When opportunity knocks, you answer. Now is that time for Jeff Lebby.
On Saturday, Ole Miss head football coach Lane Kiffin announced that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and will not be accompanying the Rebels to Atlanta for their season opener against Louisville.
Ole Miss has yet to announce its acting head coach for Monday's game, but offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby will have a chance to show why he's capable of leading a program as a head coach. Lebby was rumored to be a candidate for the UCF coaching vacancy this past offseason before the spot was filled by Gus Malzahn.
Lebby is, for the most part, the one with the keys to the Ole Miss offense, but without his headline-attracting head coach on the sideline on Monday, the spotlight will be hitting him square in the face. This is his chance to show what he's made of when it comes to leading a program.
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Even if Lebby isn't given the temporary title of "acting head coach," he still has the chance to gain some momentum on the coaching trail if the game on Labor Day goes well. Even though he is well-known as an innovative offensive mind, coaching under the apprenticeship of Lane Kiffin leaves a hint of doubt in the minds of some as to who is really to thank for the Rebels' offensive success. While the answer is probably a mix of both, Lebby has a golden opportunity to prove that his offense won't miss a beat without the head honcho on the sideline.
The play-calling shouldn't be all that different, but losing your head coach approximately 60 hours before you kick off your season isn't a positive by any stretch of the imagination. Lane Kiffin is very good at big-picture, in-game decisions as a head coach. That is now out the window for Monday, and those are shoes that presumably either Lebby or defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin will have to fill.
There are many (self-included) who believe that should 2021 go the way Ole Miss is hoping it does, Lebby has a strong chance of being a head coach somewhere in the fall of 2022. If Monday night goes well, that stock only increases in value, especially given the suboptimal circumstances.
Jeff Lebby is a rising star in the college football coaching world. His offensive schemes are a large reason for Ole Miss' success on that side of the ball a season ago and a large reason they're expected to be successful again in 2021. The play-calling shouldn't be altered much, if at all, but we'll soon see how much of Ole Miss' success is fully reliant on Lane Kiffin's presence on the sideline.
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