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Who is Ole Miss football’s new General Manager Matt Lindsey and why is he so important?

The proof is in the pudding.

The State

Ole Miss football announced Matt Lindsey as the program’s first general manager in March. While the average college football fan may not know his name, the Tuscaloosa, Ala. native is considered one of the nation’s rising stars behind the scenes and was a splash hire for first-year head coach Lane Kiffin. It’s important to understand what a big deal it was.

Who is Matt Lindsey?

Lindsey began his football career as a weight room intern under Scott Cochran at Alabama in 2009. When his day was done on the strength and conditioning side of things, he would wander upstairs to see if Ed Marynowitz, the Tide’s director of player personnel, needed any help. His persistence paid off and he joined the team’s recruiting efforts as an undergraduate intern. In the four years that Lindsey was there, Alabama won three national championships, which allowed him to become quickly acclimated to the premier level of FBS football and what an elite dynasty looks like on the inside. Notably, Lindsey pushed — unsuccessfully — for Nick Saban and his staff to sign a certain quarterback by the name of Baker Mayfield. That certain quarterback went on to win the Heisman trophy.

When Marynowitz took a job as the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel in 2015, Lindsey made the jump to the NFL after graduation and joined the Philadelphia organization. He started as a 21-year-old scouting assistant and was quickly promoted to college scouting coordinator. In that role, he served as the middle man between the Eagles’ front office and collegiate scouting staff, and scheduled scouting efforts for college all-star games and the NFL Combine. That included taking a chance on North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz at No. 2 overall in the 2016 Draft and selecting Jalen Mills, Wendell Smallwood and Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who all started in the 2017 Super Bowl.

Lindsey and his team identified NCAA talent, broke down their findings and brought the reports to those in charge of draft boards and free agent signings.

“Matt’s willing to do the work,” said Marynowitz to “He’s willing to research it and really go the extra mile. And when he has conviction on a player, he’s not afraid to communicate that. He’s very passionate about the players that he feels good about and he’s going to always be able to provide a lot of information and examples to prove to whoever he’s talking to that this guy can play. That’s what you’re looking for, especially with guys in that role. You want them to have strong opinions. You want guys that are willing to go against the grain. And I can’t tell you how many times he pounded the table on certain players to me. And he’s right a lot more than he’s wrong.”

When Will Muschamp decided to revamp his recruiting efforts at South Carolina in 2017 and bring in a Director of Player Personnel, it was Lindsey that spoke the same language and landed the job. Just 12 months later, he was recognized on 247Sports’ “30Under30” list of rising stars in college football. When Alabama needed a new director of player personnel in 2018, Lindsey was one of the first to receive a phone call from Saban but chose to stay in Columbia and rebuild the Gamecocks with an NFL-oriented mindset. He was just five years removed from graduation at the time.

Instead of looking at stars and prospect ratings, Lindsey looks for physical criteria and athleticism. At offseason recruiting camps, the staff measures a potential recruit’s height, weight, hand size and arm length, and test them in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, vertical jump and agility drills. The numbers that define an ideal prospect come from a base average for players at the same position on active NFL rosters. The approach is similar to the NFL Combine and Draft evaluation, but with high schoolers.

“We have that split up by position so we know, ‘This is what a Will linebacker runs, this is what his hand size is, this is what his arm size is,’ ” Lindsey said to The State. “We know those things, and that’s what we base our guys off of. We don’t want to fall below too many of these thresholds.

The idea is to target players that are bigger, faster, longer and more explosive than their predecessors. As he puts it, “big people beat up little people.” Seems simple enough.

While at South Carolina, the results spoke for themselves. The Gamecocks landed three straight top-25 recruiting classes and the No. 18 ranked class in 2020.

One of the standout evaluations from the three-year tenure was quarterback Ryan Hilinski. When Lindsey saw his tape in the early part of the top-65 recruit from California’s junior year in 2017, he was only a three-star recruit and had offers from Boston College, Fresno State, San Jose State and Montana State. When Hilinski committed to South Carolina, he was a four-star recruit with offers from Southern California, Ohio State and Arizona.

Lindsey knows talent.

What does a general manager do?

A general manager in college football is a recent development and simply didn’t exist a decade ago. In a lot of ways, it shares nearly every parallel with a director of player personnel, but goes a step further.

Lindsey’s primary responsibility will be to identify talent, build relationships with players and potential recruits, and bring top prospects to Oxford. He will oversee recruiting and analytics (as he was so successful at South Carolina), handle walk-on spots, manage transfers, and remain in constant communication with Kiffin and the position coaches about needs, wants and the future of the Rebel roster.

In addition to pursuing top-25 recruiting classes, he will watch over day-to-day operations of the Ole Miss football office including academic support, NCAA regulations and things as simple as signing off on meals— which aren’t so simple when a school has to feed 53+ growing athletes.

As the general manager, Lindsey is the backroom face of the program.

Why is this important?

Up until around 2015, when Arizona promoted director of on-campus recruiting/player personnel Matt Dudek to general manager, the coaching staff had to handle all of the responsibilities. The head coach and his team had to set up a recruiting board, watch film, evaluate talent, make offers and sign recruits. Off the top, the load is lightened by passing the heavy lifting of recruiting over to a general manager. In Lindsey’s case, he has a proven track record and won’t fill a class to fill a class, or sign stars to sign stars.

That is evident thus far in the Rebels’ 2021 recruiting class. As it currently stands, the class may not be as deep as other programs around the country, and it may not blow away the outside eye with high-profile names. However, it is deliberately patient (especially during a global pandemic) and full of athletes that fill needs. A player has to fit the NFL evaluation.

Take Kyndrich Breedlove, for example. He may be “only a three-star” recruit, but the defensive back from Nashville has solid tape and backs it up with freak athleticism.

Expectations for Ole Miss to be amongst the nation’s top classes are certain, but to finish like Hugh Freeze’s top-five class in 2013 is unrealistic. In fact, it landed the program in NCAA Supermax. If the Rebels can consistently stay in the top-25 and occasionally sniff the top-15 like South Carolina did under Lindsey’s watch, that’s an incredibly successful venture.

Recruiting aside, checks and balances are key. With Lindsey as the top watchdog, everything has to be signed off by one centric person. It keeps the ship tidy, and that is worth its weight in gold alone.