Ole Miss

Matt Luke has decisions to make on his Ole Miss staff

New Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke was pleased by the performance of his staff during the 2017 season.
New Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke was pleased by the performance of his staff during the 2017 season. Associated Press

Much of Matt Luke’s interview for the permanent Ole Miss job had to do with his plan for the Rebels’ coaching staff.

As of now he says no decisions have been made on possible changes. All assistant coaches are on the road recruiting.

Luke defended his staff, saying he got a lot of credit during the season for keeping the team focused and playing hard but that credit should also go to the staff.

“One of the things I’ve learned in this four-month period as a head coach is that you’re always evaluating, you’re always looking to see what makes your program better. I can tell you that I’m very happy with the way the staff performed and the way we finished the season. I’m going to evaluate everything in this program from top to bottom and make the decisions that are best for this program,” he said.

Offensive coordinator Phil Longo and defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff were two of five assistant coaches in their first seasons on staff, hires made by former coach Hugh Freeze.

The numbers may change as teams compete in bowl games, but with the Ole Miss season complete the Rebels are No. 123 in rushing defense, No. 101 in rushing offense, No. 8 in passing offense, No. 35 in scoring offense and No. 110 in scoring defense.

The rankings include 129 FBS teams.

Other first-year assistants were defensive line coach Freddie Roach, wide receivers coach Jacob Peeler and linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto.

Players’ Twitter campaign

Still sweaty and running on adrenaline after a 31-28 win at Mississippi State, Ole Miss players were heard in the locker room yelling, ‘We want Luke, we want Luke.”

The next day – the day Luke interviewed for the job – many of them took to Twitter to call for Luke’s hiring again.

It was not a players’ Twitter campaign that meant the most to Bjork, however.

“After every win or loss I was in the locker room. I was in here (team meeting room) last night, and I could see the look on their faces like, ‘Uh oh, who’s walking through that door?’ It’s not about what they say. It’s about what they did. It’s about what they did that shows, ‘I want a coach who players want to play for.’ That was their impact. All of them could have called me. It’s not about what they say, it’s about what they did. That’s more meaningful than anything,” Bjork said.

The impact of early signing day

One big new wrinkle for every school who has a coaching search this season is the new early signing period which now begins Dec. 20.

The fortunate thing about our search is that we had a big window, so we could get a jump start on the market shifting,” vice chancellor for athletics Ross Bjork said. “A lot of people predicted this. You saw a lot more coaching conversations taking place in the month of November. Does that mean you make a rushed hire? No, you make the right hire.”

Bjork said having started the search earlier than most had him in position to make better evaluations of more candidates within the last few weeks.

A lot of work was done the last two to three weeks, Bjork said.

“I wanted to move as fast as we could when the season was over because of signing day, and because we are in an unknown (NCAA) situation.”