Cutcliffe had to fire coaches after his Rebs got whipped

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 8, 2001

Cleaning out the mailbox and making an opinion or two.

Do you think Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe acted hastily whenhe fired defensive coordinator Art Kaufman and defensive backscoach Tom Lavigne?

Nope. This coaching business is vicious. Cutcliffe wasconsidered an offensive genius when he came to Ole Miss fromTennessee. Obviously, he isn’t a defensive coach.

After West Virginia totally embarrassed Ole Miss on nationaltelevision in the Music City Bowl, the Rebel alumni were screamingloud and long. The Mountaineers scored on their first fivepossessions. The Ole Miss defense appeared to be playing touchfootball and the Rebels looked lost in the secondary.

Cutcliffe might preach team effort and team unity but he has topreserve his own neck first. The Rebels stank and stunk on defense.It was as obvious as a hard forearm to the mouth.

Look for the new defensive coordinator to try a quick-fix atsome defensive positions. In other words, Ole Miss is looking highand low for some outstanding junior college players who can step inimmediately and play defense.

The Ole Miss offense should provide some high octaneperformances in 2001, especially with quarterback EliManning running the show. He showed flashes of greatnessin the Music City Bowl when he replaced senior RomaroMiller in the second half.

The youngest son of Archie and OliviaManning has the bloodlines to become another Ole Misslegend. Cutcliffe coached his older brother,Peyton, at Tennessee and the Volunteers flourishedduring that 3-year stint.

Another bright spot for the Rebels is true freshman widereceiver Chris Collins of Liberty. Collins madesome big-time catches against West Virginia. He also looked good inthe Egg Bowl victory over Mississippi State.

According to Alexander Junior High School coach JesseTerrell, Ole Miss has a great one in Collins. Terrell coachedCollins for two years at Amite County. Obviously, Collins (6-2,190) will continue to improve physically and mentally as a footballplayer in his next three years at Ole Miss.

Trivia Question: Oklahoma completed its nationalchampionship season with an Orange Bowl victory over Florida Stateand posted a 13-0 record. Who was the last team to beatOklahoma?

Answer: Ole Miss pulled out a last-minute, 27-25 winover Oklahoma in the 1999 Independence Bowl on a field goal by LesBinkley. The Sooners surprised a lot of folks this past season andsteadily improved under head coach Bob Stoops.

Did Alcorn State make the right decision when it decidedto keep Johnny Thomas as head coach after an 0-11season?

Obviously, the Braves are marching to a different drumthese days. Thomas is recognized as an educator. He even has adoctorate.

It was decided that Thomas would fire his offensive anddefensive coordinators in an attempt to pacify the Alcorn alumni.Many Alcorn folks have expressed their unhappiness with Thomas andthe current administration which supports him.

Thomas apparently wants good students playing football.The borderline players who are struggling to stay academicallyeligible have been pushed aside. What the players need are personaltutors and mandatory study time after practice.

What Alcorn really needs are some tough, hard-noseddefensive players from the community/junior college ranks inMississippi. The Braves must keep the other team from scoring somany points.

You reviewed the 2000 area athletic year in a recentcolumn but only touched on the sports of football, basketball andbaseball. Surely there were some other notableaccomplishments.

Certainly.

In softball, the Lawrence County girls, coached by PatsySandifer, made it to the Final Four in Class 4A after winning theDivision 6-4A title. Coach Steve Sasser’s Enterprise girls won theDivision 7-1A crown. Wesson, coached by Lane Young, won Division6-2A. The Franklin County girls reached the state finals infast-pitch softball last spring.

Also, the Co-Lin women, coached by David Smith,finished runners-up in the state tournament and advanced to theslow-pitch national tourney.

In tennis, Stuart Misner led Brookhaven High School tothe state tournament. Misner’s star shone brightest during thesummer when he won the Boys 16s national juniors title inMontgomery, Ala. Jerrod Rayborn of Brookhaven Academy won the ClassAA No. 2 boys state title as a 13-year-old.

The Co-Lin women’s tennis team, under the direction ofBrenda Smith, advanced to the NJCAA Nationals in Phoenix,Ariz.

In track, Portica Harris of Brookhaven capturedthe 800- meter run in the Class 4A State Track Meet.Marissa Kavitz of Brookhaven Academy won the100-meter dash in girls state Class AA.