Back by overwhelming demand, FootballScoop will once again examine the assistant coaching hires that will have the biggest impact on the college football season and the coaching job market in the 2019 season and beyond.
Who: Mike MacIntyre, Ole Miss
Title: Defensive coordinator
Previous stop: Colorado head coach (2013-18)
Why he’s important: If Mike MacIntyre’s coaching career was a reality television show, it would most certainly be Flip or Flop. He takes jobs others wouldn’t take, then turns the thing around or goes broke trying.
He took over a San Jose State program coming off a 2-10 campaign and within three seasons had the Spartans ranked in the AP poll for the first time since 1975 and just the third time ever. That led to Colorado, where a 1-11 program found itself in the Pac-12 Championship by Year 4 under MacIntyre.
And that leads us to Ole Miss, where the defense is the football version of a 2-bedroom house with sewage pooling in the master bedroom and half the roof turned to rot. The Rebels played 2018 under a bowl ban with proved to be moot largely because the defense couldn’t stop anybody, turning a 5-2 start to a 5-7 finish while allowing 37.6 points per game over that stretch. Ole Miss was last in the SEC in total defense, yards per play, scoring, rushing, yards per carry and next-to-last in passing and passing efficiency.
To fix it, Rebels head coach Matt Luke turned to one of his oldest contacts. Luke and MacIntyre worked together at both Ole Miss and Duke. At the latter stop, Luke witnessed MacIntyre chop nearly 10 points per game off the Blue Devils’ scoring average in his first season on campus and is now paying him $1.5 million to repeat that history.
“There was a lot of things that went into it, but No. 1 was of course Matt,” MacIntyre said in January. “Us knowing each other so well, I wanted to help him. He’s the type of person and the type of coach that he truly is passionate for Ole Miss and I want him to be successful.”
The first order of business was to overhaul the scheme. MacIntyre transitioned the Rebels from Wesley McGriff’s 4-2-5 to Bill Parcells’ 3-4.
“I’ve been 4-2-5, 4-3, 3-4. When I was with the Dallas Cowboys we ran a 4-3 with Mike Zimmer and we did really well. And then Coach Bill Parcells has always been a 3-4 guy and after switched it going into our third year. So I saw that whole development how they draft it, how they work it,” MacIntyre said. “I did the same thing when I was with the New York Jets. I like the 3-4 principle for a lot of different reasons, No. 1 being all these spread teams it would clog up the b-gaps, make the ball bounce, it can allow edge pressure.
Creating more pressure — real or imagined — should be Job No. 1 for MacIntyre, as the fastest way for a defense to improve its down-to-down numbers is to simply not be on the field. The 2018 Rebels recorded just 22 sacks, tied for last in the SEC, and created only 15 turnovers. Only Texas A&M forced fewer.
“I call the outside backers ‘quarterback disruptors,'” MacIntyre said. “Not only can they confuse the offensive line because they don’t know who’s coming, but they can also act like they’re coming, they can Hollywood, get in passing lanes, they can help in an RPO system.”
Luke is now in his third year as Ole Miss’ head coach and his first with the cloud of Hugh Freeze’s NCAA violations gone. The bowl ban is over. Most of the players signed with him as head coach, and both of the coordinators are his (recall that Rich Rodriguez is running the offense, his first assistant coaching gig since 2000).
Make no mistake, though. Nothing is more important to Luke than fixing the defense, and to do that he hired his most trusted general contractor. It’s time to flip or… well, it’s time to spruce the place up.