Question for Clay and others about Danny Ford era

People like to say that Danny Ford left a great group of players for HDN, but…

Did fans really think the players were great during the back-to-back 4-7 seasons?

I’m guessing, had we had messages boards, social media and radio call-in shows, the fans would have been talking about the poor recruiting and lack of talent. They’d be saying that Ford missed on recruits and didn’t have enough of this and that.

1997 Stats

Offense averaged 216.5 passing, 56.5 rushing (only 1.8 average)
Defense gave up 219.4 passing, 131.7 rushing

Stoerner completed 48.5% of his attempts.
Top RB, Rod Stinson had 413 yds.

I know Danny Ford thought he had a great team coming back, but… so does our current coach.

Now this could be an argument that we need a new coach for a renewed injection of energy, or it could be an argument for letting the current coach return to reap the rewards of his hard work… there’s risk either way… could be reward either way.

You make good points. Keep him to see if he can make it happen. One more year.

What I remember from 1997 was that it wasn’t the record, but the fact that we looked lost, uncoached. Was that true? I don’t know, but I thought so at the time. I remember having to call time out time and time again to get a play in. The sideline looking totally disorganized, etc. For ME, that was when I said “enough, need to make a change.” Would Ford have had a good year in 1998? I think so. He was in lots and lots of way a better coach than Nutt. That said, Nutt did bring a breath of fresh air and he was good at giving that pep talk. I think that 1998 team thrived on that. (That just wasn’t enough to keep the program going year in year out, Nutt was great as a breath of fresh air, not very good and sustaining things, in my opinion.)

I think some of that at least is true for this year. Dumb mistakes after dumb mistakes. The opening kickoff return @ LSU? Just an example. Probably not as bad as we looked in 1997 though.

I always thought Danny Ford was having a hard time personally in 1997, I believe he’d lost his father before the season started. I remember in his press conferences he acted like guys I’d seen outside of sports who were burnt out/having emotional problems.

By 1997 he had cleaned up the roster, made the players go to class, and set the foundation for some solid work. He just did not seem to have the fire to keep going. So the team was all set up for… Houston Nutt.

Houston Nutt was left the core of a good team, that had been beat up as youngsters. That offensive line gave up an unbelievable number of sacks for two seasons learning Kay Stephenson’s seven-step drop passing game. Clint Stoerner was raw and took a beating. But they all became seasoned in that process.

Houston Nutt knocked out some of that stuff and went more with a running game with some play-action passing. So he took advantage of some things that were there and culled some things (offensive plays) that were too tough for that line to block.

Young players in the offensive line leads to sure death. Juniors and seniors who have played are much easier to work with as far as coaching. They have seen it all, understand it all.

There were other things. I do think morale was down. There may have been a black-white divide that needed fixing. Houston fixed both. He was a huge dose of enthusiasm. Keith Burns was a breath of fresh air for what was a good bunch of defensive players, that just needed some reshaping, mostly in the secondary.

One single decision galvanized the defense and that was placing cornerback Zac Painter at strong safety. He had some cover skills and could tackle. And, he could be protected by the free safety. He was a great asset as a blitzer and was the finishing touch for that defense. He gave the defense the ability to play an eight-man front and also to drop into coverage. He was smart and had enough athletic ability. He’d been a liability at corner, but was a strength at safety. Kenoy Kennedy was a great free safety. That secondary loved playing for Burns. He gave them the opportunity to blitz and they felt like they had been given new life.

I’m told that Houston’s first meeting with the team after being named coach proved to be interesting. The team filed in and sat in groups of black and white. They segregated themselves. Houston told them that. Had them leave and come in and were seated in a random way. It was a bold mood.

Houston brought the team together and they played as one for much of his time. Players liked him. It was a different morale.

So that was important. But so was having experienced players and quite a bit of talent, especially in the offensive and defensive line. They were tough, knew how to practice and weren’t afraid of anything. Give Danny Ford credit for that.

They had men like Russ Brown, Brandon Burlsworth, Chad Abernathy, Grant Garrett and Bobby Williams. That was an amazing core for an offensive line. The defensive line was Randy Garner, Melvin Bradley, Ryan Hale and C.J. McLain with backups like Curt Davis, Carlos Hall and D.J. Cooper. Joe Dean Davenport returned at tight end.

That’s the basis of a good SEC football team. You win with linemen, but there were good skill set guys like Madre Hill and Chrys Chukwuma at tailback. You had Marvin Caston and Nathan Norman at fullback. There was Anthony Lucas, Michael Snowden, Emanuel Smith and Michael Williams at wide receiver. All four of those were juniors.

Those 4-7 teams were young. But there was some talent there. They got beat up by a strong SEC. They arrived as juniors and seniors. Would that have happened with Danny Ford? Maybe not. But Danny and guys like Fitz Hill and Jim Washburn should be credited for recruiting some good players.

For sure, one thing we learned from Danny…you don’t have to be a scientific rocket to figure things out… :expressionless: