Most people know or believe they know the factors that led to the dismissal of the present administration.
There’s not a lot of time spent pondering the present state of affairs, and all eyes want to move to the program’s next phase as quickly as possible.
However, the next phase will be no more successful if questions about the present phase aren’t asked and answered.
So an important question asked of Houston Nutt on Monday, after he’d been fired as Ole Miss coach effective at season’s end, was, “How did you get here?”
His answer was “Jevan Snead.” Almost five years after the former backup quarterback at Texas created a stir with news that he intended to transfer from Texas to Ole Miss, Snead remains a sub-plot to Ole Miss football.
“Had Jevan Snead come back his senior year, it would have been a tremendous start (to 2010),” Nutt said.
Yes it would have been. But problems in 2010 – problems that really haven’t been corrected – were about defense, not offense.
Snead’s premature departure for the NFL did impact the season, and the season received another jolt when redshirt freshman quarterback Raymond Cotton left in the summer. Suddenly the groundwork was laid for legally troubled transfer Jeremiah Masoli, who had been dismissed at Oregon, to land at Ole Miss.
The answer to the “How did you get here?” question is not Snead, it’s Cotton. More specifically, it’s what Cotton represents, which is program attrition.
Too many players from Nutt’s first three signing classes left with eligibility remaining.
After a 29-24 loss to Arkansas recently, a spirited effort following a 52-7 loss to Alabama, Nutt was asked what was keeping the Rebels from getting over the hump. “I can’t say ‘next,’” he responded, which is his way of talking about depth.
Depth is a problem.
Among the missing are signees Lekenwic Haynes, Jared Mitchell, Tig Barksdale, Jamar Hornsby, Ryan Campbell, Dele Junaid, Tony Grimes and Eric Mitchell, all defensive backs. Also not around are defensive linemen Craig Drummond and Delvin Jones and linebacker Clarence Jackson.
All had different stories. Some needed to leave. Some Nutt wanted to stay. Some never made it to campus or were risky investments of recruiting time and man hours.
The common denominator for all of them, however, is that they’re not on campus now.
The retention component has to be in place before you can say “next.”
When the next head coach is in place, he’ll need to reduce the departure rate to have a longer, more successful tenure.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at NEMS360.com.