Ole Miss wasted little time getting rid of Wesley McGriff after a disgustingly bad 2018 season where the Rebels finished 109th in S&P+ defense. But, they certainly took their time finding his replacement in the weeks following the 35-3 loss to Mississippi State.
Head coach Matt Luke and director of intercollegiate athletics Ross Bjork finally got their man after a long and winding search when former Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre accepted an offer from them to become the Rebels’ defensive coordinator, per Chase Parham of Rebel Grove.
At one point, it appeared that Alabama co-defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach Pete Golding might be interested in the gig, but he eventually decided to stay in Tuscaloosa as a part of Nick Saban’s mortal engine.
As our friends at Ralphie Report mention, most believe that coach Mac was either approached about the Ole Miss job after Hugh Freeze was fired or at the very least called given his ties to not only the Rebels program, but he has also enjoyed plenty of stops in the Southeast during his coaching career.
The former 2009 AFCA Coach of the Year and 2016 Pac-12 Conference/Walter Camp/Home Depot/AP Coach of the Year was relieved of his duties after a tough 2018 season in Boulder where the Buffaloes went 5-6 and finished 6th in the Pac-12 South. But, the resume and pedigree is there in spades for the Miami, Fla. native who has coached under the likes of Ray Goff at Georgia, David Cutcliffe at Ole Miss and Duke, and Bill Parcells in the NFL for the Cowboys and the Jets.
As a head coach, he had successful campaigns at San Jose State and Colorado but ultimately struggled to consistently win at Colorado. He was able to turn the Spartans from a 1-12 team to an 11-2 in just three seasons. He did win a Pac-12 South division title at CU, going 10-4 (8-1) and earning a berth in the Alamo Bowl. Still, the other five seasons he went just 20-40 and 6-38 in conference.
Alas, MacIntyre is coming to Oxford to fix the defense, not be a head coach. And he has shown that he is very good at doing that. Especially in spots where it is glaringly awful. Let’s take a look at that and two other reasons why this is a surprisingly good hire.
He has experience building things up from nothing.
His first big-time defensive coordinator gig was at a basketball school in Durham, N.C. for a former Ole Miss head coach. The year before he arrived the Blue Devils were 84th in defense S&P+.
Insert MacIntyre and they made a 37-point jump and finished 47th overall in defense S&P+. His two years in Bull City saw him field the two best defenses statistically EVER in Duke history, earning him the AFCA award for assistant of the year in 2009. And he did it with very few, if any, blue chips at a higher education institution that demands a lot from its students.
We already talked a little bit about his stint with the Spartans in NorCal but you have to see the numbers to truly appreciate what he did with that defense there in such short time.
You might remember this from our hot board that was released earlier this month, but his defense went from 104th in S&P+ to 33rd(!) in just two years, per Bill C’s advanced analytics. When he arrived in Boulder, a place that had won just four games combined the two years before he arrived, the program saw immense improvement across the board.
MacIntyre became just the second head coach since 1932 at Colorado to win his first game, joining Rick Neuheisel in 1995, as the only to do it in the 81-year span.
In 2015, his Buffs defense jumped 50 spots nationally in many major defensive areas despite the team finishing just 4-9. The largest improvement came in scoring defense, shaving off 11.5 points per game from the previous year, good enough for the 5th best improvement in Power 5.
Ole Miss would certainly like to see this kind of improvement upon his arrival after finishing dead last or close to it in almost all SEC defensive categories.
His recruiting chops go coast-to-coast.
Granted he didn’t set the world on fire in the recruiting rankings at Colorado, but that has more to do with geography and it being one of the tougher jobs in the country. Nevertheless, his first signing class saw him sign 13 players from California, three players from Texas, one from Washington, and three from in-state Colorado.
This began a trend of sorts for MacIntyre, as he continued to hit the trail hard in California.
His second class saw the Buffs sign 13 again from California, his 2015 class finished 69th (nice) and signed another seven from the Golden State, 2016 they signed five from California but also a combined six from the Southeast, and finished off 2017 with the 35th overall class and 11 from California and eight from Texas.
Now, I’m not saying Mac is gonna have dudes jet-setting from Cali all of a sudden, but he has shown the ability to recruit from hot beds like California, Texas, and the Southeast despite limitations.
Oh, did I mention he recruited Patrick Willis to Ole Miss? That may not be a bad thing to mention to five-star Nakobe Dean if you ask me.
He has NFL connections with a Hall of Famer.
After helping the Ole Miss defense finish 5th in total defense in 2001, MacIntyre took a gig in the NFL on Bill Parcells’ staff in Dallas. Mac coached defensive backs for Big Tuna in Dallas and in New York when he coached the Jets.
In Dallas, he mentored five-time Pro Bowler Roy Willams and helped the Cowboys make a return to the playoffs. In his three seasons with Parcells and the Cowboys, his unit snagged 59(!) interceptions.
He left Parcells and went to New York where his Jets’ unit included Darrelle Revis (17 PD, 3 INT) and Kerry Rhodes (10 PD, 5 INT).
It’s only fitting to bring up NFL ties on the heels of talking about recruiting. It’s obviously the main goal for elite talent these days and Mike will be able to go into living rooms and talk about his experiences during his four years in the league.
It won’t be an instantaneous fix mind you, but Mike MacIntyre is a former Power 5 head coach with 26 years of experience that will now be on the sideline next to Matt Luke, in meeting rooms, and on the recruiting trail. That is the biggest key here. The Rebels now have two former head coaches on staff (Jack Bicknell) that will hopefully continue to help Luke progress as a program CEO.
He may not be the big, flashy young gun that everyone wanted, but if he is a consolation prize then it is a good one.
2019 just got interesting.