By Brad Locke / NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Chris Wilson is older than Manny Diaz, has more years of coaching under his belt, and came to Mississippi State from a much higher-profile program.
But there was not the least bit of jealousy or obstinacy when the two were hired a year ago this month to lead MSU’s defense. Diaz was the wunderkind from Middle Tennessee State and got the title of defensive coordinator.
Wilson, who’d been coaching defensive ends at Oklahoma, was named defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator. He’d been a defensive coordinator only once, at Northwestern Oklahoma Aamp&M in 1996.
He was technically below Diaz, but they were nearly equal partners.
“We called it 51 percent and 49 percent,” Wilson said Friday, a day after he was promoted to defensive coordinator following Diaz’s departure for Texas. “At the end of the day, obviously he had the 51 percent, I had the 49 percent. The biggest thing that I think Manny and I created was an environment with no egos. We wanted good ideas, we wanted to work on ideas.
“It was never a point of who was the smartest guy, it was what was right for our players.”
Wilson, who turned 42 on Saturday, said he learned plenty from working with the 36-year-old Diaz, who was defensive coordinator for four years at Middle Tennessee. Yet there is no doubt that Wilson will put his own mark on MSU’s defense, which was among the best in the country against the run this season (119.1 yards per game) but ranked 90th against the pass (237.8 ypg).
“The system won’t change, but the personality will,” he said. “We all have our own ways of doing things, and how we get them across. I don’t think there will be a big deviation from it from the standpoint of scheme. But you always bring in your own spice, your own flavor, of who you are to the program.
“So we’ll stamp it, but at the end of the day, it’ll be four coaches in there who’ll have their own kind of flavor.”
Wilson, who will remain the defensive line coach but could wind up coaching linebackers, is now in charge of Tony Hughes (safeties), Melvin Smith (cornerbacks and nickelbacks), and whoever is hired to coach the linebackers or defensive line.
And whether he coaches the linebacker position, Wilson will be the man tasked with replacing three starters from that group, which included Conerly Trophy winner Chris White.
Some young players like Chris Hughes and Deontae Skinner got good experience this year, and Wilson doesn’t plan on taking a step back there.
“So I feel confident, and they should feel confident, knowing one thing, that the person that’s going to be sitting in the chair, that’s the only thing that’s going to change,” Wilson said. ” I want this to be as seamless as it can possibly be.”