They say that other than death and taxes, there are no guarantees in life. Well, I’d like to polite fully disagree, and add one more nugget to that list: Houston Nutt will not be the coach Ole Miss at the start of the 2012 football season. Along with death and taxes, it seems about as certain, as certain gets.
The writing has been on the wall for weeks (if not years), and news that trickled out of the program Sunday afternoon may have only hastened that process. That’s because while all of college football was focused on Marcus Lattimore’s season ending injury, the Rebels suffered two losses just as crucial, when senior defensive end Wayne Dorsey and senior cornerback Marcus Temple were both suffered season-ending injuries. The announcement was made at Nutt’s Sunday press conference.
So with that I ask: Did you want to help Houston Nutt pack up his office? Or should I?
Simply put, it was going to be tough for Nutt to avoid a pink slip at the end of this season, but really, these injuries will only further expedite the process. The two players lost were arguably the most talented on an otherwise thin and inexperienced Ole Miss defense, with Dorsey leading the team in tackles for loss with five, in addition to racking up three sacks, and Temple tallying two interceptions and 28 total tackles. Again, Ole Miss might not have been going anywhere this season to begin with. But relative to their talent and this team in specific, these injuries are about as brutal as they come.
And because of it, fair or not, this only makes the future look bleaker for Houston Nutt. The coach who could do no wrong his first year and change on campus is now on borrowed time.
For those of you who can remember back to 2008, it was impossible to see things turning so sour, so quickly for Nutt. He inherited a comically bad team from his predecessor Ed Oregeron, and somehow, miraculously turning things around, beating eventual BCS Champion Florida early in his season, and finishing Year 1 in Oxford a shocking 9-4. Considering where Ole Miss had been, a nine win season at that point wasn’t just unlikely, it was basically implausible.
But just as fast as things started at Ole Miss, they came crashing back down to reality. Thanks in large part to the success of the 2008 team, and a group of talented upper-classmen recruited almost exclusively by Orgeron, the Rebels entered Nutt’s second season in 2009 with expectations that were through the roof. And if anyone knows Nutt’s history, they know that Nutt handles high expectations about as well as my stomach handles Mexican food. Which is to say, not very well.
The Rebels started the year in the Top 10, and within a month were basically proven to be a fraud. They had just two wins before a loss at South Carolina, and by the end of the season had additional losses to Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State, the latter of which was inexcusable, in Dan Mullen’s first year in Starkville. Another nine win season in Oxford didn’t have quite the same feel to it in Nutt’s second season, as it had in his first.
And since then, well, the bottom has fallen out on this program. Last year Ole Miss finished a pathetic 4-8, with a grand total of one win in SEC play, and another loss to Mullen and Mississippi State. To add insult to the situation, Nutt and Ole Miss were under constant attack from the national media, after allowing controversial Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to transfer in, and start at quarterback almost immediately. While Masoli proved to be nothing but a positive influence on the team, he never truly fit in in Oxford, where his skill-set simply didn’t match up with the 10 other players on the offense.
And now finally, we fast forward to the 2011, to Saturday’s Alabama game, and to Sunday’s injuries in specific. The Rebels not only suffered one of the most embarrassing losses in school history to Alabama (a team which basically played their backups the entire fourth quarter), but also the losses of Dorsey and Temple for the season. At 2-4, with wins over…umm…Southern Illinois and Fresno State, the Rebels appear to be just about at rock-bottom. It also probably isn’t the best time to mention that they’ve still got three ranked opponents left on their schedule (Arkansas and LSU at home, and at Auburn), as well as Mississippi State, a team that has used the Rebels as their personal punching bag since Mullen arrived three falls ago.
Meaning, that unless Nutt pulls some magic out of his you-know-where, this could be the end of the line for him. And if it is, well, most Ole Miss fans will say nothing but “good riddance,” to a coach who has not only gotten progressively worse on the field, but made the program a national punch line off it.
Understand that it’s one thing to lose, but it’s quite another to lose with little class, and with players that aren’t likeable. Nutt has done both, and without re-opening old wounds, Crystal Ball Run documented the excesses of Nutt’s ineptitude a few weeks ago.
Beyond the Masoli situation, there really are too many other off the field problems to count. There was Nutt’s abuse of scholarship limits when he signed an unheard of 37 players in one recruiting class in 2009; a player named Jamar Hornsby who left Florida under the most despicable of circumstances, came to Oxford and got arrested before ever playing a game for the Rebels; and of course the latest incident last week, when Nutt suspended four players- including three offensive starters- for the game against Alabama. Given Nutt’s track record of, umm, “loose,” punishment, it has to be assumed that those players did something pretty bad to end up suspended for the biggest game of the season.
And now, without two of his best defenders out for the season, Nutt’s career at Ole Miss has taken another blow.
It only seems like a matter of time before it blows up entirely.
Follow Aaron Torres on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.