A Plea for the Next Defensive Coordinator at Mississippi State


As Mississippi State and head coach Dan Mullen continue to look for a replacement for the departed Geoff Collins at defensive coordinator, fans scour message boards and social media to try and figure out just who will be the next head man of the Bulldog defense.  Everyone has an opinion and as always, everyone has a “source” and an “in” on which that guy will be.

I don’t have the time or energy like some of you to speculate or search for whom that guy will be, but what I do have is a plea for the next defensive coordinator at Mississippi State and my plea is simple.

My plea is please for the love of God get back to the fundamentals of football.

Over the last month of the season, Mississippi State’s defense looked atrocious in just about every aspect of tackle football. Pass coverage, technique, tackling –the Bulldog defense was swag-less.

Let me first say that there is nothing wrong with fist bumping, chest bumping, dancing, ripping off the air shirt to show your superman status or any other means that gets you excited or crunk.

But – at the end of the day, none of that jazz does you any good, if you give up big play after big play and that’s what we saw from the Bulldog defense down the stretch – big plays against this unit.

And it wasn’t because the other team was necessarily better; it was due to a lack of focus and horrendous technique on the defensive side of the ball.

I have seen eighth grade football teams that tackle better than what I’ve seen out of Mississippi State and honestly it’s unacceptable.  This doesn’t mean I’m calling for a coach’s head or anything like that, but it is unacceptable and needs to be addressed.

Mississippi State is in the SEC, they pay their football staff as a unit millions of dollars to produce and while they did produce a 10-win football team, they failed to produce a tackling football team by the end of 2014.

Let’s take a look at some snap shots of what I’m talking about and why there is a need to go back to the basics.

We will start with the most recent debacle that was the Orange Bowl.  Early third quarter in the ball game, the Bulldogs were tied with the Yellow Jackets and it’s no secret what Tech likes to do with the football – run.  So you have to be able to stop the run and this is something the Bulldogs excelled at early in the 2014 season, but for some reason lost their way down the stretch.

First we will look at the big touchdown run, to start the third quarter.

On this play, it was a designed run to the left side of the offense and you can see instantly a bad angle by a Bulldog defender and a sloppy attempt at an ankle tackle.  No attempt was made at a proper form tackle to take the ball carrier down, Matthew Wells is in pursuit.

Along the sidelines, another Bulldog defender again attempts to take the ball carrier down, but by only throwing his shoulder in low on the player.  Wells continues his pursuit.

Tackling is something kids learn as young as six years old – proper angles, wrapping up, placing your head in the right spot – and these guys act like they have no clue what they are doing.

You cannot knock every ball carrier down with a vicious blow, you have to fundamentally take most good backs to the ground.

And here we see Wells finally makes an attempt at a one handed push out of bounds that was totally unsuccessful.  The ball carrier ended up scoring on a long touchdown run that should have been a pick up of about eight-yards on the play.

Here’s another angle of Wells ill-advised attempt at a one arm shove.

Again, this is not a case of me throwing players under the bus; this is me calling out what I see and that is a poor job in execution and fundamentals on defense.

Here is another example as we see Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas on a design quarterback run.  This play should have been stopped from the onset of the play, but eventually ended up being a huge run.

In this snap shot, Thomas splits two Bulldog defenders and once, past the line, takes off for a long touchdown run.  Yes sometimes players make plays and are just better, but here two defenders had an angle on Thomas and just missed him – flat out missed.

Here’s another look.

You can see Will Redmond is in position for the tackle, as another defender dives for the quarterbacks feet.  Redmond though took a poor approach, diving low to attempt to knock the quarterback down instead of wrapping up for a form tackle.  The result was a touchdown.

There was play after play like this throughout the last month of the season for the Bulldogs defense, but none worse than Jaylen Walton’s epic run to seal the Egg Bowl.

Initially you see Ole Miss running back Jaylen Walton on a designed run, where he is stretching the run to his left; as he is corralled by eight Bulldog defenders.

Walton continues to his left and looks to cut his run back to his right and up-field with Bulldogs in pursuit.

Initial contact is finally made on Walton by two Bulldog defenders with two more closing in on him, but again poor tackling as players grab, try to strip and just knock Walton to the Ground.

Here’s another angle of that snapshot as you can see Redmond attempting to strip the ball, instead of taking Walton to the ground.

And we know the rest of the story once he broke free as he was off to the races.

So this is a plea for the next defensive coordinator at Mississippi State.  This column is not meant to belittle or throw Bulldog players under the bus, but the obvious must be pointed out.

Mississippi State has forgotten how to tackle and play fundamental defense.  It is my plea that whomever the next guy is calling the shots on defense for the Bulldogs, that they go back to the basics and teach guys the fundamentals of football.

It really isn’t that hard as it takes a little effort and a little focus to detail.  If you don’t believe me, just ask any ninth grade football player.