BRAD LOCKE: Changes ahead in Starkville?

By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal

Dan Mullen has plenty to evaluate now that the 2012 regular season has come to a close. That evaluation should start with his assistant coaches.
Mississippi State is 8-4, and those four losses don’t reflect well on offensive coordinator Les Koenning or defensive coordinator Chris Wilson. In setbacks to Alabama, Texas A&M, LSU and Ole Miss, MSU was outscored by an average of 38.5-15.3.
State averaged 55.5 rushing yards in those games. That put a lot of pressure on quarterback Tyler Russell, and he did about as well as one could expect under such circumstances.
Of the 16 sacks MSU has given up this season, seven came in the losses, including three in Saturday’s 41-24 Egg Bowl debacle against Ole Miss.
Russell has taken hits all season, and between that and the rushing struggles, there’s good reason to blame the offensive line. It’s been a weak point, and John Hevesy is the coach in charge of that group.
Hevesy and Mullen have coached together for 12 years. They first joined forces in 2001, on Urban Meyer’s staff at Bowling Green.
One wonders whether Mullen would be able to pull the trigger on Hevesy if it came to that. Head coaches who let relationships guide their personnel decisions aren’t usually head coaches for very long.
As for Koenning, he’s been unable to satisfactorily answer our questions about what’s ailed the offense at times this year. He leans on that word “execution,” using it in some form seven times during his postgame chat with reporters Saturday.
Defense needs attention
Wilson might require the most evaluation. Two seasons into his role as DC, and the defense appears to have gone backwards. Teams that run up-tempo offenses – namely Troy, Texas A&M and Ole Miss – have given State fits this season. Those three teams each went over 500 yards, gaining a combined total of 1,792 yards.
Wilson admitted Saturday that his defense has “a tempo issue.” Mullen said that’s an area where the coaches will “really evaluate where we are and what we need to do to improve.”
Perhaps that improvement can come via a new defensive coordinator. I don’t know.
The only firm statement is this: Something has to change. Otherwise, MSU isn’t going anywhere new as a program.

Brad Locke (brad.locke@journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com.