Early on in the 2014 offseason, Mississippi State’s football program shared some good news when it announced the retaining of defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, one of the hotter-name assistants in the coaching world.
Dan Mullen and athletic director Scott Stricklin stepped up with a $1.2 million deal over two years to keep the guy behind Mayhem and Juice Points in Starkville.
Collins is just one example of the consistency Mullen has had in his staff at MSU as his program has tied for the third lowest coaching turnover rate in the SEC since 2010.
MSU’s media relations department researched and dug up these numbers from across the conference highlighting the number of assistant coaching changes in the SEC since 2010.
- Missouri – 2
- South Carolina – 6
- Mississippi State – 9
- LSU – 9
- Georgia – 10
- Alabama – 12
- Auburn – 13 (went through 1 head coaching hire)
- Ole Miss – 13 (went through 1 head coaching hire)
- Arkansas – 17 (went through interim head coach and another head coach)
- Kentucky – 17 (went through 1 head coaching hire)
- Texas A&M – 18 (went through 1 head coaching hire)
- Florida – 19 (went through 1 head coaching hire)
- Vanderbilt – 20 (went through 1 head coaching hire)
- Tennessee – 22 (went through 2 head coaching hires)
Obviously, those schools with a change at head coach over the four-year period are going to have much higher numbers, so it’s not completely fair to judge them by that alone, but the numbers offer a good picture of where schools stand, particularly MSU.
Of those on Mullen’s staff, four have been around since his first year at State – co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach John Hevesy, tight ends coach Scott Sallach, assistant head coach and safeties coach Tony Hughes and running backs coach Greg Knox – while one more, David Turner, was the defensive line coach on Mullen’s first staff in 2009, then returned after the 2012 season following a stint at Kentucky with Joker Phillips.
Going even deeper, co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales is in his second year at MSU, but has a longstanding working relationship with Mullen and several of the current assistants who worked together at various points under Urban Meyer.
Said Stricklin, “Dan’s done a really good job of putting a staff together and creating an environment that the staff feels like they’re appreciated and have an opportunity to grow their careers here at Mississippi State. Facilities and other things around the program make it more attractive in general.”
Of course, not all turnover is bad. Many of the schools with the higher rate come because change was needed. At MSU, as well, assistants and programs were sometimes better served by a change of scenery and fresh start.
Or, in some cases, coaches are getting big promotions, like Mark Hudspeth who started as the receivers coach on Mullen’s first staff and took the job as head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette following the 2010 season.
Complete continuity is difficult to achieve in a business where people are always moving, looking for promotions and working their way through the system. But when turnover is cut down, benefits come for the players who don’t have to learn new systems and can develop under the same guidance and philosophies. Head coaches can spend more of their time improving the team rather than teaching new assistants how they do things.
“We’ve been fortunate to have good people,” Stricklin said. “Let’s face it, if you’re a position coach, you want to be a coordinator. If you’re a coordinator, you want to be a head coach. If they have an opportunity like Mark Hudspeth did to go be a head coach somewhere, that’s a great opportunity. We want Mississippi State to be a place where they can grow their career and have those opportunities.
“Geoff Collins is a guy who went from being a position coach to being a coordinator at Mississippi State. He had a chance to grow his career and not have to leave our program. We want coaches who are bettering themselves and in the process will make us better.”
In the spring of 2014, MSU only introduced one new coach, hiring Brian Johnson as quarterbacks coach, and he too has the Mullen connection, having been recruited by and played under Mullen in college at Utah.