Reason No. 9: Mullen Knows How to Hire Assistants

There are many reasons to believe Mississippi State will equal or exceed last season’s success – 31 reasons, in fact. Here’s Reason No. 9.

Every coaching staff has turnover from time to time, and in college football it’s an annual issue for most programs. Mississippi State has been no exception. Carl Torbush left after the 2009 season, then Manny Diaz and Mark Hudspeth after last year.

Head coach Dan Mullen has managed to fill those holes, both from outside and inside, and there seems to have been few continuity issues. When Diaz took over for Torbush as defensive coordinator, in fact, that unit made noticeable improvement – MSU allowed 366.0 yards and 26.8 points per game in 2009, and those numbers dropped to 356.8 and 19.8 last year. State increased its sack total from 18 to 26.

Then Diaz departed for Texas, but Mullen just promoted co-defensive coordinator Chris Wilson, who’s largely stuck with what Diaz implemented. The new hire was Geoff Collins, who takes over linebackers (the position Diaz coached) and now serves as co-DC. Collins has done big things (most recently at UCF and FIU) and fits the same mold as Diaz – a young coach on the rise. Plus, he’s very familiar with the system.

Mullen also stayed in-house to replace Hudspeth, going with 25-year-old Angelo Mirando, who had been working with Mullen since 2008 as a graduate assistant. Mirando had his test run in the Gator Bowl and passed with flying colors.

Everyone else has stuck with Mullen: fellow ex-Gator offensive line coach John Hevesy, well-traveled offensive coordinator Les Koenning, running backs coach Greg Knox, safeties coach Tony Hughes, Sylvester Croom holdover Melvin Smith, strength coach Matt Balis (also a former Florida employee) and tight ends coach Scott Sallach, an old college buddy of Mullen’s.

Koenning had a relevant comment about this yesterday when speaking on Mirando: “When you hire coaches, and you get in different situations, the No. 1 issue is if you’ve got continuity it’s so much easier.”

Mullen has surrounded himself not only with talented coaches, but people he’s comfortable with. Most are high-octane personalities, and even more important, they’ve been willing to follow Mullen even while he matures as a head coach. There’s a good balance of youthful energy and proven experience.

For all the credit Mullen gets for his coaching, it can’t be overstated how much he’s helped himself with his assistant hires.