Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke held a press conference on Tuesday to wrap up the 2018 season and rally the fanbase around the Rebels’ program.
OXFORD, MS — On Tuesday afternoon in the Manning Center, Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke met with the media to wrap up the 2018 season and rally Rebel fans to support the team and program. Coach Luke looked to give fans a message of hope after the 35-3 Thanksgiving night defeat in the Egg Bowl.
When Coach Luke arrived at the podium Tuesday, he gave the most passionate speech I have heard from him this season. He looked squarely into the camera and spoke directly to Ole Miss fans, asking them to trust him as he gets the program back on track.
“Over the last few years, this program has been through a lot and the people that are the most important, our players and our fans, they didn’t sign up for any of it,” he said. “You all don’t deserve any of this. I appreciate the fact you’ll have high expectations, but nobody’s got more expectations than I do. Every time I walk on that field I expect to win. I know exactly what it takes to get us out of this,” he added.
Luke then described his experience in helping turn around programs, citing his time at Ole Miss as a player, his tenure at Tennessee and Duke as a coach, and then, of course, the turnaround that began in 2012 in Oxford. Though this season has been a tough one to swallow for the Rebel faithful, there is hope.
“For the first time since 2014, I can walk into a living room and not talk about bowl bans or sanctions; I can sell everything that’s great about Ole Miss.“
Coach Matt Luke
Luke is absolutely correct. Since the seemingly never-ending NCAA debacle started, Ole Miss was horribly crippled in recruiting. Not only have the Rebels been unable to sign as many kids as everyone else due to scholarship reductions, they have been unable to participate in bowl games for the past two seasons.
But now that the bowl bans have passed and the Rebels are able to sign a full class, Coach Luke can finally sell real football again to recruits. His closing remarks in his message were something of a rallying cry.
“It’s more important now than ever that this Ole Miss family move forward together. We will get this done, and we will win here.“
Coach Matt Luke
Coach Luke was asked about the status of Phil Longo and addressed the rumors floating around of the offensive coordinator, perhaps, taking another job. “I think anytime you have back-to-back Top 10 offenses the coordinators are going to get looks, and he is getting looks,” Luke said.
The question was then asked if Coach Longo would stay on staff with the Rebels if he does not take another job elsewhere. Luke answered simply: “[I’m] always evaluating, I think we are really good on offense. Are there things we need to fix in the red zone? Absolutely,” he explained.
“And again, I know what a good red zone offense looks like, and I’m going to fix that. I love (kicker) Luke Logan, but I want him kicking extra points not field goals. We can get that fixed. There’s a lot of people that struggle getting to the red zone. We have a good offense, but we got to fix the red zone and we will,” Luke continued.
The hunt for a defensive coordinator
Coach Luke also addressed the ongoing search for a replacement for defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff.
“My focus right now is finding the best defensive coordinator for this program and on recruiting,” Luke said. “Recruiting is the life-blood of this program, and I need the right defensive coordinator and that’s where my focus is.”
In terms of a timetable, Luke indicated he is more focused on finding the right guy–not necessarily about finding a someone quickly. “If it works out before the early signing period, that works out best,” he said. “But I’m not gonna put that in front of finding the right fit.”
What is that “fit’ you might ask? Luke offered his thoughts.
“This is the Southeastern Conference, and you have to have somebody that can stand in front of a room and command the defense. They can capture their hearts and their minds and also schematically be very confident. It’s the right fit, it’s not just one or the other. It’s the right fit and that’s what I’m looking for.“
Coach Luke on a defensive coordinator
Slow and steady wins the race, they always say, and in this case I believe ‘quick’ is the last thing this search needs to be. It’s too important to the future of the program that the right person be hired, and Coach Luke gets that.
Now that the NCAA cloud of misery is FINALLY lifted, what is next for this program? What does the future look like for Ole Miss football? According to Coach Luke, the future is bright. “I can’t tell you how refreshing it is [to not talk about bowl bans and sanctions]…for the first time I can sell Ole Miss,” Luke said.
The Rebels will need to recruit their way out of the current situation, and the head coach recognizes just how critical this is. “Our recruiting class is going really, really good. People are seeing opportunities to come in a play,” he said.
For the first time in a long time, Ole Miss can get back to basics in recruiting and not have to defend itself from the uncertainty, speculations, accusations, and bowl bans that have plagued the program.
Not only is the future bright in recruiting, but also at the quarterback position. Losing senior Jordan Ta’amu is a major blow to the offense, but the Rebels are ready to re-load with Matt Corral.
Corral, who rushed to defend wide receiver A.J. Brown in an altercation during the Egg Bowl, is feisty and ready to take over the keys to the offense.
Luke expressed confidence in his young quarterback. “Matt Corral is a talented and competitive young man and I’m excited to build this team around him,” Luke said.
I am very much on board with Corral — and his swagger — and by the look in Coach Luke’s eye, he is too. Mark my words, defenses are going to have nightmares with No. 2 in an Ole Miss jersey.
Hang in there, Rebel Fans! There is a light at the end of the tunnel!
Matt Luke’s press conference – November 27, 2018. (Video: Archie Breland, The Rebel Walk)