Mississippi State Football: Examining Jeff Lebby's offensive philosophy

New Mississippi State football head coach Jeff Lebby has coached some of the nation's best offenses. Let's dive in to his offensive philosophy.
Mississippi State Spring Football Game
Mississippi State Spring Football Game / Justin Ford/GettyImages

Jeff Lebby is taking over Mississippi State football in 2024, and he's bringing his his-powered offensive attack to Starkville. Lebby has been responsible for some of college football's best offenses over the last six years. His version of the Art Briles Baylor offense has been successfully implemented at UCF, Ole Miss, and Oklahoma, and hopefully, he'll have the same success running his system with the Bulldogs.

But what defines Jeff Lebby's offense? While serving as the offensive coordinator at Ole Miss, Lebby spoke at a coaching clinic about his offensive philosophy.

Let's break down the key components of his philosophy and watch a few examples of his approach in action...

1. Personnel Placement

The number one priority for Jeff Lebby and all the coaches off the Briles Offense tree is suiting the offense to their personnel. Very simply, they'll run plays that fit their players and won't ask them to do things that they can't do well.

Even with some of the hallmarks we associate this system such as the spacing and deep passing game (which we'll discuss shortly), if that doesn't suit their personnel, they aren't going to do it. Lebby is going to build his offense around the strengths of this players to put them in the best position to succeed.

The other thing he stresses is to "put our best on their worst". He wants to find a matchup he can exploit, and he'll move players around with different formations and motions to take advantage of that matchup. For example, by bringing WR #3 in this clip in tight to the line and then working him across the formation at the snap, it's now on much slower LBs to attempt to cover him in space, which they fail to do.

2. Tempo

Nothing is more synonymous with Jeff Lebby's offense than tempo. His teams play at a blazing speed, and they put a ton into coaching and game-planning tempo so they can play as fast as possible on Saturdays. Why?

First, as Lebby puts it, "more snaps, more opportunities to score." Simple but true. The next reason is to wear down the defense and get them out of position. If the defense is exhausted, they aren't going to execute properly. And if an offense is playing so fast that they're snapping the ball before the defense is set, you've got the chance to burn them.

Check out what the effects of tempo did to Arkansas State on literally the very first drive of the 2023 season...

3. Spacing

If you tuned into a Baylor game back in the Briles days or have watched Tennessee or Oklahoma lately, there's a good chance the first thing that caught your eye was how wide spread their receivers were. It's not all uncommon to see multiple WRs just a few steps off the sidelines.

The teams that run this style of offense have a mentality that they want to force the defense to defend the entire width of the field. They do it for three main reasons.

First, it creates a ton of space in the middle of the field to run the football. Secondly, it forces slot defenders with both immediate run and pass defense responsibilities to choose what they're going to take away. This creates a clearer picture of the defensive structure for the QB, especially for making RPO reads. Finally, that spacing creates one-on-one opportunities for WRs downfield.

Jeff Lebby doesn't exclusively align his offense in wide splits. He uses plenty of formation diversity, including bringing every receiver in tight to the formation. But the base calls within his offense still primarily function out of the wide split looks.

4. Vertical Run Game

While explosive passing plays are what the average fan associates with this offense, the run game is the main priority. The wide spacing used is primarily to open run lanes in the middle of the field, and Lebby wants his teams to take advantage of the space by attacking it with a vertical run game.

Many of the base run concepts used in this offense are designed to hit straight downhill, which compliments their WR splits. You've already spread the defense out wide, so you don't want to now run towards those defenders. You've created space to run just with your formation. Now attack it.

You can see the benefits to that from this run by UCF when Jeff Lebby was their OC in 2019.

Lebby will still mix in runs designed to hit more on the edge. He ran plenty at Oklahoma. But the foundation is with a straight-ahead rushing attack.

5. Vertical Throw Game

Finally, Jeff Lebby's offenses stress a vertical passing game. Their goal is to "score from far." They want to attack on offense, and they're going to take their deep shots early and often. And everything discussed up until this point leads into the final one.

Lebby is going to find a matchup he can exploit for an explosive play, and the tempo his teams play at can heighten the advantage for his receiver. The spacing used naturally creates one-on-one chances, and the threat of the run game creates even more favorable looks to take those shots down the field.

The end result is incredible to watch.

Jeff Lebby runs an exciting scheme, and it's going to be a ton of fun to see it in action this fall for Mississippi State football. As we get closer to the season, we'll take a closer look at the concepts that he builds around and how he creates such an explosive and effective attack.