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Wiedmer: the great Mocs Joe Lee Dunn was unique in college football

School doesn’t matter. Nor the year. All you need to know is that within a week of National College Football Signing Day in February that winter, there was a blanket of snow on the ground outside the Big State U football offices, and Joe Lee Dunn was the only assistant coach inside the building.

And, as usual, he wore moccasins without socks.

As Dunn was heating his Campbell’s bean soup with bacon on a griddle, a reporter couldn’t help but ask him why he wasn’t there somewhere trying to lock up another defensive star of the high school for his employer.

With a smile on his face, Dunn replied, “Oh, they don’t want me to recruit. They know I won’t cheat.”

If ever a college football coach said what he wanted to say and meant what he said, it was Joseph Levi Dunn, who sadly passed away on October 26 at the too young age of 75 after having battled Alzheimer’s disease. Before becoming one of the best and most copied defensive coordinators in all college football, the creator of the blitz’s joyous 3-3-5 defense, Dunn was both an assistant at the University of Chattanooga and, later , an assistant at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. trainer under the late Joe Morrison.

Talented enough on the court as a player to become a Little All-American for these little college Mocs as a 5-foot-9, 158-pound backer, defensive back and kick returner, he was. an even better trainer under JoMo.

In fact, while many attribute ex-New York Giants Morrison’s efficient offense and high scoring to pushing the pair up the coaching ladder in New Mexico and then South Carolina, Dunn’s evil defenses were probably also responsible for the upward mobility of the two Joes. .

Or as former Auburn offensive lineman and current SEC network analyst Cole Cubelic shared on social media upon Dunn’s death: “The defenses coordinated by Joe Lee Dunn have caused us more misery and hardship. chess than any other group we’ve played against. I can’t think of a better compliment. It made college football better. “

Current Texas Tech defensive coordinator Derek Jones, who played for Dunn at Ole Miss, added on his Twitter post: “One of the best defensive coordinators FB college has ever seen. Coach Joe Lee Dunn has demanded that you play hard and if you weren’t mentally and physically tough you couldn’t play for him. His mindset has helped shape many men. RIP Coach. “

Longtime Chattanooga sports presenter Darrell Patterson, who is now retired but has covered Dunn during his days as an assistant coach at UTC, said: “Joe Lee was the defensive equivalent of Steve Spurrier. game, and 90% of the time it worked. “

AP Photo of Phelan M. Ebenhack / Memphis defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn, kneeling, and the rest of the Tigers coaching staff watch the University of Central Florida score during a game in Orlando on October 8, 2005. Dunn , known for his defensive innovation, was a former University of Chattanooga player and Mocs assistant. He died on October 26 at the age of 75.

Josh Morgan, now a high school coach in Mississippi who started four years safe in defense of Dunn in Mississippi State after marching, recalled such a moment in Kentucky against the big left-handed quarterback of the Wildcats Jared Lorenzen, deceased a few years ago.

“We were slipping our defensive line one way, and they kept picking it up,” Morgan recalled Friday. “Then the coach changed the blitz for a game and passed us the other way. I managed to pass, I hit Lorenzen really high, the ball came off, and we got it. picked up and ran 85 yards for a touchdown. There’s never been anyone else like him. “

Longtime Alabama sports writer Tommy Deas recalled another Mississippi State game against Kentucky: “I once went to Starkville to see Joe Lee Dunn’s defense face an offense. of Hal Mumme Kentucky. For the first time, JLD placed all 11 players within a yard of the line of scrimmage. Second snap, he had no defender within 3 yards of the line of scrimmage. “

He had come to Chattanooga University in the 1960s from Columbus, Georgia, where he also died. And it was always home, regardless of the nine middle and two high schools he worked for at one time or another, including head coaching positions in New Mexico and acting at Ole Miss. after Billy Brewer’s mid-season sacking in 1994.

“During the football season he was in the moment,” his brother-in-law Jay Sparks – whose sister Susie was the wife of Joe Lee and the mother of their three children – told the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. “But other than that, he was a funny and loving person.… He was joking. He would start dancing with his kids. He was so opposed when he didn’t have the burden of competing.”

Few friends or colleagues saw Dunn’s many facets more than Sharon Fanning, who was a UTC Lady Moc in basketball when Dunn was an assistant coach, and then ended up helping him recruit him from the State of Mississippi when she was the Bulldogs’ women’s coach.

“Joe Lee was very laid back but also very competitive,” said Fanning, who often played racquetball against him. “He was a very loyal person who loved his wife and kids and never promoted himself. However, he always did the job. I tried calling him last month, but he was too sick to come on the phone. Such a loss. “

He was as southern as the day was long. Patterson recalled a UTC defensive player whose first name was Jordan. Only Dunn would never pronounce it that way. Falling back to how people still pronounced former Auburn coach Shug Jordan’s last name as “Jurden,” Dunn would do the same.

“I would say, you mean Jordan, don’t you?” Patterson said.

“And he’d be like, ‘No, I mean Jurden. “

But he always had the right answer for anything defense-related, which brings us back to Morgan and his days with Dunn on the Memphis Tigers squad.

“Joe Lee was running a training clinic for a year, and coaches from across the country had come in for that,” Morgan said. “Joe Lee was a coaching star. During the clinic he started talking about this 2-4-5 defense he was experimenting with. Someone asked him why he thought he could lead a defense with only two players. defensive line.

“Joe Lee said, ‘Maybe because I only have two good defensive linemen.’ It was his genius. “

No sock required.


Of text
Marc Wiedmer

Contact Mark Wiedmer at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @TFPWeeds.



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