It’s the end of the regular season so naturally it’s time for coaching evaluations.
First off, Dan Mullen earned his keep for the 2014 season. I don’t think he earned a contract extension per se, but he did prove he deserves to keep this thing going under his guidance. Beating Ole Miss is huge obviously, but it was also his first win over a SEC team that finished the year with a winning record since Florida in 2010 – he needed a win like that desperately.
The team played hard all year, and were very close to achieving that signature victory that has eluded Mullen’s tenure. They never gave up and continued to compete no matter what for 60 minutes in every game (maybe not LSU though).
I don’t really have much to gripe about other than some play-calling and personnel decisions. This is Mullen’s offense, and I’m not sure who calls what play and when, so it’s hard to point a finger between him and Keonning, but for the most part this offense was highly productive. They essentially only lose two starters (Gabe Jackson and Charles Siddoway) since Perkins shouldn’t have been starting anyway, so next year’s group should be even better. I don’t think there needs to be any staff changes here, but I do think Mullen needs to take an even bigger role with the offense, which I’ll get to later.
Geoff Collins did a great job here. They got better and better as the year wore on. The stats don’t exactly back it up compared to past years, but this was a salty defense most of the year. They could be even better next year with 8 returning starters. Safety has been a bit of a concern, but there was a lot of injuries there including Nickoe Whitley playing injured most of the year. Great job by Collins as well as new addition to the staff, Deshea Townsand and David Turner. If there is going to be any contract extensions or pay raises, I would suggest giving Collins one.
This is the biggest problem and it MUST be addressed in the offseason. Mullen coaches the special teams, and it was atrocious this year. It has never been much of anything during his tenure, but it’s a detriment to winning now. We have 4 offensive coaches and 3 defensive coaches – I would take Scott Sallach (TE coach) and re-assign him within the athletic department and hire a special teams coach.
This would have a two-fold benefit:
- better special teams
- improved offense with Mullen’s full attention
What I wanted to see the most in 2013 was a team that competed for 4 quarters vs. good teams. We did not see that against Oklahoma State or LSU, but did see it vs. Auburn in the first half of the season. South Carolina you could say either way with Prescott’s turnovers, and we did compete in each of the last four games (although Ark doesn’t really count as a good team). So that’s good – 4.5 out of 7 as far as playing 4 quarters against quality competition.
Getting to a bowl game again is huge. The youth on this team will benefit from the extra practices as well as the additional game, plus it’s more exposure. It keeps the ball rolling as far as program momentum, and even though the bowl system is watered down it’s nice to have a school record on that front.
Looking ahead to next year State needs to find a way to take a step up, and that involves an upset. Yes, we “upset” Ole Miss, but we are equals to OM. We need to figure out how to finish big games with a W. The final two regular season games of 2013 might go a long way in learning how to win – both games going into overtime and the Dawgs got it done.
In conclusion, good job by the coaches all around this year. They kept the guys grinding all year and live to fight another day. Outside of special teams, I don’t see any need for change, and we can continue moving forward as a program seeking to get to where we ultimately want to be.