Sidelines with John Clay

Mississippi State’s revolving door of defensive coordinators

Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen leads his 2-4 Bulldogs into Commonwealth Stadium to play 3-3 Kentucky on Saturday.
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen leads his 2-4 Bulldogs into Commonwealth Stadium to play 3-3 Kentucky on Saturday. Associated Press

Mississippi State brings a new defensive coordinator to Lexington on Saturday night when the Bulldogs play Kentucky. That’s nothing new, however. MSU coach Dan Mullen has employed six different defensive coordinators over his eight years in Starkville.

Peter Sirmon is the newest model, Mullen’s third defensive coordinator in the last three years. The 39-year-old native of Walla Walla, Washington was the linebackers coach at Southern Cal when Mullen hired him to replace Manny Diaz, who stayed just one year in his second stint at MSU after succeeding Geoff Collins.

Here’s a rundown of Mullen’s defensive coordinators:

2009 - Carl Torbush: When Mullen arrived from Florida, where he had been Urban Meyer’s offensive coordinator, he hired ex-North Carolina head coach Carl Torbush as his first defensive coordinator. That lasted one season. After giving up 26.8 points per game, Torbush left Starkville to become the defensive coordinator at Kansas. He is now the head coach at East Tennessee State.

2010 - Manny Diaz: This was the first MSU stint for Diaz. It was a successful one. The Bulldogs reduced points allowed per game to 19.8 and total yards per game from 366 to 357. After Will Muschamp left Texas to become the head coach at Florida, Mack Brown convinced Diaz to come to Austin. He lasted there three years before being let go.

2011 and 2012 - Chris Wilson: The former Sooner was Oklahoma’s defensive ends coach before coming to Starkville to coach the defensive line in 2010. He was elevated to coordinator in 2011. State gave up just 351 yards per game and 19.7 points per game the first season. That slipped to 387 yards and 23.3 points in 2012. Collins coached Georgia’s defensive line in 2013, then went to the Southern Cal in 2014. He had been hired at Missouri in January before accepting an offer to coach the defensive line for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

2013 and 2014 - Geoff Collins: Collins had actually been co-coordinator with Wilson before he was promoted to the top spot by Mullen in 2013. State allowed 349 yards and 23 points per game in 2013. Though the Bulldogs gave up 424 yards per game in 2014, the points per game average dropped to 21.7. After the season, Collins accepted new coach Jim McElwain’s offer to come to Florida. The departure upset Mullen, who termed it a “lateral move.”

2015 - Manny Diaz: After coordinating Louisiana Tech’s defense in 2014, Diaz returned to Starkville to re-create some of his past magic. The Bulldogs allowed 391 yards and 23.2 points per game. After a 9-4 season, with a win over North Carolina State in the Belk Bowl, new Miami coach Mark Richt hired Diaz with the Hurricanes. It was a homecoming for Diaz.

2016 - Peter Sirmon: Mullen had never met Sirmon before their interview at the AFCA convention last year. Mullen came away so impressed, he hired the former NFL player 24 hours later.

Sirmon played linebacker at Oregon before embarking on a seven-year NFL career with the Tennessee Titans. After retiring, he took a $4,000-a-year assistant coaching job at Central Washington. From there, he was a grad assistant at Oregon, coached linebackers at Tennessee under Derek Dooley before joining Steve Sarkisian at Southern Cal.

This year, Mississippi State is 38th nationally in total defense, allowing 361.3 yards per game. The Bulldogs are 37th in rushing defense, allowing 136.2 yards per game. They are 85th in pass efficiency defense with a 136.1 rating.

Mississippi State game-by-game defense 2016

Opponent

Rush

Yds

Avg

Comp

Att

Yds

TD

Int

Plays

Yds

So Alabama

20

94

4.70

24

34

285

2

0

54

379

S Carolina

31

34

1.10

20

39

209

2

1

70

243

@LSU

39

177

4.54

19

32

215

1

0

71

392

@Umass

28

138

4.93

24

41

273

4

3

69

411

@Auburn

56

228

4.07

14

18

204

1

1

74

432

@BYU

47

146

3.11

16

28

165

3

1

75

311

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