Nutt Stays Busy With Recruiting, Shrine Game

FAYETTEVILLE -- Houston Nutt admits his mind will be somewhere other than on the East-West Shrine Game, even though he's coaching one of the teams.

With National Signing Day less than three weeks away, Nutt said he'll spend the next few days trying to squeeze in as many in-home visits with recruits as possible while still handling his responsibilities as the East team's coach.

This means Nutt and several Arkansas assistant coaches will leave San Antonio, Texas -- where the East-West Shrine Game will be played at 3 p.m. Saturday -- as soon as the daily practices conclude.

Over the next week, Nutt is scheduled to fly to Houston twice, Dallas twice and Alabama once. He said he expects to make an average of 2-3 home visits a day.

"These next 25 days are probably the toughest in college football, if you would ask any head coach, any assistant. Twenty-four. seven, you're thinking about recruiting," Nutt said. "Even when I'm on the practice field, I'm going to be thinking about what I'm going to say that night.

"So the focus won't be all football. It's going to be primarily on recruiting for the Arkansas Razorbacks."

With not much time to practice, and his priorities clearly elsewhere, Nutt said he will keep the offensive game plan for the East-West Shrine Game simple. He plans to implement 3-4 run plays and another 12-14 pass plays in preparation for the annual all-star game, which will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

"You're not switching gears right now because it's going to be recruiting full-time. That's going to be 98 percent of it," Nutt said. "The only thing I'm going to do is basically show up for practice. We're going to give [the East players] a little plan; it's going to be simple. You can only be in two formations, so that there is not that much preparation required."

A Better Finish?
Considering how his senior season went, former Arkansas fullback Brandon Kennedy said he's welcoming the chance to play in the East-West Shrine Game.

"I don't think I went out the right way, but I think this is a way to rekindle the flame," Kennedy said this week.

Kennedy was added recently to the East's roster after Nutt made a strong push to get the Tyler, Texas native on the team. Nutt also tried to get former Arkansas linebacker Pierre Brown on the roster, but the team was already deep at the position.

"I know Coach Nutt was pushing the envelope very hard to get me in," Kennedy said. "He called me a couple of days ago and was like, 'You were selected.' I was like, 'Thanks.' I know how hard he pushed to get me in, and I appreciated it."

Kennedy will take a break from working out in Nashville, Tenn., in preparation for the NFL Draft to join four former teammates in the East-West Shrine Game. Running back De'Arrius Howard, safety Vickiel Vaughn, offensive lineman Kyle Roper, as well as former Arkansas quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, will play for the East team.

Nutt said he had turned down a chance to coach in the East-West Shrine Game once before. But after going 4-7 last season and missing out on a bowl game for the second consecutive year, he felt obligated to his seniors to take up the offer.

"I really felt I owed my seniors that didn't get to go to a bowl," Nutt said. "I really felt like I owed them. This gave them a chance; I could get them in a ball game."

Still Work To Do
ESPN is still trying to work out the details for Arkansas to open the 2006 season with a nationally televised game with Southern California.

An ESPN spokesperson said this week that the network is still holding discussions with both schools, but that "nothing is finalized yet."

Arkansas is scheduled to open the season Sept. 2 against Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock. But officials from ESPN and Arkansas are hopeful that the change can be made to allow for a season opener with USC.

"It would create a lot of excitement for our fans and our players," Nutt said.

The Trojans had little trouble in last season's meeting with the Razorbacks, cruising to a 70-17 win in Los Angeles.

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