Since being named the Rebel OC, David Lee has been constantly texting Coach Houston Nutt from his home in Miami.
"David never rests," said Nutt. "He doesn't miss a beat. He'll be here late this week for our big recruiting weekend, but he texts me at least 10 times a day about some issue while he's wrapping things up in Miami. He's always working and always planning ahead."
Lee's resume reads like a Who's Who of football and his influence reaches far and wide.
Tony Romo, Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Matt Jones, Kent Austin, John Fourcade and many more have benefitted from his tutelage.
The native of Dexter, MO, who prepped in Pensacola, FL, played three years at Vanderbilt (1972-74) and was the team captain and MVP when he led the Dores to a 7-3-2 record and led the SEC in passing.
He broke into coaching the next year when he tutored the Tennessee-Martin quarterbacks and receivers for two years. From there, he went back to his alma mater for a year before coming to Ole Miss on Steve Sloan's staff for five years (1978-82).
A stint as OC in New Mexico, a five-year tour of Arkansas and then a five year gig as the head coach at Texas-El Paso followed. Lee then emerged at Rice as the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 1994-2000. In 2001, David joined Houston Nutt at Arkansas for two years and then became the QB coach for the Dallas Cowboys from 2003-06.
In 2007, he rejoined Nutt at Arkansas as the OC and led the Hog offense to record-breaking numbers in total offense and points scored. When Nutt left for Ole Miss after the '07 season, he asked Lee to join him on the new Rebel staff, but David wanted to go back to the NFL to get vested in the retirement program. That is where he worked with Pennington and Henne with the Miami Dolpjins for the next three seasons.
David could have stayed with the Dolphins, but when his old friend – Nutt – came calling, the lure was too strong and now he's headed for his second tour of Ole Miss, this time as the offensive coordinator.
Lee, 57, explained why.
"At my age, the longer you are in this profession, the more you realize how important it is to be with a head coach you can trust and you enjoy working with," Lee noted. "Houston is someone I trust, someone I respect and someone who cares about people.
"So many head coaches these days are kind of self-centered. Houston doesn't have a self-centered bone in his body – he's genuine. I want those things in my life at this time in my career."
Nutt and Lee are two peas in a pod, according to Lee.
"We were both quarterbacks in high school and college, we were both point guards in basketball, we both have four children, both of our fathers were coaches and we are both men of strong faith," David pointed out. "Our lives are very similar. I cannot think of a better situation for my next endeavor."
While the two are very close friends, Lee laughingly says there will be times when they butt heads.
"He'll get mad at me or I'll get mad at him, but at the end of the day, we know we'll be OK. I think that's healthy – for both of us to be able to say exactly what's on our minds and work through our disagreements to get on the same page," Lee explained.
So what are David Lee plans with the Ole Miss offense? For a while, at least, simplicity will be his calling card.
"The first priority will be to get all the offensive coaches on board with me and on the same page," Lee stated. "My goal is to keep the terminology as close as possible to the same as it's been. It's easier for me to blend in to what they have been calling things than for me to rename everything and everyone have to start over with the learning curve.
"I doubt the terminology has changed a whole lot since I worked with Houston at Arkansas, so my recall should be pretty good."
Once he and the rest of the offensive coaches form the same-page bond, Lee said he likes to work from the inside-out with the players.
"The simplest, most effective way to put together an offense is to start with the quarterback and the offensive line. If they are in synch, the tight ends, running backs and wide receivers tend to catch on more quickly. The urgency will be to get the quarterbacks and OL tuned in quickly," he explained. "We want them thinking like us.
"Obviously in spring training, we will have to identify who the quarterback is. What does he do best? How does he hold up under pressure? We will have to fire live bullets at all the quarterbacks in spring to see how they handle things under pressure. Once we determine a quarterback pecking order, we can adjust our offense to what the top guy does best."
Lee said he is not set in stone as to what offense he will run as the Rebel OC.
"I have coached it all – all styles," he noted. "Before I go any further, let me say this. Ideas and creativity are important, but good execution is more important. You cannot expect your players to execute well when you are calling things that don't play to their strengths.
"We want to be diverse. We want the defenses we face to have to defend a lot of different things. We coached a form of the spread with Matt Jones as our QB at Arkansas, we have run Pro Style when that is what our QB did best. We have run up-tempo sets in Miami – we called it Red Ball – and we will replicate that in Oxford when we feel it's to our advantage."
No matter what formations or schemes the Rebels will run under Lee's direction, his philosophy goes back to tried-and-true basics.
"I believe in running the ball. With Mike Markuson as the offensive line coach, I know he believes in the same things. I also like to go downfield with the passing attack. Of course, a lot of that is based on what your personnel can do, but I like to strike quickly if it's there and blow the top of the coverage," Lee stated. "But it all goes back to what your players can execute and what abilities they have.
"If your quarterback is a runner, work that into your offense. If he's a Pro Style guy, that's what we'll do. If we have receivers who can separate, we will stretch the defense. As coaches, I am confident there is nothing we can't incorporate into our schemes, but we will do what is best for our available personnel to succeed."
There has been a lot of talk about who actually calls the plays. Nutt has had the final say – with help – his first three years at Ole Miss, but now he has declared he will hand over those duties to Lee so he can concentrate more on the all phases of the game.
Lee knows he's up to the challenge. He's successfully done it before.
"The last year Houston and I were together at Arkansas, I called all the plays and we had a school record of total offense and points scored. Of course, we had Darren McFadden, Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis," he laughed. "Really, though, I am very comfortable in that role. I have been in that role many, many times and feel I have the experience to be successful."
A new era, with a familiar twist, in offensive football comes to Ole Miss.
All things point in the right direction.
Nutt and Lee's compatibility, Lee's experience as an OC, Lee's expertise with quarterbacks, and the opportunity to put it all together at Ole Miss is anticipated to be a winning formula.
"I'm excited. I loved being at Ole Miss my first time around and I think this time we can have a lot of success," he closed. "All the pieces are there for us to succeed and that will certainly be our objective."