Dan Mullen Gave MSU Fans What they Wanted with Coaching Hires


After Tony Hughes and Manny Diaz left the MSU coaching staff to take positions at other schools, there was concern about who would be hired to fill their shoes but also excitement for an opportunity to improve.

The main concern was recruiting. That’s in large part because State’s 2016 class currently ranks in the 40s….and anything in the SEC outside the top 20 is bad news – anything outside the top 30 is unacceptable. Losing your recruiting coordinator (Tony Hughes) who was generally considered the staff’s top recruiter was a big blow to a bad situation.

Most MSU fans wanted Mullen to hire based on recruiting over scheme/coaching. He did that.

First with Terrell Buckley as safeties coach. He’ll join Deshea Townsend as two secondary coaches who both have Superbowl rings and double digit years in the NFL.

Then with Peter Sirmon as defensive coordinator (who also played seven years in the NFL). We don’t know how he’ll do as a play-caller (although he did call USC’s bowl game), but we know he fits the position coach the Bulldogs were missing (linebackers) and he was the recruiting coordinator for the program that reeled in the #2 recruiting class in the nation last year….just a hair behind Alabama.

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As far as what the fans were hoping for, you have to say Mullen nailed these hires. We’ll see how it pans out on the field but so far it looks like a slam dunk.

When Hughes and Diaz left I felt like these hires were pretty important. To say we’re at a crossroads is probably over-stating it a bit. But for the future – 2018 and beyond – I think this is a very important time to not lose traction on the recruiting trails.

The Mississippi State / Ole Miss rivalry goes back and forth. There’s a lot of OM fans who believe they are leaving State in the dust and a number of State fans who believe it as well. That’s probably overstating it a bit too, but there is some truth to it.

When you look at MSU / OM, you can see some similarities to South Carolina / Clemson.

Several years ago we compared the job Mullen was doing to Steve Spurrier at SC. There were a lot of similarities such as a limited football tradition and a handful of years building a program before it could finally take off. That piece was on the right path in terms of Mullen taking about five years to build a program ready for the next level as it took Spurrier, one of the SEC’s greatest coaches, to do. 2010 was that year for the Gamecocks, and 2014 was it for MSU.

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Spurrier was able to grab some really talented players in the state of South Carolina and he beat up on Clemson – five in a row from 2009-13. But Dabo Swinney kept recruiting hard. He had the Tigers in the top 10 or 20 classes in the nation every year while SC fluctuated. Eventually it caught up to Spurrier, and quick. He went just 7-6 in 2014 and then retired (or, quit) midway through their 3-9 season in 2015. Meanwhile Clemson played for the national title this year.

There are some similarities with Ole Miss and Clemson. A decent head coach who is a great recruiter. The Rebels have had a better record every year under Hugh Freeze: 7-6, 8-5, 9-4 and 10-3. You’re fooling yourself if you say he’s not a really good coach, and with his recruiting prowess the Rebs aren’t going anywhere. The key is for State to maintain their footing within the state and region so they don’t fall off without bringing in as much pure talent.

The gap between Ole Miss and Mississippi State is a small one. Sure it looked big in the Egg Bowl, but that was one game. The reality is both programs have the exact same record over the last two years (19-7) and the last four years (34-18). South Carolina and Clemson have a much bigger gap, perhaps made larger by the Gamecocks’ questionable hiring of Will Muschamp. But the point remains – hiring Buckley and Sirmon need to pay off on the recruiting trails to keep the talent flowing through Starkville, and the Bulldogs competing every year like they have in 2014 and 2015.