By Tyler Martin
Special to The Tuscaloosa News

After a 5-7 finish in 2018, Matt Luke overhauled his coaching staff for 2019. Luke has brought in former head coach Rich Rodriguez as offensive coordinator and Mike MacIntyre as defensive coordinator.

“I have been very impressed with Rich,” Luke said at SEC Media Days this summer. “Seeing the attitude and toughness he is instilling on that side of the ball, it is going to be a dynamic unit and fun to watch. Defensively, you’re going to see a huge change. We got a bunch of guys on that side of the ball that have played a lot. And quite frankly, they are tired of hearing about how bad they are.”

The Rebels offense only returns three starters from a season ago – running back Scottie Phillips, offensive linemen Alex Givens and Ben Brown. One of the new faces on that side of the ball will be freshman quarterback Matt Corral.

“His competitive fire and his competitive spirit made the players gravitated toward him,” Luke said. “I think he was thrust into a leadership role, and I really think he’s done a great job of competing and carrying himself the right way.”

Corral will not have the luxury of throwing to the trio of D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Demarkus Lodge, but he will have sophomore Elijah Moore, who finished 2018 with 398 yards and two touchdowns.

The Rebels will bring back eight starters from a defense that finished 97th or worse in every major statistical category last year. Junior linebacker Mohamed Sanogo returns as the team’s leading tackler. Sanogo finished with 112 total tackles, which was the fifth most in the SEC. An experienced defensive backfield of seniors Vernon Dasher, Myles Hartsfield, and Jalen Julius will bode well for the Rebels’ chance at improvement in defending the passing game.

Luke’s goal for his 2019 team: get back to the postseason for the first time since the 2016 Sugar Bowl.

“I think the immediate goal this year is getting back to the postseason,” Luke said. “I think that’s a huge thing. It wasn’t too long ago that this program was competing for championships. And I think, this young team, they got to go out there and compete, and they got to grow. That’s what has to happen, but the immediate goal for this year is to get this team back to the postseason and then start getting back into the hunt for winning championships.”


2018 record: 5-7 (1-7 SEC/6th in SEC West)
All-time SEC championships: 6
All-time bowl appearances: 37

2018 results
Sept. 1 vs. Texas Tech W 47-27
Sept. 8 vs. Southern Illinois W 76-41
Sept. 15 vs. Alabama L 7-62
Sept. 22 vs. Kent State W 38-17
Sept. 29 at. LSU L 16-45
Oct. 6 vs. Louisiana-Monroe W 70-21
Oct. 13 at. Arkansas W 37-33
Oct. 20 vs. Auburn L 16-31
Nov. 3 vs. South Carolina L 44-48
Nov. 10 at. Texas A&M L 24-38
Nov. 17 at. Vanderbilt L 29-36 (OT)
Nov. 22 vs. Mississippi State L 3-35

Starters returning: 14 Offense: 3 Defense: 8 Specialty: 3
Starters lost: 12 Offense: 8 Defense: 3 Specialty: 1
Returning offensive starters: Scottie Phillips (RB. SR), Alex Givens (OL. SR), Ben Brown (OL. SO)
Returning defensive starters: Josiah Coatney (DT. SR), Benito Jones (DL. SR), Willie Hibbler (LB. SR), Mohamed Sanogo (LB. JR), Qaadir Sheppard (LB. SR), Vernon Dasher (DB. SR), Myles Hartsfield (DB. SR), Jalen Julius (DB. SR)

Returning statistical leaders
Rushing Att Yards Avg TD
Scottie Phillips 153 928 6.1 12
Passing Att Yards Avg TD
Matt Corral 16-22 239/10.9/2
Receiving Att Yards Avg TD
Elijah Moore 36 398 11.1 2
Tackles Total Int Sack TFL
Mohamed Sanogo 112 0 1 6.5

2019 schedule
Aug. 31 at. Memphis
Sept. 7 vs. Arkansas
Sept. 14 vs. Southeastern Louisiana
Sept. 21 vs. California
Sept. 28 at. Alabama
Oct. 5 vs. Vanderbilt
Oct. 12 at. Missouri
Oct. 19 vs. Texas A&M
Nov. 2 at. Auburn
Nov. 9 vs. New Mexico State
Nov. 16 vs. LSU
Nov. 28 at. Mississippi State