Published 12:00 am Friday, January 18, 2008
By Angie Ledbetter
The University of Mississippi gathered the new football coaching staff for a press conference.
Those coaches will be instruction players from Panola County including: Jamarca Sanford, Peria Jerry, John Jerry and Chris Strong. Others from this year’s South Panola high school graduating class are expected to sign national letters of intent on February 6 to play with the Rebels who previously have received verbal commitments from Darius “Tig” Barksdale and Quinn Sanford.
Joining the Ole Miss staff are Tyrone Nix, Mike Markuson, Derrick Nix, James Shibest, Chris Vaughn, Tracy Rocker, Ron Dickerson Jr. and Kim Dameron who did not interview.
Tyrone Nix was a big hire as defensive coordinator/linebackers coach according to Ole Miss Head Football Coach Houston Nutt.
At age 35, he has been one of the youngest Division 1 college defensive coordinators for the past seven years. He coached the inside linebackers at South Carolina in 2007, topping the SEC and ranked fifth in the nation in pass defense. He spent 10 years at Southern Mississippi where he coached every position on defense. He loves the game of football and has a passion for it.
Why did he chose Ole Miss?
“It was an opportunity to come back to the state of Mississippi where I’ve been blessed and had a lot of success,” Nix said. “I had an opportunity to work with Coach Nutt. I always looked forward to one day working with him. We’ve had conversations throughout the years. I feel like this is the right place and the right time and Coach Nutt provided me with that opportunity.”
Nix considered that a blessing and also being able to work with younger brother Derrick a blessing.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Nix said. “We’ve been close the majority of our lives unless I whipped up on him a little bit. Seriously, it makes it special to be able to work together. In this profession, you move around and go from place to place.”
Nutt completed his first Ole Miss football staff Wednesday by announcing the selection of Rebel great Kent Austin as his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, according to a news release from the school.
As a rookie head coach in the Canadian Football league for Saskatchewan this past season, Austin guided the Roughriders to the Grey Cup Championship. the CFL’s Superbowl. Prior to that, Austin served as the offensive coordinator for the Toronto Argonauts from 2004-06 and helped coach the Argos to a Grey Cup title in 2004. He began his coaching career in 2003 as the quarterbacks coach for the Ottawa Renegades.
Austin played 10 seasons in the CFL and retired in 1996 as the league’s ninth all-time passer with 36,030 yards. His 57.6 yard completion average is third best, and he remains one of only four players to pass for more than 6,000 yards in a single season.
Prior to appearing in the CFL with the Roughriders in 1987, Austin spent a season with the St. Louis Cardinals of the NFL after he was their 12th round selection in the 1986 Draft.
An Ole Miss letter winner, Austin still ranks among the school’s all-time passing leaders. He is second in career completions (566) and attempts (981), third in passing yards (6,184) and 200-yard games (11), and fourth in passing touchdowns (31) and total offense (1,252).
A three-time pick for the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week award, Austin was an Academic All-SEC selection in 1982-85, and also received the National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award in 1985 and the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship in 1986. He was inducted into the University of Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.
A native of Brentwood, Tenn., Austin and his wife Shelley have three children – Kendall, Kassidy and Wesley.
Mike Markuson came on board as the running game coordinator/offensive line coach.
Markuson is the only offensive line coach Nutt has had in his 15 seasons as head coach. He began his coaching relationship with Nutt at Oklahoma State where he was a graduate assistant in 1987 and 1988. In 1989 Markuson was a graduate assistant at Notre Dame under former Arkansas head coach Lou Holtz.
Under Markuson, Arkansas running back Darren McFadden and Felix Jones each rushed for over 1,000 yards for the second straight season. Markuson’s offensive line kept rushers away from the Hog’s quarterback in 2007 and finished the season fifth nationally allowing 13 sacks.
“There was a month there for things to be said about us coming here,” Markuson said. “It was the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. That time between the LSU game and the bowl game turned into a circus. We felt we owed it to our players.”
Markuson said it was strange for the Arkansas players to know they were going to be leaving them and coaching at Ole Miss.
“We played like it in the bowl game,” he said. “I was really embarrassed for the Arkansas program. It looked like an interim staff with interim kids, and you can’t be a part time guy anywhere.
“The Lloyd Carr situation was different because he was retiring,” Markuson continued. “Reggie Herring did the best he could, but not having Houston there was odd. You want to go to the bowl, but I would be hard pressed to ever do it again. I’d rather go recruit for the next school and be done with it.”
Markuson said Nutt is what appears to set this staff apart. He cultivates caring relationships with the coaches and gets the same back in return.
“The family like process allows a long-term coaching position to take place,” he said. “I went with him to Murray State and I haven’t left him since. It’s unique to stay with someone as long as I have with him, but it’s about relationships and people. Kids see that and players see that when they see your families walking around the complex.”
For example, Markuson said the linemen will get to know his wife and children. He knows players pick up on how real relationships are.
“When they see how they are treated and how we let the kids hang around, it makes for special things,” he said. “That’s the type of relationship Houston and myself have.”
Yes, Markuson has been offered other opportunities, but turned them down for what he termed “something good.”
“When you have something good, you know it’s good and he’s taking care of you, paying you well and treating you well, what else is there?” he asked. “Some guys feel like they just have to move for the sake of moving. Or they move to be a coordinator or to the NFL. They start moving around, but you have to think about the kids.”
With a 13-year-old and 14-year-old, Markuson feels this a critical stage with children on the verge of high school.
“I want them to graduate in this community whether it be Oxford or Lafayette,” he said. “I hope I’m here that long. I’ve seen it with families and kids. It’s crazy when you move them every two years. There isn’t a need for it if you’re settled in a place and feel like you can get it done. As long as you have a chance to win, like we will here, what is there? All the jobs are the same. There might be bigger ponds or different school names, but we’re all in the same boat. It’s the same stress and same problems. If you are happy with a place and like who you work with, that is awesome. That is what I have with Houston.”
Derrick Nix was hired as running backs coach. He is 27 years old and engaged to be married.
Nix is a former standout football player from the University of Southern Mississippi. He is the only Southern Miss and C-USA player to rush for 1,000 yards in three seasons. He started his four years on the sidelines at Southern Miss as a defensive graduate assistant in 2003. The next year, he was promoted to tight ends coach and then he spent two years as the running back coach.
Nix spent 2007 in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons as an offensive assistant for Bobby Petrino. He is reunited with his brother, Tyrone, whom Nutt hired as the defensive coordinator in December.
“It was a good learning experience and I got a lot of great football information from Bobby Petrino,” Nix said. “I ended up with a great situation here in the state of Mississippi with Coach Nutt at one of the best universities in the SEC.
“I think that it is a huge deal anytime that you get both brothers or a family member at the same place,” Nix continued. “Your mom or dad and other brothers are able to come over and visit and they don’t have to worry about wearing a different team’s shirt,” he laughed.
Nix said during his time in the NFL he was exposed to so much football and that helped him.
Hired as the special teams coordinator and tight ends coach is James Shibest. Shibest was a member of Nutt’s staff at Arkansas for the last eight seasons, coaching special teams, tight ends and receivers. In 2007 he coached Felix Jones, who is third in the nation in kickoff returns.
“We are looking for a guy that can do both,” Shibest said. “To run the football, we think that’s important and it’s just as important to have a guy to throw it to. Guys are hard to find who can do both.
“Those guys are in the NFL,” Shibest continued. “We obviously have to focus on recruiting and go get us some. We’re excited about recruiting. We take our time. It’s extremely difficult coming in at the middle of recruiting.”
Character with a player is just as important as anything, according to Shibest. He said it is tough coming into the middle of recruiting because they have not had enough time to research potential players.
“You want to honor the guys that are committed also as long as they still want to be a Rebel,” he said. “The returning players are going to love Houston Nutt. He’s a player’s guy. I tell them first of all to be themselves.”
Chris Vaughn is the recruiting coordinator/safeties coach.
Vaughn has spent all but one year of his professional life with Nutt. He sees no minuses with recruiting at Ole Miss.
“Every school has different things to offer, but recruiting is recruiting in regards to what we will try to sell,” Vaughn said. “We’ll sell the people here: the family feel we will have here, the traditions at Ole Miss and facilities that are second to none. We’re now more centrally located in the SEC.”
Vaughn said he now feels they will be able to recruit from Florida, Georgia and Alabama harder and from Memphis which is just an hour away.
“There are some great athletes in this state, as good as any in the country,” he said. “The numbers may not be as many as say Florida or Georgia, but Mississippi produces great athletes historically and in recruiting you start at home first.”
According to Vaughn they will cultivate a homey feel where the players will be around them.
“We’re a family,” he said. “We want them in the lounge and in the academic center and visiting with us. We are very hands-on. We love being around our players and they will love being around us. We’ll have a great atmosphere for players in this building and that will help with recruiting. When a recruit comes here and our current players are talking about how much they love being around our football plant a lot, that sells the program.”
Tracy Rocker is a legend in Southeast Conference football. He will take over defensive line responsibilities at Ole Miss.
He is a former Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award winner. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004 and into Alabama’s state Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. He has spent the last five years on Nutt’s staff as the defensive line coach.
“The way recruiting has taken off over the past couple of years, right now we tend to go recruit kids because someone decides the kid is a 5, 2, 3 whatever star,” Rocker said. “My thoughts are I don’t know how you weigh hard work. Hard work is hard work. What I look for in a lineman is someone who works hard, who goes to school, who wants to get a degree, and learn how to be a man. That’s all I want. If you want to be cool, then go to Hollywood and get paid for it.”
Ron Dickerson Jr.
Ron Dickerson Jr is the wide receivers coach.
He has been at Ole Miss for one month. He is a 1996 graduate of the University of Arkansas where he played four years as a running back and wide receiver under Nutt. He played in two bowl games. From 1993-1996, he played professionally for the Kansas City Chiefs, the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL Europe Scottish Claymores.
He was the run game coordinator at Alabama State for four years and spent one season as wide receiver coach at Temple. He worked as an intern with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and a running back and special teams coach with the XFL Las Vegas outlaws. Dickerson coached running backs and special teams for three seasons at Missouri State and was the team’s NFL liaison.
The last three seasons, Dickerson has served as defensive backs and assistant head coach at Louisiana-Monroe. His final year, they became bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 and ended the season winning five of their last 6 games, including a 21-14 victory over Alabama.
He is the founder and president of R.U.N.T. (Recognizing Undeveloped Natural Talents), a youth organization to improve opportunities for young people in and out of athletics.
His father was a long time college and professional coach which included seven total years as the head coach at Alabama State and temple.
In preparing a player for the NFL, Dickerson said he would be able to tell them what it is like.
“You can kind of help guide them and show them what it takes to be on that level,” Dickerson said. “When you’re on that level, all of the class work is over. It’s a job now.”
Dameron is the secondary coach.