By now you've all likely read the reports that Florida has hired away MSU defensive coordinator Geoff Collins. While some will spend entirely too much time debating why Collins left or how good the Florida job is for him, it's more important now for Mississippi State to quickly turn its focus towards his replacement. Recruiting season is kicking into high gear with signing day less than two months away, and having a defensive coordinator in place and in the homes of potential signees is key, especially for MSU's talented defensive class to date.
With the move being confirmed by MSU it's time to start looking at who should replace Collins in Starkville. Dan Mullen has already stated that he isn't in a rush to hire anyone -- and maybe he shouldn't be -- but that shouldn't and won't stop us from tossing a few names into the ring for him.
Bill Clark - former UAB head coach
The sadly former UAB head football coach led his program to its first bowl game in a decade only to see the program shutter its doors after this past season, and now the defensive-minded coach is out of a job. Clark has only minimal experience as a college defensive coordinator (2008-2012 at South Alabama), but his success at UAB and his defensive mindset intrigues me. UAB's actual defensive numbers weren't all that great -- 77th in total defense and 90th in scoring defense in 2014 -- but is Clark capable of better if he's able to devote his time solely to defense? South Alabama finished three spots ahead of Mississippi State in total defense in 2012 when he was their DC.
People are quick to label this a "retread", but is it really when the guy we're talking about just turned 40? Diaz isn't exactly a Carl Torbush, although yes he technically has been a DC at three schools already, including a previous stint at MSU. But he was successful in that short stint as the MSU DC, even if his Texas tenure didn't go as well.
Was his time at Texas really as bad as we perceive it, though? His Longhorn D finished 11th nationally in total defense in 2011 and 33rd in scoring defense that same year. Granted, I do seem to remember there being some personnel issues and maybe problems with how he ran the defense, but I'll have to talk to our Texas site about that. All in all, he's a young guy who was tossed from a sinking ship at Texas and has landed on his feet fairly nicely at Louisiana Tech (53rd in scoring D, 32nd in total D). If Dan has familiarity with him and the two are on good terms, wouldn't he be worth a call?
Ed Orgeron? - Head Coach, DACOACHO U
I included a question mark with this one because it seems insane for me to even type, but if you peruse any MSU message board today you'll find Da Coach O's name all over it as a wanted candidate, and why not? He's a known recruiting commodity, he's recruited this area for years in various jobs, and he's a defensive guy. The downside is he doesn't actually have a lot of time (or any time, actually) logged as a defensive coordinator. Would that be an issue? It's likely to not matter as this is probably the most far-fetched of all the far fetched names I'm pitching in his post.
Barry Odom - Memphis DC
Just up the road from Starkville, the Memphis Tigers are coming off of one of their most successful seasons in recent memory. And a big part of how they got to 9-3 this season was a defense that finished fifth overall in scoring defense. That unit is led by one Barry Odom, a man finds himself as a candidate for several vacant DC positions even as we speak. The biggest issue with Odom is that he's a Missouri alum, and Missouri just lost their DC to a head coaching vacancy. With Odom's name being a hot one right now, it seems like it'd be a natural fit for him to go to Columbia and join the Tigers' staff, but no announcement has come yet. Dan doesn't seem to be in a hurry to hire anyone either, which likely means no bidding war with Missouri over Odom, and he likely ends up there rather than Starkville.
Tyson Summers - Central Florida DC
Summers, like Odom, is a name I included here simply because he had a defense that finished really well in 2014. Central Florida finished 9th in scoring defense this past season in Summers' first year as DC. He's a young guy (2002 college graduate), but Dan has hired young guys in bigger positions before (see Diaz), so I don't think the age would be a deterrent.
There's also a chance that MSU promotes from within, however that seems to be the longest shot of any at this point. State's staff under Collins was mostly a mix of recruiters and seasoned position coaches, and with the hiring of Diaz and Collins previously, it seems like Dan favors hiring guys with DC experience at smaller schools.
No matter who Mississippi State goes after, I have to think that this is an appealing job nationally. Dan has coached alongside four different DCs in his six year stint at State, however the defense has, for the most part, been successful that entire time. And two of those DCs have now been hired away by other schools, which clearly indicates that they were doing SOMETHING right at MSU. There's also a lot of talent returning in 2015, and with the other side of the ball returning a good bit too (hopefully), the pressure would be off of a new hire to come in and succeed right away.
The loss of Collins certainly hurts, but he's not irreplaceable, and I think Dan has shown that he's capable of finding the next man up over his time at State. The SEC isn't the easiest place to cut your teeth as a coach period, but with MSU's returning talent and a 10-2 season under its belt, it seems like a perfect landing spot for an up and coming coach.