SPORTS EDITOR BLOG — Ole Miss’ subpar 2010 season is finally over and with it will come some changes. What those changes will be remains to be seen, but Monday’s team meeting between the coaches and players will be the start of some needed cleansing for the Rebels moving forward.Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt declined to comment about any changes with the media following Saturday’s loss to Mississippi State. He said he wanted his team to hear about them before they read about them. His comments may not have shed the exact light on what changes are coming, but it’s clear that his discussion with the players and the staff will bring some changes, a change in philosphy and work ethic to likely changes on the coaching staff.
Rebel defensive tackle Jerrell Powe has the option of coming back to help turn the team around next year. He also has the option of exiting stage left for the NFL. Regardless of what Powe chooses to do, he said Saturday he plans to address the team about fixing the things that led to a 4-8 season.
“I most definitely plan on saying something (today) at the team meeting. I think this team has got to handle some off–the-field issues, take the game plan more serious. I think we played with a very young team and it showed up all year long,” Powe said. “This team has to mature and execute the game plan that these coaches lay out from week in and week out better.
“I think this is going to be a pretty good football team next year. We’re going to have a lot of offensive linemen coming back, the linebackers that we have coming back have been playing since their freshman year. Joel Kight started his freshman year, D.T. Shackleford,” Powe added. “We got some guys that can fly around and make some plays. We got Damien Jackson coming back. Some of the younger corners we’re playing are pretty good.”
Based on Powe’s comments, he thinks his teammates deserve more of the blame as to why the Rebels failed to meet expectations this year. It’s obvious that suspensions, like the one Nutt had to most recently deal with WR Melvin Harris, set a bad undertone to the losing that was already going on. Injuries hurt the team’s depth and leadership that was sorely missing already with a guy like Dexter McCluster not on the roster.
I think one of the biggest signs of trouble was the early season loss to Jacksonville State. While I felt like Nutt let off the gas against his former boss, most SEC teams should be able to cruise and still beat a team from the FCS. That loss to Jacksonville State started the snowball heading down the mountain, while the loss to Vanderbilt confirmed that this team not only wasn’t nearly as talented as the last two years, but not nearly tough enough mentally to work through a little adversity.
Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix did think that the lessons learned from this tough season will serve the returning players in the future.
“The biggest thing we’re going to learn is that the little things make the biggest difference. You can’t cut corners and when you do, it shows up,” Nix said. “You have to pay a price and learn from these mistakes and the young guys on this team are learning from all of these examples of things not to do and things that were done well. I feel like we’ll be a group that will be reckoned with and will be much improved and we’ll be better coaches and players for it.”
Hopefully for Nix the Rebels are better next year, both on defense and offense, and the 2010 season turns out to be just a one year dip. Nutt’s task of turning things around to a Cotton Bowl level next year will be very tough.
Stranger things have happened in college football and with a better overall attitude and improved character from the team, a strong foundation can be formed. The rest will be determined by the coaches and players. Nutt has to keep next year’s team motivated, hungry and push them like he never has before. He, and his staff, will also have to scheme better than they have at any point here at Ole Miss. It’s going to take some really good play calls at the right times to help this team overcome the talent they will be facing in the SEC because on paper, they are in the lower third of teams in the league from a talent standpoint. (November 28, 2010)