.
Lee spent the past three seasons in the NFL as the Miami Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach and played a vital role in reintroducing and transforming the Wildcat offense at the pro level.
Lee has a reputation for successfully tutoring quarterbacks on the college and pro level, some for just a short period of time.
Last March, Tim Tebow credited Lee for help him change mechanics when the two worked together at the Senior Bowl in advance of Tebow’s first-round selection by the Denver Broncos.
“I’ve learned a lot from Coach Lee,’” Tebow said in a story published in the Miami Herald. “He’s a great coach. We worked a lot on different drops, on coming out of play actions, adjustments in plays they had. It’s a wonderful experience for me.”
Lee coached with Nutt from 2001-2002 and again in 2007. Lee also coached at Ole Miss from 1978-82 under Steve Sloan, guiding quarterback Kent Austin and John Forecade.
In their most recent time together, the Arkansas offense averaged 38.8 points and 457.4 yards, and quarterbacks threw 24 touchdown passes with only 10 interceptions.
In the three seasons that Nutt and Lee coached together, Arkansas was 24-14. The Razorbacks shared the West title and advanced to the SEC championship game in 2002 and reached the Cotton Bowl in 2007, though Nutt did not coach in that game having already accepted the Ole Miss job.
Nutt says Lee’s presence and the increased role of an offensive coordinator will allow him to focus on other things.
“This will allow me to manage the game better, get closer to the defense, the special teams, get back to where we were with that high intensity on special teams,” Nutt said.
Nutt did not indicate he would spend additional time on team discipline, calling last season’s six suspensions an unusual year.
“If you check history, last year was kind of like a perfect storm,” he said. “That was not ordinary for us. I’m not really worried about that. I’ve always been close to my guys and had very few problems. If you look around the world you see that that happens every day. Young people make foolish decisions. I’m not alarmed by that.”

Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or parrish.alford@journalinc.com.