2014 MSU Football Preview: The Coaching Staff

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

There were a few tweaks and changes to the coaching staff over the off-season, but on the whole the same faces will lead the way for the Bulldogs in the fall.

As we continue our preview of the upcoming 2014 season, we turn our attention to a part of the MSU team that, like the players, features plenty of returning talent from last year's squad: the coaching staff.  While most of the faces we know-those of Dan Mullen, Geoff Collins, John Hevesey and others-there are a few new faces that will be seen roaming the sidelines in maroon and white for the first time this fall.  Let's run through both sides of the football, any changes, and how this staff can help MSU's chances this fall.

Staff

Dan Mullen - Head Coach
Geoff Collins - DC/LBs Billy Gonzales - co-OC/WRs
John Hevesy - co-OC/OL Tony Hughes - Safeties/Recruiting Coordinator
Brian Johnson - QBs (new) Greg Knox - RBs/Special Teams Coordinator
Scott Sallach - TEs Deshea Townsend - DBs
David Turner - DL Jon Clark - Assistant AD/Football Ops
Rick Court - Strength Coach (new) Rocky Felker - Dir. of Player Personnel/HS Relations

Defense

MSU's defensive staff stayed the same from 2013 to this fall, but that almost was not the case as a national champion showed interest in one of the coaches.  MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins has been a rising name in the coaching ranks for several years now, but since he took over the MSU defense full time by himself, his name has seemed to climb faster up the latter of recognition in the game.  That led to some reported interest from Florida State earlier this year, who was looking to replace its DC after a national championship season, and many of us thought we may have seen the last of the psycho defense at Davis Wade Stadium.  That was not the case, though, as MSU and Collins worked out a new, 2-year extension to his contract that raised his salary to around $600k a year.  The raise was well deserved, and the keeping of Collins coupled with lots of returning talent means State fans are very excited about the year ahead.

Offense

While the defensive staff all stayed put after the 2013 season, that was not the case on the offensive side of the ball, as State saw its offensive coordinator leave for a position at Texas.  After serving as Dan Mullen's Offensive Coordinator and QBs coach since he came to Starkville in 2009, Les Koenning left Starkville to take a job on Charlie Strong's staff at Texas.  That left a pretty sizeable hole to fill for Mullen, but instead of opting to fill it with another traditional OC, he went another route and did some promoting from within.  Soon after Koenning's exit, Mullen named OL coach John Hevesey and WRs coach Billy Gonzales co-Offensive Coordinators, which Hevesey in charge of rushing and Gonzales passing.  That left only the QBs coaching position open, which Dan filled with former Utah great and assistant coach Brian Johnson.  Johnson, who is only 27, had been involved with QBs at Utah since 2010, and even has some offensive coordinator experience as well on his resume.

2014 Preview

There is a lot to be excited about for State fans this fall, and that is partially due to the returning players, partially due to the returning coaching staff.  Geoff Collins' raise and subsequent return gets the most attention, and rightfully so, as he comes back to lead a defense that returns all but two starters off of a stout 2013 unit.  Collins isn't MSU's only successful DC from recent years, but there's something about him that gives you the sense that he could be the best.  His defenses attack the ball, on the line of scrimmage or in the defensive backfield, and he has taken a mix of highly recruited players and hardly recruited players and turned them into one of the best defenses going into this season.  With the returning talent-on the sideline and on the field-on the defensive side, I would put State's starting 11 up against most offenses going into this fall.  And that'

Offensively, a lot really won't change in 2014 even though MSU's "Offensive Coordinator" has departed.  I put that title in parenthesis because we know now that Dan Mullen calls the plays, so really the offense will go unchanged.  We could see some different things with Hevesy and Gonzales now more involved with the overall offense than before, but on the whole I expect to see a lot of the same run-first, spread option that we've seen from Mullen's offenses since the beginning in 2009.  If anything, I think it could be argued that the offensive staff improved over the spring, as Brian Johnson's addition gives State a Mullen-produced QB who knows his system and is young enough to be able to relate and relay things better to the players.  Johnson also seems to be quite the recruiter, so add another tick in the plus column with his move over from Utah.

Overall, I think this staff is as ready as it has ever been for a break out season.  Mullen, while successful at MSU, has drawn a lot of criticism for his inability to beat a big opponent not named Ole Miss.  If there was ever a chance for him to shake that monkey, this season could be it.  State returns a boatload of talent, and the coaching staff has all been around and has worked with most of these players since they came to State.  The familiarity goes a long way as does the coaching ability, so the formula appears right for Mullen and company to take the next step this fall.  We shall see soon enough.

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