Mississippi State Football: Can Dan Mullen Succeed Without Manny Diaz?

Dr. SECAnalyst IISeptember 25, 2011

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 13: Coach Dan Mullen of the Mississippi State Bulldogs directs play against the Alabama Crimson Tide November 13, 2010 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Dan Mullen had gained the reputation as an offensive guru long before he became the head coach of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. His career began to take off when he was hired as a quarterback coach for Bowling Green by then-head coach Urban Meyer.

After two seasons at Bowling Green, Mullen would follow Meyer to serve in the same position at Utah.  Once again, after two successful seasons, Mullen would follow Meyer to another coaching job. This time, it would be the University of Florida and Mullen would be promoted to offensive coordinator.

Under Mullen’s direction, the Florida offense would flourish. The Gators would win two national championships in four seasons. In 2008, just days before he would help Florida win their second national championship in four seasons, Mullen accepted the head coaching position at Mississippi State.

His first season gathered mixed reviews. The Bulldogs had the toughest strength of schedule rating in Division I football. As a result, they limped home to a 5-7 record. However, an in-state victory against then-No. 25 ranked Ole Miss to end the season left fans optimistic.

During the offseason Mullen brought in highly regarded Manny Diaz to run the defense.

The rewards of this hire were immediate. Mississippi State finished the season 9-4 and the improved defense was the reason. The Bulldogs went from a national ranking of 71st in total defense to 22nd.They also improved from 62th in rushing defense to 17th.

During the 2010 season the Mississippi State offense ranked ninth in the SEC.

The signature win for the Bulldogs in 2010 was a 10-6 victory over Mullen’s former team, the Florida Gators. Yes, Florida’s offense was struggling without Mullen. However, Mississippi State's offense has struggled with Mullen at the helm.


It was the Manny Diaz-led defense that helped the Bulldogs increase their win total by nine.

At the end of the 2010 season, Diaz bolted Mississippi State for the University of Texas. The Mississippi State Bulldogs are currently 2-2. Their two wins have been against teams with a combined record of 2-6. Moreover, they were one play away from losing to Louisiana Tech this week.

The difference is clear. The offense is still struggling and is ranked ninth in points per game in the SEC. However, with Diaz gone, the defense has slipped to eighth in total defense and defensive points per game in the SEC.

Mullen is struggling in recruiting and he is struggling in producing points. Is he a good coach in need of more time or is he a coach who was overrated because of the strength of his defensive coordinator?