OXFORD, Miss. - Art Kehoe spent nearly three decades helping build the Miami
Hurricanes' image as the swaggering bad boys of college football. His new mission: Bring that attitude to Mississippi
''It's all about being in shape, tough as hell, on time and busting your (hump) every day of your life,'' Kehoe said. ''You can't stop delivering the message. They're going to get that message as hard as they can get it.''
This spring is crucial for Kehoe and offensive coordinator Dan Werner, who are spreading that message in a new place. Forced out at Miami after a lopsided bowl loss, Werner and Kehoe joined Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron, another ex-Hurricanes assistant, to help turn the Rebels' recent stagger into a swagger.
''It's not 'We can win.' We WILL win. That's the attitude we want to have, and it starts from (each player) individually,'' Werner said. ''If you're blocking the best defensive lineman in the country, you have to have the attitude that 'I'm going to kick his butt.'''
That was Miami's reputation during the 1980s, and that's the approach Ole Miss is taking to reverse Orgeron's miserable first season in which the Rebels finished 3-8 with one of the worst offenses in the nation.
He tried to run the freewheeling system perfected at his previous stop, Southern California
, by his mentor Pete Carroll. That plan backfired - at least partly because of philosophical differences with then-offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.
Orgeron fired Mazzone after the Rebels ranked 111th in Division I-A with 281.7 yards per game and were last in the SEC with averages of 13.5 points and 73 yards rushing, and then searched for a coordinator capable of overhauling the offense.
He found a pair of assistants cast aside by his former employer. Miami fired Kehoe, Warner and two other coaches in the aftermath of an embarrassing 40-3 loss to LSU
in the Peach Bowl.
Orgeron quickly snatched them up, making Kehoe his offensive line coach and putting Werner in charge of the offense.
''I told (Werner) I needed a coordinator that could come in and be confident in running his own scheme,'' Orgeron said. ''Dan has complete control of the offense.''
Werner plans to spend most of the spring teaching his players the basics of the Hurricanes' pro-style offense, which is predicated on confusing defenses by running seemingly basic plays from multiple sets.
''I want our guys to run certain plays out of literally a hundred different formations,'' Werner said. ''The philosophy is, keep it simple for our players, make it hard on the defense.''
And, more importantly, prevent a culture of losing from forming at Ole Miss, the only SEC West school never to appear in the league championship game.
''You start winning games, you start getting cocky,'' Kehoe said.
Miami never had a problem believing it could win, and during two seasons in the late 1980s, this trio helped shape that attitude.
Orgeron and Werner were graduate assistants while Kehoe coached the offensive line in 1988, when Miami finished 11-1 and won the Orange Bowl in coach Jimmy Johnson's final season.
Dennis Erickson took over in 1989, moved Orgeron to defensive line coach, made Werner a volunteer assistant and kept Kehoe in charge of the offensive line during the Hurricanes' march to a third national championship.
They broke up the following year, with Werner moving to UNLV and eventually to several other schools before returning in 2001. Orgeron left Miami after the 1992 season and latched on at I-AA Nicholls State in '94.
Kehoe remained with the Hurricanes until he was fired after his 27th season as a player or coach in Coral Gables.
Now they're together again, hoping to recreate Miami's mystique in Mississippi.
''The first thing is to learn the schemes so (players) know what to do,'' Werner said. ''Then, you've got to be a good enough player to back up what you're talking about. And once you've got that confidence that you're winning on the field and you know what you're doing, it sort of builds itself.''