Koenning and Wilson


The frustration of losing 4 out of the last 5 games this season by an average of 23 points has MSU fans wanting some answers. And deservedly so, State only beat one bowl-eligible team (Middle Tennessee), and it’s hard to figure out just how good the Bulldogs really are. But we do know they are better than a lot of teams as their 8-4 record indicates – so it’s not all doom and gloom.

Most of the fingers are being pointed in the direction of the coordinators – O.C. Les Koenning and D.C. Chris Wilson. Do they deserve to be fired? Should we just fire one of them? Neither?

Les Koenning

The offensive play-calling in the Egg Bowl left a lot to be desired. In fact, there were various times during the season when the play-calling was questionable…although for the most part it wasn’t too bad as MSU set a number of records both individually and collectively. That has to be stated, because while yes, most of those numbers came against weaker competition, there have been many years when State’s offense has struggled to move the ball against weaker competition.

Also, this is Dan Mullen’s offense. Koenning is the coordinator, he’s a coach on the practice field and calls the plays during games, but Dan is game planning with him and he does have final say on the play-call. However, it’s up to Koenning to draw out the succession of plays in advance to make the proper calls. So I guess the question is: does Mullen agree with the plays Koenning calls? Can he get Koenning to call the correct plays at the right time? Does Mullen need someone else who is a better play-caller, or maybe a better coach on the practice field? Should Dan take over himself?

Overall, I don’t see enough evidence that Koenning needs to go. I think some slight adjustments need to be made, but he’s doing a decent job. Looking at 2013, he’ll have a veteran offensive line, both QBs returning and the entire running back corp. WR will be a question, but he does have some athletes.

Chris Wilson

The biggest moans from the MSU fanbase have been about Chris Wilson, and that is fair. With 3 seniors and a junior in the secondary – probably the best talent in the SEC, MSU ranked 8th in the conference in pass defense. The defensive line, which he coaches, under-performed all year and were 13th in the SEC in sacks.

Wilson’s defensive philosophy is stop the run and don’t let them throw it over your head. In other words, bend but don’t break. Don’t be too aggressive and allow big plays, but rather wait for the other team to make a mistake. Well, that just doesn’t work against the better teams – State gave up 38.5 PPG in the four losses. And when you play vanilla against the lesser teams, it doesn’t prepare you for much of anything when you need to be more aggressive against the likes of Alabama or Texas A&M. There were many times when it looked like no attempt at adjustments were made. And when you prepared incorrectly, it’s time to make some adjustments.

It also seemed like the defense did not show the type of emotion and intensity you usually see from Mississippi State. But playing conservatively will do that. Hardly any blitzes (except the corner blitz with our best cover guy), and just not much pressure put on opposing QBs.

If I’m going to fire one of these coordinators, it’s Wilson. He is a good coach, but I just don’t know if he’s got what it takes to bring State to the next level. He’s got beating Kentucky, South Alabama, Middle Tennessee  etc. down pat, but if we’re going to go from good to very good we’re going to need something more…and I think an aggressive approach is just that.

We’ll see what happens. I’m not sold that firing one or both of these guys really is the best thing for the program. You have to make sure you get the right guy in here or it could go in the other direction. If adjustments can be made by the coaches to improve their approach, that could work as well. Ellis Johnson is available now, Manny Diaz could be back on the market too – Dan Mullen will just have to make the best decision for MSU.