When asked about signing a whopping 38 players in his 2009 recruiting class -- all-but singlehandedly embarrassing the rest of the SEC into adopting a limit of 28 in all future classes, the rule that now informally carries his name -- Houston Nutt famously (or infamously) joked that "there’s no rule that says that we can’t sign 80." But when asked over the weekend about the number of signees in his current class, and what that might have meant for the newly-departed players from the Rebel roster, Nutt wasn't in a laughing mood.
As reported by Kyle Veazey of the Clarion-Ledger , several observers (including Eye on College Football ) looked at Nutt inking several more players on Signing Day than he appeared to have room for under the 85-scholarship limit, and wondered if it was coincidence that six Rebels had just disappeared from the Ole Miss roster. Much like Nick Saban before him, Nutt shot back to the press that yes, that did happen to be coincidence:
"I've never ran anyone off in my career unless they broke multiple team rules or just committed a serious crime or something like that," Nutt said. "That's never happened."To be fair to Nutt, until one of the six players speaks out regarding his departure from the team -- Veazey reported that one player declined comment, with the other five unable to be reached -- he's correct that the "critics" are responding to numbers alone rather than hard evidence the players were forced out to make room on the roster. It's also worth pointing out that if Veazey's numbers are correct, Nutt would have had to "run off" only a couple of players to fit under the 85 cap, rather than six.
Nutt said all the departing players came to him requesting to leave for reasons ranging from personal issues to a desire for more playing time.
Critics charged Nutt with cutting those players to get under 85, but Nutt said that's unfounded. "What's unfair is (critics) go number by number and they don't have all the facts and then they say, 'He has to be running kids off,' " Nutt said.
But if there's any coach that's not going to receive the benefit of the doubt when it comes to oversigning, it's one that's already had his own rule named after him, doesn't have his 2011 class down to the NCAA-mandated 25 yet, and switched one recruit's full offer to a grayshirt just days before this past Signing Day . No one should blame Nutt for protesting his innocence, but he also can't be surprised if it takes a lot more protesting before that message gets across.