STARKVILLE – Carl Torbush was out of the spotlight, and he was fine with that.
The veteran coach, who’d been at the helm at Louisiana Tech and North Carolina, and had led defenses at Ole Miss, Alabama and Texas A&M,
returned to Carson-Newman, his alma mater, in 2006 to become assistant head coach and linebackers coach.
He was living just outside his hometown of Knoxville, Tenn., and had no designs on leaving.
Then his résumé showed up on Dan Mullen’s fax machine shortly after the former Florida offensive coordinator was hired as MSU’s head coach in December.
To this day, Torbush doesn’t know who sent it. But he’s glad they did.
When Mullen received it, he thought to himself, “Is this that same Carl Torbush?”
Mullen called him, then interviewed him for about six hours.
“He and I hit it off,” Mullen said.
Mullen offered Torbush the position of defensive coordinator/linebackers coach, and he accepted without hesitation.
“I thought it was a great fit,” Torbush said. “Because like I said, I would not have left to come just anywhere. It had to be a fit for me,
a fit for my family, a fit with the staff and
what he was doing.”
Still has the fire
At 57 years old, Torbush is the elder
statesman of the MSU coaching staff. He got his start in coaching in the 1970s, working with the likes of coaching legend Grant Teaff and S.E. Sullens, author of the Complete Book of Multiple Defenses in Football.
Torbush has coached some of the best defenses
in the college ranks at North Carolina and Alabama. He was named the nation’s top defensive coordinator in 1996 while at UNC.
In 2005, though, he was fired by Texas A&M head coach Dennis Franchione. Torbush landed at Carson-Newman and, in the minds of some,
was past his prime.
But he said he didn’t return to this level to prove a point.
“I didn’t do that for that reason. I was very satisfied and happy,” he said. “I’d always wanted to go back to my alma mater, because there’s no question I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now without what it meant to me early in my career and life.”
Yet Torbush coaches the same way he always has, or he thinks he still does.
“I’m still, in my opinion, fiery on the field, and I still like to coach and like to be around the players,” he said.
Torbush hasn’t had trouble keeping up with the 37-year-old Mullen, who’s as demanding as they come.
“He’s not a big sit back on his heels and try to take it on,” Mullen said. “He gets after people, and he attacks people.”
Mullen was referring to Torbush’s defensive philosophy, but even though he’s considered one of the nice guys in college football, easy
to engage and quick with a smile, Torbush will get on his players as quickly as Mullen will, although about the saltiest thing overheard on
the practice fields so far is a “Kiss my butt!”
Torbush hopes his players find the same kind of on-field, off-field balance.
“Off the field, I want our players to be well-spoken and mannerly, be nice to people, because they’re role models for young people,” he said. “But once they get on the field, I want them to have that nasty mentality That doesn’t mean we’re going to do anything wrong, but I want them to get after people and that kind of thing.”
Bulldogs set to attack
So far, MSU’s defense is buying into Torbush and his ball-swarming schemes, which will feature multiple looks in hopes of keeping
opposing offenses off balance.
“I believe the way he’s got us running to the ball, a lot of good stuff’s going to happen for us,” said outside linebacker K.J. Wright.
Torbush has always admired State’s strong defenses of the past. Last year’s unit ranked 35th in the country in total defense, and the 2009 edition looks to be stout, especially up the middle.
“I’ve got a simple philosophy,” said Torbush. “If you rush four and they block seven, three of them guys are going to get double-teamed,
and it’s pretty hard unless you’re Superman to beat a double team.
Hopefully we’ll be able to bring from different angles and add an extra guy in the rush if we need to.”
It’s that sort of thing Torbush and Mullen talked about during that six-hour interview. It was enough to convince Mullen that Torbush is still an SEC-quality coach, someone who can again build feared defenses.
“Really,” said Mullen, “I feel very fortunate that the person I was looking for almost fell into my lap.”
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal