Video: Matt Luke “Proud” to Take Over Officially as Ole Miss Head Football Coach

OXFORD, Miss. (WCBI/Ole Miss Athletics) – Ross Bjork, Ole Miss Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics, officially introduced Matt Luke as the Rebels head football coach Monday morning.

Luke, who becomes the 38th head coach in program history, led Ole Miss to a 6-6 record as interim head coach during the 2017 season, including a 31-28 Egg Bowl victory over No. 14 Mississippi State.

During his 24 years as a player and coach at the collegiate level, Luke has risen through the ranks while learning from a number of successful veteran coaches. He has worked alongside national champion Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe and former Ole Miss head coach Tommy Tuberville, among others. On the field, he has mentored 17 all-league selections as well as All-Americans and first-round draft picks Laremy Tunsil and Laken Tomlinson.

Luke, a four-year center for the Rebels (1995-98), just wrapped up his 10th season as a coach at Ole Miss. Prior to taking over as interim head coach, Luke spent five seasons as the team’s co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. During his first stop in Oxford (2002-05), Luke served four seasons coaching the Ole Miss tight ends and offensive line under Cutcliffe.

Since returning to Oxford in 2012, Luke has helped the Rebels earn four bowl berths, including a 10-3 record and Sugar Bowl victory to cap the 2015 season.

Luke’s 2017 Rebels saw breakout performances from all three phases of the game.

A.J. Brown, the SEC leader in multiple receiving categories, set single-season marks in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, while senior running back Jordan Wilkins became just the fifth Rebel to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in a single season. Quarterbacks Shea Patterson and Jordan Ta’amu both threw for 350 or more yards in three games during the 2017 season, becoming just the fourth FBS team in the last 20 seasons to accomplish that feat.

The 2017 Rebel defense finished the season strong, forcing five turnovers in season finale win against Mississippi State Senior linebacker DeMarquis Gates finished the season with 114 tackles, the most in a single season since Patrick Willis had 137 in 2006.

Luke also saw senior kicker Gary Wunderlich become Ole Miss’ career record-holder in points scored (350), points kicking (350), field goals made (64), PATs made (158) and PATs attempted (162).

Under Luke’s tutelage, the 2016 offensive line helped Ole Miss lead the SEC in passing for the second consecutive year (314.9 ypg) and rank 13th nationally. The Rebels averaged 464.3 yards in total offense, good enough for third in the SEC. Luke also mentored left tackle Greg Little to a Freshman All-American season. He coached Javon Patterson, Sean Rawlings and Rod Taylor to play multiple spots on the line as well.

In 2015, Luke’s offensive line paved the way for the Rebels to have a record-breaking year on that side of the ball. Ole Miss set program records for scoring (531), touchdowns (68), total offense (6,731), passing yards (4,351) and passing touchdowns (35), among others. The Rebels led the SEC and were top 10 nationally in scoring (40.8), total offense (517.8 ypg) and passing (334.7 ypg).

In 2015, senior Fahn Cooper collected the third-ever Kent Hull Trophy, presented to the most outstanding offensive lineman in Mississippi, making Luke the coach of back-to-back Hull Trophy winners. Tunsil won the award in 2014. In three years of college, Tunsil played in 29 games with 26 starts at left tackle and surrendered only two sacks.

Luke helped develop both Tunsil and Cooper into NFL draft picks. Tunsil was taken 13th overall by the Miami Dolphins, and Cooper was selected in the fifth round by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2016 draft.

Having to replace three starters due to graduation, Luke helped the 2014 Rebel squad rank seventh in the SEC in total offense (419.1 ypg) and yards per play (6.0). The offensive line also helped the Rebels rank fifth in the SEC and 37th nationally in passing offense (263.6 ypg).

As a unit, the offensive line helped pave the way for Ole Miss to rack up 500 or more total yards in four games last year, including a season-high 640 total yards, the second-most in school history, against Presbyterian.

In 2013, Luke helped oversee a Rebel offense that broke the then-school record for total offense (473.3 ypg). The Rebels ranked third in the SEC in passing offense (283.3 ypg) and fifth in total offense, while finishing top 25 in the NCAA in both categories.

As a unit, the offensive line helped pave the way for the Rebels to rack up 500 or more total yards in five games, including a program-record 751 against Troy.

His guidance of the offensive line included plugging in star freshman Tunsil to the starting lineup early in the 2013 season and seeing immediate results. One of only two true freshmen in the country to be a full-time starter at left tackle, Tunsil allowed just one sack while protecting quarterback Bo Wallace’s blind side. When Tunsil was named to the AP All-SEC second team, he became one of the first two true freshmen in school history to be tabbed All-SEC (along with TE Evan Engram).

In 2012, Luke helped Ole Miss improve in almost all offensive categories from the previous season, including total yards per game and points per game.

Luke developed an inexperienced offensive line into a unit that could hold its own in the SEC, as the Rebels ranked fifth in the league in rushing (173.9 ypg), up from 10th the previous year (129.6 ypg).

A former Rebel player and assistant coach, Luke spent the previous four seasons as Duke’s offensive coordinator/running game while coaching the offensive line. His line ranked among the ACC’s top five in fewest sacks allowed throughout his tenure, including finishing third in 2009 and 2010.

Luke’s 2010 offensive front helped Duke to its highest yards per game average since 1989 as Sean Renfree became the fourth quarterback in school history to throw for 3,000 or more yards in a single season. Nearly doubling its rushing totals from the previous year, the Blue Devil run game produced 19 touchdowns – Duke’s highest total since 1995 – and the squad repeated that total again in 2011.

Under Luke’s guidance, both guard Dave Harding and tackle Perry Simmons received Freshman All-America honors in 2010. In 2009, guard Brian Moore was a Freshman All-ACC pick by Sporting News. Guard Laken Tomlinson went on to be the 28th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Luke came to Duke following two seasons at Tennessee where he served as recruiting coordinator while coaching the tight ends and assisting with the offensive line. During his two-year stay (2006-07) in Knoxville, the Volunteers went 19-8 with an SEC Eastern Division championship and two appearances in the Outback Bowl.

A native of Gulfport, Mississippi, Luke lettered four seasons (1995-98) as a center at Ole Miss. A starter in 33 career games for the Rebels, he served as team captain in 1998 as Ole Miss posted a 7-5 ledger and defeated Texas Tech in the Independence Bowl. He was named the 1998 Ole Miss Most Valuable Senior by the Jackson (Miss.) Touchdown Club and twice earned Academic All-SEC honors.

Following his playing career, he served as a student assistant coach at Ole Miss in 1999, helping the Rebels to an 8-4 mark with regular-season wins against Auburn, South Carolina, LSU and Arkansas as well as a 27-25 triumph over Oklahoma in the Independence Bowl. He graduated in May 2000 with a degree in business administration.

Luke then spent two years (2000-01) coaching the offensive line at Murray State before returning to his alma mater to guide the Rebel tight ends and offensive line for four seasons (2002-05).

Luke is married to the former Ashley Grantham of Oxford, Mississippi, and the couple has two sons, Harrison and Cooper. His father, Tommy, was a defensive back at Ole Miss in the 1960s while his brother, Tom, quarterbacked the Rebels from 1989-91. Tom is also on the Ole Miss football staff as assistant athletics director for player development.

“When we played together, I remember a game where Matt could barely walk. He was limping down the field, and I tried to tell him that he needs to get out of the game, but he said, `I need to stay with my guys. My offensive line has fought too hard for me to not participate in this game.’ He wasn’t the biggest or strongest guy but he gave it all he had, and he will know when a guy isn’t doing that. He will love his players, and he will be able to get that full effort out of them. I’m excited and happy for Matt – I’m looking forward to supporting not only him but my Ole Miss Rebel family. Those guys on the team are a part of it because they wear the Red and Blue just like I did.”
— Deuce McAllister, Former Ole Miss RB (1997-2000) & Former NFL RB (2001-08)

“I’ve known Matt now for nearly two decades, and I can tell you that he is an excellent football coach. He has that football `intelligence,’ a great personality and an excellent ability to communicate with young people. He has tremendous passion for Ole Miss, has always loved the school and I believe he will do a great job. I met Matt for the first time before we played Texas Tech in the ’98 Independence Bowl. The new staff came in right before the bowl; he was our starting center, and I knew right away that he was `football-smart.’ But he also has a great sense of humor, which is one of the reasons he can relate to and communicate so well with young people.”
— Mike MacIntyre, Colorado Head Coach

“The first experience I had with Matt Luke was as a player when I was hired as the head coach at Ole Miss in December of 1998. We inherited Matt as a senior starter at center for the Independence Bowl versus Texas Tech. With a new staff and coaching one game for a team that was completely entrenched in its own terminology and system, it was going to be close to impossible for us to install an offense that made sense to both players and coaches. I sat down with Matt and was amazed at his football knowledge as a player. Matt was able to take the offense we wanted to use in the game and translate it into terms his teammates would best understand. I knew then he would become a special football coach. We hired Matt at Ole Miss to coach tight ends and he continued with us in that role at Tennessee before becoming our offensive line coach here at Duke. Matt has a great pedigree in coaching. He has been exposed to numerous outstanding coaches, as well as having coached some great players in his own right. Matt is an outstanding recruiter, very positive, energetic and easily liked by his players.”
— David Cutcliffe, Duke Head Coach

“Matt is a great friend, a great family man and a really great football coach. I doubt that there’s anybody out there that loves Ole Miss more than him. He’s passionate when he talks about the Rebels, and his blood is as pure Ole Miss as anyone’s could possibly be. He’ll do a great job, and I have confidence in him being an outstanding head coach.”
— Phillip Fulmer, Former Tennessee Head Coach (1992-2008)

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