How Will Mullen Use the Open Spot on the Coaching Staff?

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With the departure of Les Koenning last week, there is an opening at offensive coordinator and QB coach for Mississippi State. There haven’t been many rumors surrounding a potential replacement, and the common belief is that WR coach Billy Gonzalez will be promoted, or there will be a Co-O.C. with Gonzo and OL coach John Hevesy (Gonzo passing game coordinator, Hevesy running game). So is MSU looking for a new O.C., a QB coach or something else?

You might recall – I’ve been wanting a new special teams coach pretty bad. Second only to retaining Geoff Collins I think special teams are a huge issue for MSU. It’s not just the kicking game (which is very bad) but punt blocking, kick coverage – you name it, it has been mediocre at best during Mullen’s tenure.

Dan Mullen is the self-appointed special teams coach. And while he probably had a heavy hand in it when he first arrived, I think it has been divvied up among the coaching staff and grad assistants in the last year or two. I’m not trying to blame anyone – the bottom line is it needs to get corrected. It’s a part of the game that can help you or really hurt you. Just think back to last fall…

  • vs. Kentucky Devon Bell drops the snap on a punt from the endzone resulting in a safety – MSU won by six (28-22) but UK was driving in the final minutes. Had it not been for Kendrick Market’s game-saving tackle State could have easily lost that game due to the bonus two points right there….no bowl game, no winning record.
  • at Texas A&M there is another safety on an endzone punt giving A&M two points. Without that they are up only 8 when MSU goes for 2 late in the game; without that safety MSU kicks the extra point and is down only one score (49-42) with a real possibility of getting the ball back to tie it up.
  • More from the A&M game – State allowed a kickoff return for a TD. It was called back for excessive celebration but it was a TD.
  • at Arkansas – missed FG which would have won the game at the end of regulation. I will say they did snuff out a fake punt attempt in that game so that is good.
  • vs. Ole Miss – Jameon Lewis fair catching the ball inside the 10, then the blocked punt resulting in OM’s only touchdown. Plus the missed FG at the end of regulation that would have won the game.

We all know Mississippi State isn’t going to blow any SEC teams away with sheer talent. We can match a lot of teams man for man, but against the elite we are often out-manned. Special teams mistakes are an absolute no-no. That’s one area you can be fundamentally sound and not hurt yourself. I’m not even talking about generating big plays from special teams like Virginia Tech – just playing sound football and eliminating miscues. If we make chip shot field goals and don’t allow big returns or blocked punts we will greatly increase our chances to win, and that could be the difference in getting over the hump or not.

Here are the special teams rankings during Mullen’s tenure:

Punt ReturnsKickoff ReturnsPuntingFG KickingPunt CoverageKickoff Coverage
200947th12th84th37th115th68th
201051st73rd52nd78th22nd90th
201124th116th37th90th21st26th
201281st46th59th94th1st35th
2013116th60th78th122nd38th46th

If indeed Coach Mullen is ready to hire a special teams coach I applaud the move. Having a coach specifically focused on this area of the game could help tremendously. Instead of a liability is could be an asset. But I’m perfectly fine just not having to worry about it at all and let the offense and defense win and lose games. Hopefully MSU can bring in a veteran coach to help out and maximize our potential as a football team in 2014.