Last week I took an admittedly poor look at Houston Nutt's boldness on gameday (yes, I realize my writing's been all over the map as of late; I blame it on my brain). After that, Juco detailed what he'd like to see out of Coach Nutt this fall. For this piece - which is not a part of the Nestea promotion, therefore making it the non-sellout segment of this three-parter - we're going off of the field and into the offseason. We're looking at 'Crootin Dale.
Despite earning a reputation as a somewhat mediocre recruiter at Arkansas, Houston Nutt has done fairly well in accruing talent in Oxford over the past couple of seasons. While these recruits have yet to translate into wins on the field, Rebel fans have had legitimate cause for excitement and optimism on each of the past few National Signing Days.
Ed Orgeron, Houston Nutt's predecessor in Oxford, has earned and subsequently maintained a reputation as an elite football recruiter. Upon Nutt's arrival at Ole Miss, it was questioned as to whether or not he could maintain Coach O's momentum. Four signing days later, and Nutt has shown real consistency in luring highly-regarded talent to his club. His most recent recruiting class is the third in a string of Rivals.com top-20 classes.
It's how he's gone about this and the wake of his actions which undeniably earn him the "bold" monniker.
Signing Day 2009 was the day that would make Houston Nutt an infamous national punchline regarding flagrant disregard for recruiting rules and standards. It was on this day that Nutt signed 37 players to Ole Miss, many of whom were long shots at best to earn NCAA eligibility. Not giving half a damn that he did what he did (and, honestly, you know we at the Cup don't really care either), he off-handedly proclaimed during a Signing Day press conference that there wasn't a rule that he couldn't sign eighty players if he saw fit.
The SEC changed that. "The Houston Nutt Rule", as it would be dubbed, was put in place to cap signees to 28 per signing day a few months after Nutt's remarks.
Coach Nutt has since obeyed his namesake rule, but he has hardly been far from controversy in the wake of its implementation. In the summer of 2010, Nutt wooed Jeremiah Masoli, a recent disciplinary castoff and graduate from the University of Oregon Ducks football program, also to much criticism. Despite going 4-8 with Masoli's talent, Houston Nutt Rule 2.0, or the SEC's ban on graduate transfer players, was implemented.
On top of those two principal controversies, you've got the practice of "signing and placing" an ineligible player into a Junior College, grayshirting, and the recruitment of questionable characters - all of which have provided ample ammo to Houston Nutt's detractors. There really isn't at all a limit to what the coach will attempt in order to attract talented footballers to his program.
He is bold and he is brazen, but that is exactly why he has been able to succeed on Signing Day during the past few seasons. Four and five star players, per Rivals.com, have been signing on the dotted line for Ole Miss at a nearly unprecedented rate under Houston Nutt's watch. His only real trouble, aside from avoiding media scrutiny, has been the retention rate of these highly-rated players.
Over the past two-and-a-half years, seven players who were rated as a four-star or better by Rivals.com have signed with and left or been dismissed from the Rebel program. A few of which - Patrick Patterson, Jamar Hornsby, Tig Barksdale - were even pencilled in as likely starters before their departures. This was, up until this past signing day, a significant issue with Houston Nutt's targeted blue-chippers. Sure, they were talented at football, but a lot of them had physical, academic, legal, or mental baggage.
However, when looking at the blue-chip players signed during 2010 and 2011's National Signing Days, the previous issues of retention have been significantly reduced. Of the seven aforementioned four-star or better players to have prematurely departed the program, only one, Defensive End Delvin Jones, was not a part of the 37-man 2009 class. Once the 2011 class is counted - a class where all but two players are currently enrolled at Ole Miss - Houston Nutt can boast that he currently has fourteen different prospects which were, during their recruitments, rated by Rivals as a top-20 player at their positions.
Houston Nutt is, without a doubt, an incredibly bold recruiter. Hopefully this will soon enough translate to wins on the field.