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OXFORD, Miss. — Just around the corner, off the square, inside the door of a local favorite chicken restaurant is an autographed picture of new head football Coach Houston Nutt.

The message said: “Go Rebels.” That’s appropriate.

Just as it is that only one person is featured on the cover of the 2008 Ole Miss football media guide: Houston Nutt.

His critics — and for now, they primarily reside in Arkansas — might ask why All-America senior offensive lineman Michael Oher was not pictured there, too.

They definitely will ask why he took the motto, “One heartbeat,” with him and posted it alongside his picture on the cover of the media guide.

Truth is, Nutt signifies an allnew beginning here.

Out with Ed Orgeron and in with Nutt.

The two couldn’t be more opposite as far as appearances go.

Before going any further, let it be known there was no red carpet for any afternoon radio talk show hosts from Arkansas.

They were almost encouraged not to show up.

Yet, like him or not, Nutt might be one of the luckiest people in college football.

Consider that he resigned at Arkansas, but it was treated like a firing so even golden handcuffs were removed, which amounted to an extra million dollars in his buyout.

He walked away from Arkansas with more than $ 3 million, or about three times what the average Arkansan makes in a lifetime if he works 40 years.

He landed at Ole Miss with a four-year contract that averages out to a little more than $ 1. 8 million per year, or about $ 600, 000 more than he was making at Arkansas.

And he inherited a team that is much more talented than the one he left behind in Arkansas.

Lucky ?

He should buy lottery tickets, not that he needs the money.

He was also lucky he never had to answer any questions about why he really had to leave Arkansas.

It wasn’t the fans or the media that led to his demise.

It was the way he handled, or mishandled, the whole Gus Malzahn, Mitch Mustain, Damian Williams fiasco.

That left the state of Razorbacks fractured, and with Malzahn being well-connected with high school coaches all over the state, it was eventually going to hurt Nutt’s chances of recruiting in the state.

No sooner did Bobby Petrino get hired than Tyler Wilson changed his oral commitment from Tulsa to Arkansas, and he’s already the backup quarterback.

However, around here, Nutt is regarded with almost a holy respect.

One local booster said he thought Nutt was going to get an ovation when he entered church one Sunday for services.

Nutt inherited a team that went 3-9, but had much more talent than that.

He got 16 starters back plus Jevan Snead, a quarterback who transferred from Texas.

The Rebels are loaded, but then so are other teams in this league. However, if Nutt opens it up a little, adjusts to his talent, these Rebs have a chance of being very good.

Excitement is everywhere.

There was a line of students picking up their tickets Tuesday afternoon, and Rebels flags are already flapping in the wind on homes and cars.

Attendance was at a 10-year low last year, but the interest in this season could challenge 2003 when David Cutcliffe and Eli Manning led the Rebs to a 10-3 season, including a victory over Oklahoma State in the Cotton Bowl.

One year later, Cutcliffe was fired.

That isn’t likely to happen to Nutt. As he was so fond of saying, he’s a fighter, a winner, and right now, you couldn’t blast him off his throne of popularity with a boxcar of dynamite.

He might not be giving interviews to Arkansas sports show hosts, but around here, after Orgeron, the media can find no fault with him.

Most are puzzled that he was dismissed, and like Nutt, they can’t seem to believe he did anything wrong.

Houston Nutt is one of the luckiest guys in college football.
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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
8/20/08