Throughout the football season, AuburnUndercover.com will offer you various opportunities to a sit down for a Q&A session with a former coach. It will feature a nationally known coach or one more closely associated with Auburn.
Houston Nutt is now a TV analyst
We will post the featured guest’s name in the forums and you post your questions. We will pick several of the better questions.
This week’s guest is former Arkansas, Ole Miss and Boise State coach Houston Nutt. Nutt currently works as a studio analyst for CBS Sports Network.
Thspine, Audo & rkspeck33
What do you think is wrong at Auburn and what do you do to fix it?
When things were going good, it looked like things were in place. Recruiting was in place and they had great kids in camp. The wide receivers and defense looked good. It only takes one so-so year in recruiting where you feel good on National Signing Day and you look up in their second year and you’re missing a corner, a wide receiver, difference-makers. Add to that injuries and attrition and your numbers are not what they should be. Some of that happened to me at Ole Miss. We had two pretty good classes. Oregeron left me two pretty good ones, but the last two weren’t so good. I had four classes at Ole Miss. Getting in late the first year, we felt pretty good. We signed Raymond Cotton … missed on a quarterback. It’s a hard question to answer. You have to be on point when you can only sign 25 in a year. Roll up your sleeves and go to work. Winning solves a lot. … Sometimes you have a bad year and you can turn it. It goes back to recruiting and evaluation. If everyone sees improvement and everyone sees youth and you’re making progress at the end of the year, they feel better. Auburn just held up the crystal ball two years ago. Get it back again.
How did you first learn of Gus Malzahn and what led you to hire him at Arkansas?
He was at Springdale High School. I had watched his teams play. I talked with him and met with him and admired some of the things he did. He had five guys coming out that signed Division I scholarships.
Was Darren McFadden the most talented offensive player you ever coached?
Shawn Andrews and Jason Peters on the lines were very good. Skill guys: McFadden, Felix Jones, Dexter McCluster. The thing you loved about McFadden was his attitude. He loved football. He loved to be on kickoff. I loved his unselfishness
What’s your opinion on the new playoff system coming in 2014?
You know I’ve been a proponent of bowls. I always felt like the bowls were important. We talked about a plus-one for years. It looks like it will be good. It looks like a final four, but it keeps the bowls in place. You get the best four in place to go see who the champion is.
sam30204 & JTC28
When the fan base starts to turn on a staff and boosters start advocating for changes, how hard it is to keep the team together and concentrate on what you need to do on a daily basis?
That’s a great question. I experienced that. It’s the hardest job there is. The players don’t all live on campus. They hear things at the apartment. It’s a hard, hard, hard job with the constant negativity from blogs and boosters. People call parents. You do the best you can to hang on. You give them best plan you can to win and believe and get better.
As a coach, when do you know your time is over at a school? How long is too long?
Jimmy Johnson told me when I was at Arkansas that when you get to Year 5 or 6 that you should start looking to leave. I should have listed to him at Arkansas when Nebraska called. But, you know, I was in Coach Broyles' last class. I’m from there. We won three SEC West titles and played in two SEC Championship Games. You know when they get tired of your words. As a coach, you have a feeling. The stadiums aren’t quite as full. Coach Broyles always taught me to win. We want people in the stands. It’s the biggest, best conference in the country and I was able to coach in it for 14 years. The biggest thing is they grow tired of you. It’s different now than it was 15 years ago. Frank Beamer went four or five years without winning season. Then they had 18, 19, 20 with bowls. It’s hard to have five years without a winning season and keep your job. Give Virginia Tech credit. They stuck with him and they’ve had a lot of January 1 bowls.
How long do you think it will take to turn things around at Auburn?
If I had a crystal ball to know how many they win the rest of year. ... Use the rest of this year use as jump start. Winning helps. Losing doesn’t. Makes recruiting harder.
Which SEC stadiums were routinely the loudest and most intimidating places to play?
LSU at night. Death Valley is special. I love playing there. The Swamp. It seemed like we played in daytime. It’s better at night. LSU is No. . Tennessee, when we played there, was unbelievable. The most underrated place is South Carolina on a Thursday night in Columbia.
How do you compete with what Nick Saban has built at Alabama?
The one thing about Alabama, Auburn can do it too. If you look at facilities, Mal Moore is building something else now. Both places are constantly putting things back into football. Roll up your sleeves and go to work. There’s a lot of history, lots of championships and All-Americans. It takes everybody - boosters, fans, managers trainers, everybody. Alabama lost seven starters off a national championship team. If you take the names off the jerseys, the bodies look the same. They have great work ethic. Everyone is on the same page.
How important is the relationship between a head coach and the athletic director? If an athletic director is hired after a head coach, does that make it more difficult to achieve long-term success together?
It is the single most important thing. If they have the vision together of what it takes, it makes the biggest difference. I think it comes down to relationship. How is that relationship? Is that relationship is good? If there’s respect, I think it’s awesome. When they’re not together, it’s very difficult. Same thing if the athletic director comes in after the head coach. If they have the same vision, it can be great.
Do you think someone will hire Bobby Petrino? If so, will there be backlash?
I just don’t know. You know, maybe one day he will get an opportunity. There’s not a way for me to know that.