With the announced hires of Peter Sirmon and Terrell Buckley, Dan Mullen has taken a pair of big steps in determining the look of Mississippi State’s future on defense, tabbing MSU’s new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, with Buckley coaching in the secondary and serving as recruiting coordinator. Additionally, defensive line coach David Turner was named the assistant head coach in addition to his current role..
Between Sirmon and Buckley, MSU’s defensive staff has a combined 21 years of NFL experience, not to mention the extensive list of current NFL defensive linemen who have been tutored under Turner.
I caught up with Sirmon and Buckley back on their respective first days on campus, both of them finding time between paperwork and meetings for a quick question and answer session. Short intros and the Q&As for each are below, starting with Sirmon.
Peter Sirmon, a father of four, looks every bit the part of a former NFL linebacker, standing tall with broad shoulders and hands the size of a power forward’s. Originally from Washington, Sirmon played college football at Oregon before being drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the 2000 NFL Draft. He spent all seven years of his career in Nashville, taking only one year off between his playing days and coaching career, which he began at Central Washington as a linebackers coach in 2008.
In the years since, Sirmon’s stock has been on a steady rise, leading him eventually to Southern Cal where he was the linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator for the Trojans for the previous two seasons before being hired by Mullen at MSU this week.
Communication and execution are two of the main things for Sirmon as defensive coordinator as he takes the approach of first putting the burden of teaching and creating understanding on himself and the staff, then expecting championship-level performance and attention to detail from his players.
His prowess as a recruiter has grown steadily over the years, owed in part to strong delivery and extensive experience as both a college and NFL athlete.
Between your playing and coaching career, you’ve been all over the country and know the world of football well. What made you want to join Mississippi State?
I thought it was a great opportunity to get back in, I think, the premier conference in America. It was great to get a chance to meet Coach Mullen. I know he and the entire university have done a great job of establishing a culture of winning here. It’s a great opportunity.
Once you started talking to Coach Mullen, what were your first impressions of him and first impressions of the program, so much as you can tell from day one?
In general, it’s a program that’s had a lot of success, especially the last several years. Being No. 1 last year was a big accomplishment and we’re continuing to build off that. Meeting Coach Mullen, the first impression you get is that I was really impressed how sharp he is. He’s a very intelligent guy. He’s a got a great plan in place and he did a really fantastic job of communicating that plan and sharing the vision he has here.
As far as what you’ll do in practice and in games, what’s your style as a coach?
First and foremost, I want to be a really good teacher. I want to put guys in a position that they understand what we’re asking them to do so they can go out and play at the level which, ultimately, is why we recruited them. I want them to be able to play up to their capability. To do that, you have to do a great job of communicating, a great job of painting a picture in their head of what we want it to look like, and then just play with toughness and great effort. Attention to detail and execution is something that will be demanded.
You briefly mentioned recruiting, which I imagine is your immediate priority. What impact does your NFL career have on your ability in that area?
I think any time that you’re talking with somebody that has those aspirations, it’s always good to be able to say, hey, I’ve been through this. It’s something that makes them comfortable, that you can give them some guidance and that you personally have gone through the high school recruiting to college to the Combine to the draft and all those different steps. I think it gives some added perspective and some credibility.
Beginning work around 10 days ago and immediately hitting the recruiting trail, Terrell Buckley had been at Louisville under head coach Bobby Petrino before taking this opportunity to return to his home state. A Mississippi native, Buckley played collegiate football at Florida State, where he set the school record for interceptions and won the Jim Thorpe Award as a junior, eventually having his No. 27 jersey retired. Buckley went on to a 14-year career in the NFL, being drafted No, 5 overall in 1992 by the Green Bay Packers and ultimately winning a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots.
Buckley arrives at MSU with a reputation both as an accomplished athlete and an intelligent coach. His philosophies in recruiting, including an eye for underrated talents, ought to serve him well as he recruits in Mississippi.
From talking to him, his approach as a coach goes well beyond just telling players how he used to do things. A naturally intelligent person, Buckley takes the approach of a tactician, breaking things down to their most base form and building them all back up into something impressive. That ability is evident even in his children, two of his daughters currently in college on academic scholarships to study engineering– although, as if they could escape athletics with a father who played three sports at FSU, they’re both college golfers, too.
First off, you must be excited to get back to your home state of Mississippi.
I am. Very, very excited. Ever since I’ve gotten into coaching, I wanted to be able to recruit the state of Mississippi. I never imagined that I would have an opportunity to come and work at a fine institution like this. It never really crossed my mind until the opportunity presented itself.
Now that you’re on board, I know you’ll be on the road recruiting and getting ready for signing day. How important is your experience as a Super Bowl champion and having your college jersey number retired as you go through that process?
It’s like any business. If you run into somebody that’s done it already, been there, that can navigate and eliminate some of the issues that you have through their experiences, you kind of gravitate toward that. I think that’s what I bring. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. All the stuff that you haven’t even thought about. I tell them, I can help you navigate through that process and at the end of the day put them in a situation where it can be a win-win for both parties.
Obviously, that transitions into coaching on the field. What is your style as a coach and what you do bring in that role?
Prepared. Fundamentals. Relentless effort. Competitive attitude. If you don’t compete, it doesn’t matter. I think attitude is probably at the top of my list. All of those other things fall under that.
Once you started talking with Dan Mullen, what were your impressions of him and Mississippi State and what made you want to join the staff?
The initial conversation, the energy and the passion that Coach Mullen had on the phone was awesome. Then meeting him blew me away. It was one of those things where Louisville is a great place and when you leave something like that, you have to be going somewhere where you feel like the energy, the atmosphere and everything that’s presented is a little better and you want to be a part of that. Coach Mullen was a big reason for that.