Mississippi State hires Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby to be its new head coach

Mississippi State hired Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby as its new head coach on Sunday.

Lebby has been offensive coordinator for the Sooners the last two years after two seasons holding the same position at Mississippi. This is will be his first head coaching job and Mississippi State’s third head coach in as many seasons.

Zach Arnett was fired by athletic director Zac Selmon after less than one full season as head coach of the Bulldogs. Arnett replaced Mike Leach, who died of a heart condition after the 2022 regular season.

The Bulldogs finished their season 5-7.

Selmon was hired at Mississippi State after Arnett was promoted to the head coach. Selmon came to Mississippi State from Oklahoma, where he spent eight years as one of the top administrators under athletic director Joe Castiglione.

Lebby is the son-in-law of former Baylor coach Art Briles, who was fired by the school in 2016 after an investigation found the school and athletic department mishandled sexual assault allegation cases, some involving athletes.

Lebby worked for Briles from 2008-15, first as an analyst and then an assistant coach. Lebby was among the former assistants who publicly supported Briles and this past season Lebby welcomed Briles to an Oklahoma game.

Both Oklahoma coach Brent Venables and Castiglione said they were caught off guard by Briles’ presence at the game.

Whatever issues Lebby’s relationship with Briles have caused, they haven’t kept him from moving up the ranks in coaching.

The offenses he directed at UCF, Ole Miss and Oklahoma have been among the most productive in the country, though it was not until the last two years with the Sooners that he became the primary play-caller.

Like Lebby, Oklahoma is moving to the the Southeastern Conference next year, too.

His task will be making MSU competitive in a league that plays without divisions next season, posing a steep challenge for a program that struggled in a tough West Division with Alabama, LSU and rival Mississippi.

Lebby inherits a Bulldogs squad that fell off significantly this season under Arnett and offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay, who switched from the pass-heavy Air Raid scheme made famous by Leach, to a pro-style set that sought balance.

MSU had scored just 33 points over the previous four games when Arnett was fired on Nov. 13, and ranked near the bottom of many SEC offensive categories. It didn’t help that record-setting quarterback Will Rogers III missed nearly half the season with an injury to his left non-throwing shoulder, forcing Mike Wright and freshman Chris Parson into action. Versatile running back Jo’Quavious Marks also missed time with injuries.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs’ defense stood mid-pack in the league after being one of its stingiest when Arnett was defensive coordinator.

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Gary Graves in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll

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