Now that Ole Miss’ head coaching search is over, it is time to turn their attention to beefing up a staff that, at its best, is still not anywhere near the top of the Southeastern Conference. No disrespect to the fam, but Ole Miss has an ample opportunity here to make some significant staff additions/changes that could really change the course of the program and more importantly, show that Luke is ready for the big-time and willing to make said additions/changes.
We mentioned in our most recent post about how Dabo Swinney went from interim coach to top 5 head coach and what steps he took to ensure that upward trajectory. Well, Ole Miss has over $5 million to tinker with their staff and if Matt Luke wants to inject some life into a program that is teetering on the cliff of apathy, he needs to start combing the college football world for able minds.
Here is who we think he should pick from.
Marion Hobby, defensive line coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars
Ole Miss could potentially add yet another Alabama native to its staff if Luke were to convince one of his former pals to leave Duval County to return to Lafayette County. Hobby is currently enjoying his first year as an NFL assistant, but he recently helped Clemson win a national title and become a top 5 program. He served as Dabo’s co-defensive coordinator for six seasons, during this time the Tigers defense average rank according to S&P+ ratings was 22nd, last three defenses were ranked 1st and 6th twice.
The Tennessee grad has coached at Ole Miss with Luke from 1999-2004. He’s also been at UL-Lafayette, Tennessee, New Orleans Saints, and Duke. As a college reruiter, he’s been signed eight four-stars including seven on the defensive side. Luke and Hobby coached together in Oxford and in Durham, both stints were under David Cutcliffe. Maybe he can work some magic and get him to come back to the Magnolia State to work with the Crimedawg.
Joe Pannunzio, tight ends/special teams coach at Alabama
The former Ole Miss assistant and Murray State head coach took a long break from coaching before getting back in the game this season in Tuscaloosa, but a return home to take the place of Maurice Harris could be in the works. Maybe. He also did work TCU, Auburn, Miami (Fla.), and the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League.
Not only is his coaching resume extremely impressive, but his chops as a recruiter is also well-known across the country. During his time with the Crimson Tide and the Hurricanes, he has been able to recruit several positions and secure signatures from five four-stars.
I am personally not sure if he would come on staff to replace Harris or Luke would just simply hire him as an analyst, but he would be an amazing addition. Other than his college experience as an assistant and head coach, he was the director of personnel operations for the Eagles.
Tommy Thigpen, linebackers coach at Tennessee
The next potential steal from Rocky Top is the fourth-year backers coach from El Dorado, Arkansas. The former Tar Heel has been in the game for almost 20 years at North Carolina, Tennessee State, Bowling Green, Illinois, Auburn, and now Tennessee. Thigpen is keeping with the theme of our list here and is a solid, home run-type recruiter that would immediately upgrade Luke’s staff.
During his time at Tennessee, he has dominated on both sides of the ball, signing the likes of five-star Kyle Phillips, four-stars Josh Malone, Preston Williams, Nigel Warrior, Dillon Bates, Maleik Gray, Darren Kirkland, Jr, Daniel Bituli, and Evan Berry. At Auburn, it was more of the same, signing four-stars Erique Florence, Ricky Parks, Kris Frost, Jonathan Rose, and Cassanova McKinzy.
It still remains to be seen that Thigpen is retained in Knoxville by whoever John Currie hires, but if he is released and searching for a job, this is a no-brainer.
Terry Price, defensive ends coach at Texas A&M
BRING THE MAN BACK! The current d-line coach in College Station has enjoyed two stops in Oxford and would be welcomed back with open arms if he decided to make it three. And boy oh boy can the man recruit. Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns, yeah that one, was recruited by Price at A&M. He also signed five-star Daylon Mack recently and our-stars Justin Madubuike, Justin Manning, Max Wright, and Isaiah Golden.
At this point, I think it’s a rule that Terry can ONLY sign four-stars. In fact, during his time in the Southeastern Conference, he has signed a whopping 27(!) of them. He’s also been a part of a staff transition to a 4-3 defense and was able to build an impressive unit with John Chavis. And his resume doesn’t stop there. He has quite the laundry list of former players that will impress anyone. Question is, will he be retained by the new staff in Aggieland? Or will he be looking for work elsewhere?
At Ole Miss, he coached NFL players Derrick Burgess (3rd round pick), Jerrell Powe (6th round pick), and Greg Hardy (6th round pick). On the Plains, he coached NFL selections Marcus Washington (2nd round pick), Quinton Reese (6th round pick), Reggie Torbor (4th round pick), Stanley McClover (7th round pick), and Quinton Groves (2nd round pick). When you look up “instant credibility” in the dictionary, Terry’s picture is right there next to the definition.
Will Hall, offensive coordinator at ULL
The Mississippi native has been a head coach at the Division II level and is now with Mark Hudspeth coaching offense. Hall took the position at Louisiana–Lafayette and in his one year in the Pelican State, he helped the Ragin Cajuns develop one of the more impressive offenses despite numerous quarterback injuries. They were 46th overall in S&P+, 94th in success rate, 73rd in rushing, 66th in adjusted pace, 65th in adjusted run rate, and 59th on passing down efficiency.
The 37-year old’s recruiting chops remain to be seen since he has never done it on a Power 5 level, but he is a local boy from Amory, Miss. and would be instrumental in coming up with game plans, watching film, and working with quarterbacks as an analyst. He’s a former All-American at Northwest Mississippi Community College and a Harlon Hill Trophy winner. It would be fun to see what he, Longo, and Luke could conjure up as play callers with their similar but different backgrounds.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Check back throughout the off-season for updates. We will be adding and removing names if and when Matt Luke makes any additions.