FAYETTEVILLE (AP) — Jerry Franklin was recruited by Houston Nutt and Mississippi, among a host of other schools.
Only at the time Nutt and the Rebels were anything but one and the same. The current Ole Miss coach was then the coach at Arkansas, where the senior middle linebacker eventually signed.
Franklin redshirted his first season with the Razorbacks in 2007, which also ended up being Nutt’s last during his up-and-down 10 seasons before he left for Ole Miss. Their paths will cross one last time when No. 10 Arkansas (5-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) travels to face the Rebels (2-4, 0-3) on Saturday.
"It kind of was never an emotional charge for me," said Franklin. "It was just a game on the schedule, playing against another team."
Ole Miss is 2-1 under Nutt against the Razorbacks, winning the first two games before Arkansas held on for a 38-24 win last year in Fayetteville. As the years have passed following the Nutt-Arkansas divorce, those involved say the emotions have died down.
Only seven players remain on the Razorbacks roster who either played for or redshirted during Nutt’s final season. In addition to Franklin, they are Isaac Madison, Greg Gatson, Bret Harris, Grant Cook, Grant Freeman and Jake Bequette.
There is a host of others who were recruited by Nutt at Arkansas before he left and Bobby Petrino was hired as coach. Senior receiver Jarius Wright is one of those and remembers well the ill feelings many Razorbacks fans showed Nutt on the way to Oxford and in his return to Fayetteville two years ago.
"It’s always been just another game for us, but earlier with the fans it (was) always ‘Beat coach Nutt,’" Wright said. "It’s just the Ole Miss Rebels to us, and we’re out to beat the Ole Miss Rebels."
Nutt has bigger problems this season than his rocky relationship with fans in his home state. The Rebels were crushed 52-7 by No. 2 Alabama last week, the program’s worst defeat since 1981.
A loss to the Razorbacks would be Ole Miss’ 10th in a row in SEC play, which has never happened in the school’s 79 years in the league. So, while there have been plenty of questions this week in Arkansas about its past connections with Nutt, most of the talk in Oxford has centered on the coach’s job security.
"It is not like it was the first two years," Nutt said. "Being in the living rooms of Jake Bequette, Jerry Franklin, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs, Grant Cook and Grant Freeman still remind you that there are connections there.
"You see them play on film and are proud of them. The first two years were tough. The fourth time is a little bit different."
Childs is another of the Razorbacks who was recruited by Nutt as a high school senior. Even though Arkansas has the upper hand coming into the game, after back-to-back wins over Texas A&M and Auburn, the senior receiver isn’t looking past Ole Miss.
"It has kind of died down some," Childs said. "It’s been about four years now, so it’s kind of died down now. But they still have a great team, so we’ve got to go out and play hard this weekend."
And whether anyone involved says so directly or not, the "it" that Childs mentioned isn’t completely dead.
"We know they’re going to play their best game against us," Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee said. "They’re going to be fired up and ready to go against us."