Joe Lee Dunn, former defensive coordinator at Mississippi State and Ole Miss, dies

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Oct. 27—Joe Lee Dunn, a colorful Deep South football coach known for high-pressure defenses, died Tuesday according to multiple reports.

He was 75.

Dunn made a major impact as defensive coordinator at both Ole Miss and Mississippi State. He also served as DC at South Carolina, Arkansas and Memphis (twice) among other schools.

Dunn was the interim head coach at Ole Miss following the firing of former coach Billy Brewer in 1994. The Rebels went 4-7 under Dunn.

Born in Ozark, Alabama, and raised in Columbus, Georgia, Dunn was widely credited for advancing the 3-3-5 defensive scheme with three down linemen and five defensive backs. He believed the speed of defensive backs to be an advantage in blitz schemes to pressure the quarterback.

Dunn played college football at Tennessee-Chattanooga.

Brewer hired Dunn away from what was then known as Memphis State, and Dunn assisted Brewer in 1992 and 1993.

Dunn coached at Arkansas in 1995, and joined Jackie Sherrill's Mississippi State staff in 1996.

Dunn's Ole Miss unit led the nation in total defense in 1993, a feat he repeated with MSU in 1999.

Sherrill praised Dunn's "innovative" schemes when Dunn was hired.

"I don't even know if I know what the definition of the word is," Dunn told the Daily Journal then. "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."

Sherrill fired Dunn and offensive coordinator Sparky Woods following the 2002 season, and Dunn did not leave without a few words later telling the Daily Journal his children wanted to know "why coach Sherrill fired their daddy."

Tributes have been shared on social media including this from former Ole Miss defensive back Derek Jones, now the co-defensive coordinator at Texas Tech.

"It was truly an honor to play for one of the best defensive coordinators in college football has ever seen. Coach Joe Lee Dunn demanded that you play hard, and if you weren't mentally and physically tough you couldn't play for him. His mentality helped mold many men."

PARRISH ALFORD is the college sports editor and columnist for the Daily Journal. Contact him at parrish.alford@journalinc.com.

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