On Friday, the brother of our pal Bunkie Perkins was enjoying a night on the town in Oxford when he noticed a couple of conspicuous men having a discussion over beers.
So my brother saw Matt Luke and RichRod having drinks last night. Ole Miss is about to have 2001’s hottest offense! pic.twitter.com/sUZopRluJK— Out of Office Reply Perkins (@BunkiePerkins) December 29, 2018
That’d be Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke and one Rich Rodriguez, the noted offensive innovator best known for head coaching stints at Michigan and Arizona. This, of course, is notable because Luke is on the hunt for an offensive coordinator after Phil Longo left for Mack Brown’s North Carolina staff.
The Ole Miss Spirit has confirmed that Luke and Rich Rod, who were also spotted at Big Bad Breakfast on Saturday morning (good strategy—the BBB line isn't bad during Christmas break), were indeed discussing Ole Miss’ vacant coordinator position.
Rodriguez hasn’t coached since being fired from Arizona in 2017 amid a sexual harassment scandal. A university investigation failed to substantiate specific allegations made by a former athletic department employee but did, it said in a statement, “become aware of information, both before and during the investigation, which caused it do be concerned with the direction and climate of the football program.” He went 43-35 in six seasons at Arizona.
Rodriguez was hired by Michigan in 2008 but flamed out after going a combined 15-22 over three seasons. His last game was a 38-point drubbing at the hands of Mississippi State in the 2011 Gator Bowl.
Still, Rich Rod can claim a place among college football’s great innovators. The spread, read-option offense he developed at West Virginia in the 2000s has become the norm in college football—most of the read-option and RPO concepts used by Hugh Freeze and still deployed by Luke can be traced back to Rodriguez.
The Ole Miss offense can use some innovation. Here’s what I wrote about Longo after he took the job in Chapel Hill:
It’s hard to argue against the overall numbers Longo’s Ole Miss offenses accumulated: in 2018, the Rebels ranked fifth nationally in yards per pass, seventh in yards per play and 12th in offensive S&P+.
But a more nuanced look at the numbers reveals a concerning trend: during his two year tenure, Longo racked up yards and points against overmatched opponents but routinely underwhelmed against top defenses. In 15 games against teams ranked outside the top 60 in defensive S&P+, Longo’s offense poured on eight yards per play and over 41 points per contest; in eight games against defenses inside the top 30, those numbers plummet to 4.9 yards per play and about 15 points per game.
It doesn’t help that the Rebel offense will lose most of its top players next season: stud wideouts A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge, superstar left tackle Greg Little (and two other O-line starters) and QB Jordan Ta’amu.
There’s still talent on the roster, but it's young. We’ll see if Rich Rod will be the one tasked with developing it.