Joe Lee Dunn wasn’t in his working clothes Tuesday when he was introduced as Mississippi State’s new defensive coordinator.
Instead, the usually sockless coach was wearing them with his loafers. He was also sporting an uncharacteristic necktie, but it was tied so loose he could have taken it off with one quick tug of the finger.
And, I’m sure the navy blue blazer he was wearing was a holdover from his interim head coaching days at Ole Miss.
Dunn’s a little more into the Homer Simpson look when he’s not being put on display for the media, boosters and fans. He’ll miss a day or so of shaving and he’ll likely be caught with his shirt tail out, but he’s not being hired to make the cover of GQ. Head coach Jackie Sherrill and AD Larry Templeton are dapper enough to handle that chore.
Dunn has come to State to coach defense.
And you better believe Sherrill’s glad he’s leaving Arkansas and coming to Starkville to pump some life into a defense that was the punching bag of the heavyweight SEC (No. 12 in total defense) last fall.
Sherrill calls Dunn’s stunting, blitzing, we’re-coming-after-you style, innovative.
“I don’t even know if I know what the definition of the word is,” he said. “I’ve been doing what I’m doing, defensive-wise, for about 20-something years. If it was innovative it was probably innovative a long time ago. But it’s not what I’d call innovative today, because I’ve been doing the same thing forever.”
Whatever you want to call Dunn’s defenses, they are exciting. And they work. His 1993 Ole Miss defensive unit was rated No. 1 in the nation in total defense. His Razorback defense was fifth in the SEC and No. 27 nationally this past season.
“Joe Lee has developed a package that is very unique,” Sherrill said. “I know. He beat us here when he was at Memphis and at Mississippi.”
Dunn’s new players are excited about the prospects of playing his attacking style.
“He’s big on blitzes and that’s what Coach Sherrill wants,” linebacker Paul Lacoste said. “I know I was excited when I heard he was coming. I can’t wait to get after it. There’s going to be a lot of going to the football.”
The decision to come to State wasn’t hard for Dunn. He didn’t come out and say it, but you get the feeling he wasn’t happy at Arkansas. Plus, he wanted to get his family, wife Susie and two children, closer to home Columbus, Ga.
State’s facilities, including the new Bryan athletic complex, caught his attention.
“Unlike the other episode at Ole Miss, where I was interviewed at the Howard Johnson’s in Senatobia before I went to Oxford, they brought me in here and showed me all these facilities,” he said. “The facilities they have here are absolutely wonderful. I don’t see any reason in the world why we can’t win a lot of football games here and recruit a lot of good football players.”
Dunn, one year removed from being a Rebel, said coaching at State won’t be a problem.
“I’ve still got some friends at Ole Miss,” he said. “It will be just one day and one game. It’s not the end of the world. My feelings toward Ole Miss have nothing to do with the people. I was disappointed with them not doing what I felt they should have done, but that’s all behind me.”
Joe Lee is a Bulldog now.
Gene Phelps is sports editor for the Daily Journal.