Luke tasked with picking up pieces

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By David Brandt

The task of pulling to­gether Mis­sis­sippi’s shat­tered foot­ball pro­gram is now in the hands of in­terim coach Matt Luke.

The 40-year-old was pro­moted from co-of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor on Thurs­day night in the stun­ning af­ter­math of coach Hugh Freeze’s res­ig­na­tion for a “pat­tern of per­sonal mis­con­duct” that started with the school’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into a call to an es­cort ser­vice.

It’s just the lat­est is­sue fac­ing the em­bat­tled Rebels.

While Luke has been an as­sis­tant at Ole Miss dur­ing Freeze’s en­tire five-plus year ten­ure, his name has not been linked to the on­go­ing NCAA in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the pro­gram. Luke also has deep fam­ily ties to the uni­ver­sity and north Mis­sis­sippi, play­ing of­fen­sive line for the Rebels from 1995-98.

Now he has a 12-game au­di­tion for the full-time job.

It’s not an ideal sit­u­a­tion, but it’s not com­pletely bleak ei­ther.

“Matt is a great coach,” Bjork said when an­nounc­ing Thurs­day the school was turn­ing the pro­gram over to Luke. “He’s a leader. He’s a rock. He’s an Ole Miss Rebel. And I’m con­fi­dent — and es­pe­cially even more con­fi­dent af­ter watch­ing him ad­dress the team — that he will lead this team and pro­gram through this dif­fi­cult time.”

Bjork also noted that Wes­ley McGriff, the team’s de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, has been pro­moted to as­so­ciate head coach. Luke was not im­me­di­ately avail­able for in­ter­views in the af­ter­math of Freeze’s res­ig­na­tion.

Luke is now in charge of a pro­gram that still has a tal­ented ros­ter — es­pe­cially on of­fense — but is in the midst of long-run­ning NCAA in­ves­ti­ga­tion that’s al­ready caused the school to im­pose a one-year bowl ban for the up­com­ing sea­son.

The of­fense fea­tures sev­eral promis­ing young play­ers, in­clud­ing sopho­mores like quar­ter­back Shea Pat­ter­son, left tackle Greg Lit­tle and re­ceivers A.J. Brown and D.K. Met­calf.

Luke needs to hold on to them to have suc­cess. But it is un­clear if any play­ers on the cur­rent ros­ter will trans­fer in the wake of the Freeze bomb­shell.

Bjork said “it’s hard to say” if there will be any ros­ter changes.

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