Long-Gone-O

Phil Longo is long gone-o, on his way to North Carolina to serve as offensive coordinator under new Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown.

And now Matt Luke is looking for his second coordinator. This is turning into a complete overhaul of the coaching staff.

Ole Miss will be a different football team in 2019, and thank goodness for that.

While I don’t expect overnight success, i.e., a winning season in 2019, having new coordinators and new systems and just a new look altogether will at least give Luke something he didn’t enjoy in 2018 – a fresh start.

Maybe Luke can get this thing out of the ditch.

Shifting gaze to Ole Miss hoops

With college football season finally over (bowl games, early signing day and defensive coordinator search aside), I suppose it’s time to shift my gaze to Ole Miss hoops.

I have been reluctant to do so this season, mainly because I feel like we’re destined for another one of those seasons where the Rebels look pretty decent during non-conference action and then mediocre to less than mediocre when SEC play begins.

But maybe the Rebels will surprise me and everyone else (Ole Miss was a popular preseason pick to finish last in the SEC) with a good season. Maybe Terence Davis will play like the future NBAer we thought he was two seasons ago. Maybe Kermit Davis is a real-life Norman Dale and he can take this group to heights not seen since the Marshall Henderson days.

I need something positive in my life.

Make this happen, Ole Miss Basketball.

The Rebels, 5-2 with losses to Butler and Cincinnati, play at Illinois State on Saturday (7pm, SEC+). Hopefully Ole Miss moves to 6-2 and fuels my expectations with a nice road win.

Remembering the Anonymous Coach

Do you remember that “Anonymous Coach” article published by Athlon’s last summer? I do. I was perturbed by it for several different reasons, most of which revolved around my genuine belief that Ole Miss would be really good on offense and win 6, 7 or possibly 8 games. I also thought the anonymous coach was wrong about Ta’amu, and finally, I wondered if the “anonymous coach” was a real SEC football coach at all because back in July the quotes seemed fairly provocative – at least from the perspective of an Ole Miss fan.

Most of you were upset by it, too.

In retrospect, anonymous coach was right on some things.

Give it a read:

“I don’t care what anyone says or how they try to spin it there, this is dead program walking. At least for a couple of years. They lost an elite quarterback and receiver because they didn’t want to hang around for the NCAA fallout, and they’re still dealing with that on the road in recruiting. Hey, there’s no honor among thieves in recruiting. The big thing right now is what happens with the NCAA. Once that gets resolved, you at least have a plan.”

“There were some really qualified coaches who wanted that job, but only with a significant commitment to security. I’m talking six or seven years of commitment. I truly believe that’s why Matt (Luke) was retained. It’s easy to move on from him once it hits rock bottom. And I don’t say that lightly because I really enjoy Matt. He’s a good guy who’s in an untenable situation.”

“A.J. Brown might be the best receiver in our league. A physical, tough, catch anything receiver. And he can run. The question is, can (Jordan) Ta’amu get him the ball consistently? I know everyone is talking about the great numbers Ta’amu put up last season when Shea Patterson got hurt. But he wasn’t facing the best defenses in our league. He had a few gimme putts there. I want to see if he can do it when the big boys are on the field.”

“The one place where you’re really going to see the NCAA stuff impact this program is depth. I know people always laugh when we talk about depth, but in this league, you’re in deep trouble without it. They’re just not as deep on the lines of scrimmage as they need to be.”

“I love that defensive front, but if any of those front-line starters get hurt or get tired, who’s next? I think you’re going to see that a lot at various positions.”

 

What is Ole Miss football right now?

The problem with hiring Matt Luke last year is that everything stayed the same. Sink or swim, Luke was saddled with an aerial-minded offensive coordinator and a defensive coordinator that, let’s face it, wasn’t up to the task.

Ole Miss sank.

So now what?

Typically, when a new head coach is hired, he gets to put his own stamp on the program. Luke didn’t have that privilege, or if he did, he chose not to change anything.

So here we are headed into year 2 (three if you count the interim year) and we have no idea what Luke is all about. If we don’t know what Ole Miss football is right now, how are recruits supposed to know?

As of right now we don’t even know if Phil Longo is staying or going, but the Ole Miss fan sites are both reporting that he’s going – maybe – and that Luke is hoping he leaves on his own accord.

But back to the problem at hand.

What is Matt Luke? Is he a spread coach? Is he a pro-style coach? Does he want to grind it out on the ground or air it out? Can he recruit a linebacker or 12? Can he build a buzz about Ole Miss football that catches on with the recruits? How will he do that after a 5-7 season and with changes at both coordinator positions?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, and not knowing the answers makes it hard for me to generate any enthusiasm for the direction of the program.

Luke doesn’t even have the benefit of being the energetic new coach. He’s been the head coach for two seasons now (again, counting the interim year). I just don’t know what he’s going to build on here.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but a clean slate and a completely new direction would have probably been a better choice by Ross Bjork last year.

But of course this conclusion does make an assumption – that being that Bjork could have found a quality coach other than Luke to take the job.

Maybe he couldn’t. Or maybe the price was too high for the ones willing to consider it. Taking on an Ole Miss program strapped by sanctions and a 2-year bowl ban may have been more than coaches were willing to consider without a $6 million per year contract.

We’ll never know because Bjork won’t undermine Luke by admitting these things. All I know is that the program has a long way to go, no buzz, no momentum, and no real identity.

This is not a good place to be.

Luke isn’t going to work out

Hiring Matt Luke was a mistake.

Keeping him will be a bigger mistake.

I know Luke isn’t going to be let go after one season, but keeping Luke and firing both coordinators isn’t going to result in more wins. It’s just delaying the inevitable.

Ross Bjork needs to hit the reset button and go hire a proven winner. If he doesn’t, he and Luke may both be looking for jobs in a year or two.

In the meantime, get ready for empty seats and an empty win column.

This may not seem fair to Luke, but maybe it wasn’t fair of Bjork to give Luke this job to begin with. He was an offensive line coach named interim that was basically a figurehead to two coordinators already in place. The NCAA hamstrung the program. The chances of this working were slim.

Now he has to go out and find coordinators that want to work under him on a depleted roster. Good luck with that.

This just isn’t going to work out.

Hiring new coordinators is simply delaying the inevitable.

It’s time to start over with a clean slate. Mike Leach would drive to Oxford.

If Bjork wants to change the narrative he will make it happen.

Egg Bowl!

Sure the Bulldogs are heavy favorites, but who cares, am I right?

You know the tired rivalry cliche – “You can throw the records out the window with this one.”

But it’s true.

Ole Miss could beat the Bulldogs. Nick Fitzgerald could also break the single game SEC total yardage record in a route to end all routes.

Either could happen.

All I know is it’s Thanksgiving and my family rented a big house out in the country and the first thing I did upon entering was make sure the Directv worked because I’m not missing it.

It’s the dadgum Egg Bowl and I’m ready for some Turkey, hash brown casserole, a beverage or two and a big side of Ole Miss beating Mississippi State.

It could happen, and if it does it’ll be the most delicious Thanksgiving dessert of all time.

Welcome to Desperation Week

Feeling desperate to beat Vanderbilt is a terrible place to be.

It’s like being so hungry that you’re willing to eat canned meat. If you are ever that hungry then you know you are in a bad place.

But here we are in mid-November needing to feel like our Rebels can beat Vanderbilt, and doubting that they can.

It’s called desperation, and that’s what we are – desperate. Desperate for a win over 4-6 Vanderbilt.

If beating Vanderbilt was the equivalent of eating a can of spam, I’m certain just about every person reading this would pour a tall glass of something, grab the can opener and a fork and choke that canned meat down.

Welcome to Year of the Fan!

What a time to be alive!

How to Stay Sane in November

Ole Miss has gotten way too predictable. There’s really not much fun in stating the obvious. Defense bad. Offense can be good, but not good enough.

Cheering for Ole Miss the rest of the way is going to be a lot like cheering for my kid’s soccer team. I don’t go to her games because I’m invested in the wins and losses. I go because I’m invested in her. I just want her to play hard, get better and have fun.

Ole Miss is 5-4 and will be or should be underdogs in all three of its remaining games. I plan to watch every one of them, just like I watch my daughter’s soccer games. I just want the Rebels to try hard, get better and have fun.

This may sound absurd to some of you, but for me it’s self preservation. You can’t watch these last games expecting W’s. It’s just not realistic and it will only lead to pain and sorrow.

At this point winning is a bonus. An egg bowl win would be a bonus with a free cruise thrown in.

If you can’t watch the last three games with a similar mindset you may want to find a different way to occupy your time because if you’re planning to watch Ole Miss and expecting wins then pain is in your future.

It’s South Carolina Week

Ole Miss is one of the most underwhelming 5-3 football teams these eyes have ever seen thanks to a defense that ranks near the bottom of every major category and an offense that can’t seem to get it done against SEC competition.

That’s why it’s very difficult for me to forecast a win over the next four games.

Ordinarily, at 5-3, I’d look over these next four games with dreams of seven, eight or even nine wins and a decent bowl game, but the Rebs haven’t done anything to make me believe that possible this season (obviously the bowl game is a non-starter anyway).

Jake Bentley, who has struggled mightily at quarterback for South Carolina under the always offensively challenged Will Muschamp is destined to turn it all around this weekend. And the same can probably be said for each of the offenses that await.

The Gamecocks are 4-3 (3-3 SEC) with wins over Vanderbilt, Missouri, a narrow win over Tennessee and a narrow loss to Texas A&M. That’s good enough to cause me to fear some serious wreckage in Oxford on Saturday.

Happy Monday.