Jeff Lebby reflects on time with Ole Miss football, explains why he took Oklahoma coordinator job

Nick Suss
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

NEW ORLEANS — Jeff Lebby was ready for the next step in his journey.

When No. 8 Ole Miss (10-2) takes the field on Saturday in the Sugar Bowl (7:45 p.m., ESPN) against No. 6 Baylor (11-2), it will be the Rebels' final game with Lebby as offensive coordinator. After two seasons and numerous school records set, Lebby is leaving Oxford to be the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, his alma mater.

Lebby spoke with the media on Thursday for the first time since accepting the Oklahoma job and explained his decision as one he felt compelled to make by circumstance and sentimentality.

Ole Miss offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby gives a thumbs up before the season opener against Louisville on Sept. 6 in Atlanta.

"Obviously, I think people that have followed it closely understand how thankful I am and how much me and my family have loved Oxford and loved Ole Miss," Lebby said. "It was hard. At the end of the day, being back there after going to school there was an opportunity I felt like I had to go do. That's ultimately what I decided."

Lebby engineered offenses that finished No. 3 and No. 4 in the FBS in yards per game, leading the SEC both seasons. Ole Miss and Ohio State are the only teams that have averaged more than 500 yards per game each of the last two seasons and the Rebels are one of 11 teams to have averaged 35 or more points each of the last two seasons.

FAMILY FEEL:Ole Miss football has no opt-outs for the Sugar Bowl. Here's the inside story.

THE TURNAROUND:Ole Miss football coaches explain how defense transformed from liability to strength in 2021

GRIMY, NASTY FOOTBALL:How transfer Jake Springer transformed Ole Miss defense

Since accepting the Oklahoma job, Lebby has been pulling double duty. He was in Norman for the early signing period, helping put together a class with new Oklahoma coach Brent Venables. He returned to Mississippi shortly thereafter to help the Rebels with Sugar Bowl preparation. But after arriving in New Orleans Wednesday night, Lebby still carved out time to watch every snap of Oklahoma's 47-32 win over Oregon in the Alamo Bowl.

"I wanted to be here for Matt (Corral)," Lebby said about why he's been working two jobs. "I wanted to be here for all these guys to be able to go finish this thing the right way. It mattered to me to be here for them."

Returning the favor, Corral had kind words to say about Lebby before the coach moves on to Oklahoma and the quarterback moves on to the NFL.

"That's a relationship I'll have for the rest of my life," Corral said. "Me and him both know that. Most of these moments that I've had at Ole Miss, most of them are going to be with Jeff Lebby and coach (Lane) Kiffin and this team we have right now. I wouldn't trade the world for it."

Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or nsuss@gannett.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.