A week before Christmas, just after Florida hired away Geoff Collins in a "lateral move", we immediately developed a HIGHLY UNEDUCATED list of candidates who Mississippi State could or should take a look at for its defensive coordinator position. A lot has happened since that list was created, so I felt like it needed some updating, along with a warming over of any other rumors that are currently floating around.
Bill Clark - former UAB coach
There haven't been any updates regarding Clark's employment anywhere; however, I haven't seen his name even mentioned in message board speculation in the last several weeks. I noted in our original post that Clark doesn't have just a heaping amount of experience as a coordinator, so maybe that's why he hasn't been mentioned. Or he very well may still be a good candidate, it's just that Mullen hasn't given the hire a second's thought until now with the bowl game behind us.
Manny Diaz - Louisiana Tech DC
Like Clark, nothing has changed in the last two weeks with regard to Manny's employment. He still draws a check in Ruston, and he still is floated around as a semi-attractive candidate for the position. The arguments against him are understandable -- he had a TON of NFL talent on the 2010 defense and was just okay, struggles at Texas, etc. -- and it seems like the consensus is very much split on whether or not bringing him back would be a good decision. The more I think about it, the less likely it seems that Mullen would rehire Manny. I could be way off, though. Right now, I'm counting him as a long shot until I hear otherwise.
Ed Orgeron - former USC DL coach
Da Coach O's name continues to gain steam, but honestly I'm not sure if that's smoke from a real fire or just message board excitement creating a false buzz. Orgeron's credentials haven't changed -- good recruiter, good DL coach, zero DC experience -- yet all you hear is how much of a home run hire he would be. I do think he would do a solid job as DC, however I'm not convinced that his hiring is just a slam dunk for success.
The other angle with Coach O that has developed in the last two weeks is that LSU now has an open position for defensive coordinator. They somehow fumbled a raise for John Chavis, which opened the door for him to head to Texas A&M. That leaves a higher profile position open that State will now compete with which could be an issue for us. As far as it goes for Orgeron, I think LSU is less likely to hire him as DC than we are given his lack of DC experience; however, he is a Louisiana guy, and a new DC could bring him in as DL coach if Brick Hailey goes to College Station with Chavis.
Barry Odom - (now former) Memphis DC
When we wrote about Odom two weeks ago we disclosed that he was a Missouri alum and that they had an opening for DC at the time. Those two things have naturally gravitated towards each other since, as Odom is now the new DC at Missouri. He was always a long shot after Mizzou lost their DC to a head coaching position, but he is now officially off the board. State will instead face him this fall in an interesting road matchup in Columbia.
Tyson Summers - (now former) Central Florida DC
Summers, like Odom, is now a former DC for the school he was with two weeks ago, as he has taken a job on the new staff at Colorado State. Summers' departure is a bit more surprising, at least to me, as he leaves one mid-major school (that's right, Bianchi; I said it) for another. Maybe he has ties to Bobo the new Rams head coach; I don't know. But the move was a bit surprising to me. His name is off the board as well.
New names in the last two weeks
Randy Shannon - (now former) Arkansas LB coach
One of the hot names on the rumors front since mid-December was former Miami coach Randy Shannon, who at the time was linebackers coach for Arkansas. There was even talk of Shannon coming in as DC with Orgeron as co-DC and DL coach, however that may have been equivalent to "Shaka Smart" bucket list hires as far as DC's go. Shannon too is now off the market, though, as new Florida coach Jim McElwain hired him away for the same position at Florida. I thought that was an interesting hire given that Geoff Collins coached linebackers (rather well, too) at MSU. Shannon does have good Florida recruiting ties, so he could have been brought in simply for that reason. He is off the board for State.
Deshea Townsend - current MSU DBs coach
The last real name we've been "seeing" mentioned for the job is current Mississippi State defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend. Townsend's name hasn't actually been mentioned as a candidate for the job outside of our own Justin Sutton, but he did call plays for the Bulldogs in the Orange Bowl. I really don't think you can judge Townsend's candidacy based off of one game against an offense that's very, very difficult to defend when it is working well, even if they did rack up an astronomical 450+ yards rushing. Townsend is a young guy with just a few years experience as a position coach, so if anything, that may be what keeps him from getting the job more than Tech's exploitation of our defense on Wednesday night. I just didn't want people to -- as sports fans do often -- rush to judgement based off of one game against a difficult offense.
DJ Durkin - former Florida DC
I hesitate to even mention Durkin's name given that he's reportedly all but already hired at Michigan, but at the off chance he slips through the cracks there -- like if Greg Mattison's reported being retained means he's the DC still -- then Durkin would be a home run candidate for MSU. He served as Florida's DC last year, and although the Gators just cleaned house, their problems under Muschamp dealt more with offensive ineptitude. Durkin is a young guy (36) and a hot name in the coaching ranks, as shown by Harbaugh's reported interest in him at Michigan. Again, he seems all but hired at this point, but keep an eye out for his name should they go in another direction in Ann Arbor.
Now that I've subtly tricked you all into reading over 1,000 words that basically tell you nothing new, I can say with all the confidence of a man who has no inside sources that there's nothing new (at least concrete) to report at this time. All we have is speculation, and even that has waned over the last two weeks.
Dan Mullen did say in one of his Orange Bowl press briefings that he wasn't going to hire a defensive coordinator until after the bowl game, so really the last few days have been the first that he's been focused on filling the position, at least in theory. The date(s) to watch will be two weeks from now when the AFCA hosts its annual coaches convention. If I'm not mistaken, that's where Mullen interviewed Collins a few years ago prior to hiring him, so that could be a likely source of meeting, greeting and scouting the next defensive coordinator for Mississippi State.
Mississippi State played some of its best football this season, but during the times that they struggled and lost, the defense was a serious concern. Collins' departure for Florida may wind up being a blessing or a hindrance going forward -- we really won't know until next fall -- but with a lot of talent possibly returning in 2015, it's important that MSU make a strong hiring to guide the defense going forward.
We will do our best to update you when any substantial rumors or news of interviews or a hiring comes forward on the position.