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Cutcliffe working with another one of the Manning boys

By Staff
May 3, 2001
Cleaning out the notebook from the Ole Miss alumni meeting.
During his days as offensive coordinator at Tennessee, Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe worked with Peyton Manning, the son of the legendary Rebel star Archie Manning. That partnership would help make the Volunteers a national contender.
Peyton is now a NFL star with the Indianapolis Colts, and Cutcliffe is at Ole Miss, working with another Manning, Eli.
It's too early to compare the two brothers as players, Eli is just starting his career. But how does Cutcliffe see Eli at this point in his career as compared to Peyton when he first started?
Eli Manning appeared in seven games last year, including the Music City Bowl. His bowl game appearance was very promising to the Ole Miss faithful as he threw three touchdown passes against West Virginia to tie an Ole Miss bowl record.
When you've been around for a while, you get to see today's stars and leaders before they become stars and leaders.
During the early 1980s while I was sports editor of the Vicksburg Evening Post, we covered Bentonia High School, a small country school north of town. Bentonia didn't have a very good football team, and they weren't the best at baseball. But they could take on the best of the best when it came to boys basketball.
Bentonia's superstar player at that time was a polite, non-assuming young gentleman named Rod Barnes. He wasn't the tallest or the fastest player on the court, but he could shoot a basketball and earned all-state honors along with a state championship or two.
The Bentonia Wolves played in a small Hoosier-type gym, always it seemed, before a sellout crowd. They had a great rivalry with another one of our area teams, Utica High School (which I'm told is closed now). During Rod's senior year, the two teams met five times. They split the first four and Bentonia won the fifth during the state tournament.
When Rod finished at Bentonia, he went on to Ole Miss where he earned All-SEC honors. The folks in Oxford were so impressed with him that they named their top basketball award in his honor, the "Rod Barnes Heart of a Champion" award.
After he finished at Ole Miss, I figured he would end up coaching somewhere. Sure enough, the Rebels hired him as an assistant coach. Then in 1999, Ole Miss hired Rod as its head basketball coach, and he has certainly lived up to the challenge. Not only has he put the Rebels in the NCAA Tournament for two of the last three season, making it to the Sweet 16 during the 2000-2001 campaign; but he has been named SEC coach of the year and the Naismith coach of the year.
Wednesday was the first time I had seen Rod in person since he was in high school. We talked about the old Bentonia-Utica rivalry. We remembered how he was the leader of his team, and Casey Fisher, who would later have a standout basketball career at the University of Southern Mississippi, was the leader of the Utica team. (He said Casey is a pastor now and lives in Utica.) I asked how Rod's old prep coach, Buddy Smith, was doing, and he noted that Smith is now the superintendent of the Yazoo County schools.
Then we talked a little Ole Miss basketball and about what he was doing to get the team ready for next year.
I have always been impressed with Rod and the way he has handled himself in the past, but more so now. Here is a guy who has coached two teams to the NCAA Tournament and is the national coach of the year, and he handles this big-time success well.
Lee Rogers, who played his prep football at Lamar School, is deadlocked in a battle for kicker on the 2001 Ole Miss football team.
According to the Ole Miss internet site, last year, Rogers saw action in all 12 games, including the Music City Bowl, handling kickoff duties. He earned his first letter. He had eight touchbacks in 51 kickoffs during the regular season, and his average depth of kicks was the opponents' four-yard line.
During his prep days at Lamar, Lee earned All-Conference honors at kicker, wide receiver, and defensive back.
He earned three letters in football, four in baseball, five in soccer, and also lettered in track, and helped lead baseball team to 22-6 record and 1999 conference championship.
He is the son of Walter and Ellen Rogers.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.

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