It is rare for a football team to go through even one calendar year without some shakeup to its coaching staff. The UCF Knights, however, were one of a scant few college football programs that kept its whole staff intact from 2018 to 2019.
Keeping the band together for yet another year? Not gonna happen.
The Ole Miss Rebels announced Thursday that they have hired UCF offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jeff Lebby to be their OC. Lebby will coach under new Mississippi head coach Lane Kiffin and alongside former UCF star running back, Kevin Smith, who will guide the Rebels’ RBs.
OFFICIAL | @Lane_Kiffin adds three to Ole Miss staff.@Coach_Leb - Offensive Coordinator@KevinSmithRB - Assistant Coach@CoachWilsonLove - Head Strength & Conditioning Coach— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) December 12, 2019
Lebby started out as solely a quarterbacks coach when he joined the Knights in 2018. Offensive coordinator was added to his job title prior to this season, although head coach Josh Heupel continued to call the plays.
That’s not to say Lebby didn’t make an impact on the program. He certainly gets credit for keeping this offense on track as one of the sport’s most potent attacks in each of his two seasons and for helping develop quarterback Dillon Gabriel into a star as a true freshman.
The official announcement of Lebby’s exit from UCF did not come as a shock; it had been rumored for the better part of a week leading up to today. Plus, you could make the argument that UCF got one year more of Lebby’s services than some would have expected.
Around this time last year, Lebby was interviewing to become the Tennessee Volunteers’ OC. The Vols chose Jim Chaney instead (and then finished 100th and 97th in total and scoring offense, respectively), but there was a real feeling that Lebby could be one-and-done as a Knight. However, he spent another season at UCF, got a fancier job title, a bump in pay — from $200,000 to $375,000 — and set himself up well for this gig with the Rebels. Contract figures have not been made public yet, but it goes without saying that he will be receiving a significant raise from the SEC school.
And hey, Lebby is already trying to poach UCF recruiting targets! For instance, wide receiver Sam Brown, who decommitted from the Knights this morning:
Thank you knight nation ♥️ pic.twitter.com/36vyalr64W— Sam Brown (@playboisammy) December 12, 2019
Ole Miss targets former UCF wide receiver commit Sam Brown https://t.co/NH6GxHya3F via @247sports #OleMiss #HottyToddy— David Johnson (@Rebels247) December 12, 2019
And here is quarterback Kade Renfro with Lebby last week ...
Always a great time when you get to ride around the pastures and talk football with a great coach, and an even better man! Thanks for stopping by and seeing my family. Looking forward to next week when y’all come back up!⚔️⚔️ #ChargeOn #GoKnights #UCFfootball #AGTG pic.twitter.com/Ab3hn1q7zS— Austin “Kade” Renfro (@austin_renfro1) December 5, 2019
... and here is what Renfro tweeted today:
I’m very thankful to say that I have received a scholarship to play football for the Ole Miss Rebels!❤️ #AGTG #HottyToddy #SHARKSEA20N @Lane_Kiffin pic.twitter.com/8lppTNOrdU— Austin “Kade” Renfro (@austin_renfro1) December 12, 2019
But look, that is all just part of the recruiting business. You may not like it, but understand that the Knights will get their fair share of prospects to flip in their favor as well. That’s just how it goes.
The fact that Lebby is now trying to persuade these UCF targets to come to Oxford is about as surprising as the fact that UCF won’t have its full coaching staff together for a third consecutive season.
As Lebby heads to the conference of “It Just Means More,” there are two questions left in his wake:
- While UCF may not hire another “offensive coordinator,” whom will it tab as its next QBs coach to work with Gabriel, Darriel Mack Jr., incoming freshman Michael Wright, etc.?
- Perhaps more importantly: Will Lebby be the only UCF football coach to departk this winter?
I have no current inside information in regards to that second question, but if history is any guide, the smart money should be placed on “No.”