By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – A change at defensive coordinator won’t mean a change in Mississippi State’s defensive philosophy.
Chris Wilson was promoted to that position on Thursday, replacing Manny Diaz, who left after one season for the same job at Texas. Wilson was co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach this past season.
Graduate assistant Angelo Mirando was also promoted, to wide receivers coach. He replaces Mark Hudspeth, who left last month to become head coach at UL-Lafayette.
Wilson, who will still coach the defensive line, roomed with Diaz the first fourth months they were on the job, and they have been on the same page ever since.
“I think part of the reason why Chris and I work great together is philosophically we’re almost twins,” Diaz said. “We would spend those nights when we were living together before spring practice and (used) that opportunity to really dream up exactly the type of defense we wanted to be, because we were starting from scratch.”
Wilson and Diaz worked in unison quite well, judging by the on-field results. MSU, which went 9-4 and beat Michigan 52-14 in the Gator Bowl, made its most marked improvement in rushing defense (146.0 yards per game in 2009, 119.1 in 2010) and scoring defense (from 26.8 points per game to 19.8).
“There’s still a great deal of improvement to make, and we’re looking forward to hitting the ground running both in recruiting and when we get back to the practice fields,” Wilson said in a press release.
The change has raised concerns among commitments for the 2011 class, particularly four-star linebacker C.J. Johnson.
The Philadelphia product re-opened his recruitment after Diaz left, according to Rivals.com, but other reports say that he’s comfortable with Wilson’s promotion. Johnson was recently named the defensive MVPof the Mississippi-Alabama All-star football game.
Diaz said there should be no consternation among prospects.
“Our players at every position on both sides of the ball respond to Chris’ demeanor and to his leadership,” he said. “Everybody should feel very comfortable with Chris in charge.”
Mirando, 25, was a college quarterback at Case-Western Reserve in Cleveland just three years ago. He then latched on with Mullen at Florida in 2008 and followed him to Starkville.
After Hudspeth left, Mirando coached the receivers during Gator Bowl preparations.
“Angelo has a great knowledge of our offensive system and what we’re trying to accomplish,” Mullen said in a statement. “He did a tremendous job during the bowl preparation, and I’m confident he’ll do a great job working with our receivers full-time.”
MSU still must hire a linebackers coach, and that person might also hold the title of co-defensive coordinator, according to Mullen. Hudspeth also held the title of passing game coordinator, but Mullen didn’t say if Mirando would also take over that role.
All of MSU’s assistants are up for raises, but athletics director Scott Stricklin said that won’t be announced until the remaining vacancy is filled. The same goes for Mirando’s salary; as a GA, he made $1,000 a month.
Wilson made $240,000 last year.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571