Mississippi State hires Jeff Lebby as football head coach

Published 7:39 pm Sunday, November 26, 2023

STARKVILLE (AP) — Mississippi State hired Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby as its new head coach on Sunday, hoping to bring a wide-open offensive style back to the Bulldogs.

Lebby has been offensive coordinator for the Sooners the last two years, after holding the same position for two seasons at Ole Miss.

“I am confident that Jeff is the perfect leader for the next exciting chapter of Mississippi State football,” Mississippi State athletic director Zac Selmon said in a statement. “He will bring an exciting brand of football, elite student-athlete development, and a winning culture to Starkville, all while doing so with high integrity. He is a dynamic recruiter who will attract an elite coaching staff and the nation’s top talent.”

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This is will be Lebby’s first head coaching job and Mississippi State’s third head coach in as many seasons. Zach Arnett was fired by Selmon after less than one full season as head coach of the Bulldogs. Arnett replaced Mike Leach, who died of a heart condition after the 2022 regular season.

“Being the head coach at Mississippi State is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Lebby said. “My family and I are fired up to engrain ourselves in this community, build relationships with our players, and hit the recruiting trail. This is a special place with special people and a football program with a storied tradition.”

Under Leach, Mississippi State ran the Air Raid offense and put up prolific passing numbers. The Bulldogs finished their 2023 season with a 5-7 record after losing to rival Ole Miss last Thursday. The Bulldogs’ passing offense ranked 13th out of 14 teams in the Southeastern Conference.

Selmon was hired at Mississippi State after Arnett was promoted to be the head coach. Selmon came to Mississippi State from Oklahoma, where he spent eight years as one of the top administrators under longtime athletic director Joe Castiglione, his time overlapping with Lebby’s in Norman for a year.

The offenses Lebby directed at Central Florida, Ole Miss and Oklahoma have been among the most productive in the country, though it was not until the last two years with the Sooners that he became the primary play-caller for a team.

His task will be making Mississippi State competitive in a league that plays without divisions next season, posing a steep challenge for a program that struggled in a tough West Division with top-15 programs Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss.

Lebby inherits a Bulldogs squad that fell off significantly this season under Arnett and offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay, who switched from Leach’s Air Raid to a pro-style set that sought balance.

Mississippi State scored just 33 points over a four-game stretch leading up to when Arnett was fired on Nov. 13, and ranked near the bottom of many SEC offensive categories. It is No. 12 in the SEC in total offense, No. 13 in pass offense and No. 9 in rushing.

It didn’t help that record-setting quarterback Will Rogers III missed nearly half the season with an injury to his left non-throwing shoulder, forcing Mike Wright and freshman Chris Parson into action. Versatile running back Jo’Quavious Marks also missed time with injuries.

Rogers recently announced he would enter the transfer portal.