Here in the waning days of the off-season, there's just not a lot of news to be had. Sure, there are injury reports and vague tidbits on position battles; yes, occasionally we get a nice crootin' commitment, but by and large, everyone's just treading water until the season opens. Never one to botch a chance at some good press, former Rebel head coach and professional rattlesnake groomer Houston Nutt talked with Mike Herndon of gulflive.com about his expectations for the Rebels this season.
The article kicked up some dust in Ole Miss circles, so I (didn't at all) called up Houston to get a little clarification on some of the finer points of his comments. The result, in true Nutt fashion, is as engaging as it is insightful.
TwoYards: Coach, great to talk with you again. How's New Mexico?
Nutt: Juarez. Lotta bodies. Gotta consolidate power. Scorpions only sting when the sun is lowest!
TwoYards: Right. Glad to hear you're doing well. Listen, Mike Herndon's article has really stirred things up down here, and I was hoping I could get you to clarify some of your comments.
Nutt: You got it, Yardybird!
TwoYards: So in the article, it seems like you're taking credit for a lot of Freeze's success.
Nutt: Stop you right there, friendo. Furthest thing from the truth. Furthest thing! Can't take credit for what you didn't do, and I didn't do anything 'cept set up Ole Miss for its current success.
TwoYards: Okay, see, this is exactly what I'm talking about. You started out saying that you're not taking credit, but by the end of the sentence, you're taking credit.
Nutt: It's real easy. Gotta give credit to Coach Freeze. All the credit. Man knows how to walk into a good situation and prosper!
TwoYards: Are you saying you left Ole Miss in a good situation?
Nutt: Course I am! You don't think Denzel Nkemdimeaclease is a good situation? Don't think Charlie Saw-blade is? What about my buddy, forget his name, fella plays corner? Coulda been in Boston. Chose Oxford because he understood. Understood that when you're in the thick of things, when the going get tougher than the wind can handle, you gotta pull your teammates to you and listen to your hearts beating all at one time. Racket! Real loud!
TwoYards: When you spoke with Herndon, you repeated something that I've heard from you before, that the downward slide of the program in your last two years was attributable to Jevan Snead leaving early for the NFL. Conventional wisdom with Ole Miss fans says that Jeremiah Masoli actually staved off the full implosion of the program by a year. Do you think its fair to blame quarterback play for those two years when there were so many other deficient areas?
Nutt: Absolutely. Absolutely. Need a scapegoat.
TwoYards: Is that fair, though? To scapegoat one position, especially when that position was manned admirably by Masoli?
Nutt: All's fair. Saying says so. All's fair. Can't not be fair if it strikes you as fair. Had Dippin' Dots at the fair last year, couldn't get enough! You had those? Like little balls of ice cream. Trick is, see, you gotta let 'em melt down a little first, so they're a little soft. Then, woooo! Eat 'em.
TwoYards: I know it's hard for you, but I'd really appreciate it if you stayed focused, Coach.
Nutt: Need focus. Need it.
TwoYards: That's right, Coach. Now, let me ask you about the state of the team academically when you left.
Nutt: Lotta folks got questions about academics. Natural. Most natural thing in the world, to wonder about class. I'll make it simple for you, Yardly: Our players did everything in their power to appear to seem like they were fulfilling obligations that may have been requirements for courses that theoretically could have been needed for degrees the players could have been trying to earn.
TwoYards: That's not simple, Coach.
Nutt: Sure it is. Listen, all you need to know about academics: Jeremiah Masoli's a park ranger, ain't he? Ain't he? Weren't no useless degree, was it?
TwoYards: I'm pretty sure he's not a park ranger.
Nutt: Not been proven yet. Too soon to tell. Can't jump the gun, Yardlio! Can't do it! Jumping to gun leads to a good coach getting fired. I'd of been around this year, wooooo! We coulda knocked some heads.
TwoYards: I'm not so sure you'd have won a game last year.
Nutt: Absolutely. Fair criticism. I take criticism. Take it in, digest it, turn it into waste, then it's a part of the world. Circle of life. Lions eat it, then there are bugs and hyenas, and a warthog farts a bunch. Saw it on a nature show.
TwoYards: You're talking about Lion King, aren't you?
Nutt: Favorite movie. Based on a true story, you know that?
TwoYards: I don't think it was, Coach.
Nutt: Pretty sure you're wrong, but let's disagree. Best path to agreement.
TwoYards: Fair enough. Thanks for taking the time, Coach.
Nutt: My pleasure. You still down there in Louisiana?
TwoYards: I am.
Nutt: Put in a good word for me at Northwestern State. Hear they may need a new coach soon. Need a winning attitude! Bring a lotta experience. Need that experience! Ole Jimminy Sexton tells me everyday, "Try something new. Take up knitting." Can't do it. Too much experience coaching. Love it! Need to get out there with them kids again, teach 'em to strap on the pads! Think I could do that in Natchitoches?
TwoYards: Maybe. I'm just amazed you pronounced Natchitoches correctly.
Nutt: Can I be honest, Yardolingo? I am, too.