Josh Heupel turned around Tennessee in year one. Jeff Lebby looks to do the same for Mississippi State football

Josh Heupel inherited a total rebuild in Knoxville in 2021, but immediately turned things around. Jeff Lebby's Mississippi State football program is in a similar spot in 2024. He'll look to do the same.
Mississippi State Spring Football Game
Mississippi State Spring Football Game / Justin Ford/GettyImages
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Jeff Lebby has a major rebuild facing him in Starkville.

Mississippi State football is coming off its worst season in over a decade, the roster is facing massive overturn, and a grueling 2024 schedule awaits to make an immediate turnaround that much more difficult. Add in Lebby's inexperience as a head coach, and you can understand why expectations for Bulldog football this fall aren't particularly high.

But what Jeff Lebby should at least bring is the ability to score points. A direct branch off the Art Briles Baylor tree, Lebby's seen immediate offensive success at each of his previous stops, and the programs that have installed similar offenses to his have quickly become competitive, often in spite of struggling defenses.

Many Bulldog fans and media have looked to the 2020 Ole Miss squad for a glimpse of what could be in store for State this year. Jeff Lebby was the offensive coordinator for that Rebel offense under first year HC Lane Kiffin. Ole Miss had one of the nation's best offenses (and one of the worst defenses) and made major improvements compared to 2019

As much as it makes sense to draw comparisons to that Ole Miss team given Lebby's role on that staff, another SEC team from a year later may actually provide more parallels.

The 2021 Tennessee Volunteers also adopted the Briles offense under new HC Josh Heupel, whom Jeff Lebby worked for at UCF. The Vols, like 2020 Ole Miss, made huge strides almost entirely because of their effectiveness on offense. But what made their turnaround even more impressive was the situation Heupel inherited upon taking over.

Tennessee had bottomed-out in 2020 under Jeremy Pruitt, were facing NCAA sanctions, and had almost every major contributor on the roster transfer out. They seemed poised for a lengthy rebuild. But with the offense Heupel brought in, they found success with a largely unproven roster and avoided a reset.

At least in the preseason, there are shades of 2021 Tennessee in 2024 Mississippi State. Let's take a closer look at the similarities between the two