Luke Returns

There's no place like home. Just ask Rebel Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke, who returns "home" to Ole Miss to guide the guys in the offensive trenches.

Right out of the box, new Ole Miss Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke was asked by the media if it was a tough choice on whether to come back to Ole Miss or stay at Duke with one of his mentors, David Cutcliffe.

Matt didn't hesitate.

"It was a no-brainer for me," said Luke, who played center at Ole Miss from 1995-98 and was a co-captain his senior year. "To be able to come home and coach for my alma mater is a dream come true. Not many people get to do that and I am very grateful to Coach (Hugh) Freeze for giving me this opportunity.

"I feel great about what Coach Freeze wants to do here - have a family atmosphere, doing things the right way, and building something special at a place we both love."

But he still had to look Cutcliffe, who he really admires, and his Duke players, who he had grown so close to, in the eyes and tell them he was leaving.

"In my heart, I always knew I wanted to be here, but there are relationships that are built over time. I have a close relationship with my players and with Coach Cut," Luke continued. "That part wasn't easy.

"I owe a lot to Duke and to Coach Cut, but my family is in Mississippi, my wife's family lives in Oxford, my heart is here. From that standpoint, it was easy."

Luke understands the challenges he and the rest of Freeze's staff have taken on, but he's anxious to tackle them.

"We have work to do, but my goals are simple. I want to get the best five offensive linemen on the field. I want guys who want to be here and guys who play the game the way it's supposed to be played, with heart and excitement," noted Matt. "I still have to watch tape on the returning players to see where we are, but the goals are set in stone.

"We may have to move some guys around, but we will do whatever it takes to put our best five out there."

Right now, it's all about recruiting. This staff is behind and will have to work endless hours to attempt to catch back up.

With Luke, it's good to be doing that in familiar surroundings.

"Driving through Mississippi last week, I stopped at a lot of schools and at virtually every stop I knew somebody. That's a good feeling," he explained. "We have gotten a great response so far due to our past relationships and the contacts we have made through the years working this area.

"I think it means a lot to people in Mississippi that we have a Mississippi head coach and some born-and-raised Mississippi assistant coaches at Ole Miss. It makes a good impression on the coaches and players and parents in this state that this is not a stepping stone for us, but a destination. They can sense our love for Ole Miss and that's a selling point."

Luke is excited about coaching the OL in Freeze's fastbreak offense.

"If there is one thing I have learned through my years of coaching, if kids believe what you are doing will give you any kind of an edge, they will buy into it," he stated. "Playing fast will give us an advantage. If kids believe that will give them a chance to beat Mississippi State or LSU or Alabama, they will get on board.

"We are going to be in shape, we are going to play fast and kids are going to want to play in this system. We can recruit to it and we can excite kids with it. Most importantly, we can win games with it."

Matt sees no issues in adjusting his coaching style to Freeze's offense.

"Football is football," said Matt. "You got zone, you got lead, you got man protection, slide protection, you got play-action. That's what you've got. Those techniques don't change.

"X's and O's aren't important to us at this very moment. Going on the field and competing and playing the game the way it's supposed to be played is our first goal. Everything else will fall in line when we get that accomplished."

Immediately, getting some more players in the fold is goal number one. JUCO? High school? A combination of both?

"Anytime you have a need, a JUCO can fill that quicker because he's older, stronger and more mature, but I will put the best five out there regardless of age and if there is a freshman we are recruiting who can be one of our best five, that's the guy I will take," he ended. "I think you have to look what's available and then make a decision on what makes you better both immediately and in the long haul.

"Right now, we are still gathering that info and making decisions."

Welcome home, Matt.


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