Dan Mullen Dealing with Another Kind of Turnover at Mississippi State

Brad LockeContributor IJanuary 13, 2010

STARKVILLE, MS - OCTOBER 24:  Head coach Dan Mullen of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, during pre game warm up against the Florida Gators, at Davis Wade Stadium on  October 24, 2009 in Starkville, Mississippi  (Photo by Rick Dole/Getty Images)
Rick Dole/Getty Images

Assistant football coaches seem to have this incurable wanderlust wired into their DNA.

On the whole, they're a restless sort who sometimes seem to move from one job to another just for a change of scenery.

Consider Carl Torbush, who left after one season as Mississippi State's defensive coordinator to take the same position at Kansas. That, at best, was a sideways move for a proven, highly-respected veteran coach.

But it's also the 10th different school he's worked for, thus it's not surprising.

Then on Monday, we learned that defensive line coach David Turner left to coach the same position at Kentucky. He has some history in Lexington, having coached defensive ends for the Wildcats in 1993 and 1994.

He has also worked for 10 different schools.

So staff turnover is to be expected, but it's nonetheless a little disconcerting for Dan Mullen to lose two of his best assistants after just one year as a head coach. He talks a lot about being committed to MSU and giving the program stability, but that becomes a challenge when two coaches walk away smack dab in the middle of recruiting season.

It gives recruits, a flaky bunch to begin with, reason to look at other schools. Signing day is three weeks from today—Feb. 3—and that's an eternity in the recruiting game.

As of this writing, MSU's 2010 recruiting class is ranked 41st in the country and 10th in the SEC, according to Scout.com. So far, it has picked up 18 commitments.

That ranking should be much higher by signing day, as Mullen is hoping to secure seven or eight more prospects by then (he can give scholarships to a maximum of 25 students).

The wheels seem to be turning as far as replacing Torbush, with various reports this week saying Mullen has interviewed guys like Manny Diaz of Middle Tennessee State and Rick Minter, recently of Marshall. It's been more than four weeks since Torbush left, but it's not easy to hire someone who's involved in a bowl game, so the time lapse is understandable.

Still, it's vital Mullen's staff be at full strength ASAP. Each coach has his own recruiting region he covers. Torbush covered north central Mississippi, most of north Alabama, and Tennessee. Turner's territory was much smaller—just a few counties in northeast Mississippi and a few in Georgia.

When I spoke with Steve Robertson of Scout.com after Torbush's departure, he said MSU shouldn't lose any recruits because of it. Still, you don't want to give a high school kid a chance to change his mind.

This coaching turnover raises an uncomfortable question: How solid is the relationship between the highly demanding Mullen and his assistants? I'm sure we'd never get a straight answer on that, but you can't expect a young, first-time head coach not to have a learning curve when it comes to being a boss.

Mullen has met plenty of challenges head-on in his first year at MSU, and he's come out ahead most of the time. Now comes the new challenge of filling big holes in his coaching staff.

Given the nature of assistant coaches, Mullen had better get used to replacing them. But for the sake of the program, he'd better make sure he doesn't have to do it too often.