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Distractions continue for Ole Miss football

Austin McAfee/The Daily Mississippian

A tumultuous week that started with the firing of Head Coach Houston Nutt ended with a resounding thud this past Saturday as Ole Miss hit rock bottom in a 27-7 loss to Louisiana Tech.

Ole Miss offensive coordinator David Lee called it “a living nightmare out there.”

Many wondered how the traumatic and chaotic week leading up to the game would affect the team, and it was clear the Rebels’ focus was off.

“It’s a big deal,” Nutt said. “They say your coach is not going to be here anymore, and it’s tough; it’s hard — it’s hard for them. We try to get everything in order and tell them to concentrate and focus. It’s just hard; it’s really difficult when they know these coaches aren’t going to be here.”

What puzzled both Lee and Nutt is that Ole Miss had its best week of practice this past week, but once again it didn’t translate onto the field.

“That’s the thing that blows your mind,” Lee said. “That was the very best week of practice we’ve had since I’ve been at Ole Miss and since I came back here. It was the best week of practice we’ve ever had. That’s why I’m shocked.”

For defensive end Kentrell Lockett, who is in his sixth year at Ole Miss and will play his final home game Saturday against LSU, the announcement about Nutt proved to be a distraction for the team.

“It was crazy, just with a guy that’s coaching that you know is not going to be here next year,” Lockett said. “After this season, like after the last game, you probably won’t see him again, period. It was something to think about. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”

While the Rebels have struggled this season, one of the few bright spots has been the play of this year’s freshman class. Nutt and the Rebels reeled in eight of the state’s 2011 Dandy Dozen high school football players, which made the announcement of the coaching change tough for them to handle.

“You’ve got the freshmen, (and) this is the only guy they know and this is the only coach they know,” Lockett said. “This guy recruited them to come and play in this program for a reason, and now he’s gone. So it was an overall distraction for everybody.”

With two games left this season, which will also be the final two games for Nutt and this year’s 13 seniors, the Rebels have to recover quickly from the loss to Louisiana Tech to get ready for top-ranked LSU on Saturday. However, for the Rebels, the distractions only continue to pile up with suspensions of three players announced Tuesday, including junior starting quarterback Randall Mackey and sophomore leading rusher Jeff Scott.