It usually takes a strong defense to have a chance to compete in the Southeastern Conference.
For Mississippi State, there is no exception.
The Bulldogs have shuffled things up with the defensive coaching staff. Head coach Dan Mullen promoted co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Geoff Collins to defensive coordinator after former defensive coordinator Chris Wilson left to coach at Georgia.
Mullen hired former Kentucky assistant coach David Turner to work with the defensive line. Turner was the defensive line coach in Mullen's first season in 2008. Mullen and the Bulldogs also reached out to former South Panola star Deshea Townsend to coach the cornerbacks after Melvin Smith left for Auburn.
"One of the things when you have the opportunity to hire new coaches, or change things up, there's really a big plan in play that you look at and get excited about," Mullen said during a Friday press conference. "It kind of can bring new energy. There's a lot of new excitement and juice that comes in. That is the benefit of having staff changes. You get that kind of new way of doing things walking in the door."
The Bulldogs still have Tony Hughes on staff as the safeties coach.
Collins got an opportunity to call the plays in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1. Wilson had been calling the plays for the last couple of seasons, but Mullen may have guessed changes were coming on the horizon.
"I'm excited about the opportunity," Collins said. "Coach Mullen put a lot of faith in me. I'm just excited with the guys we have returning to hopefully make an impact and continue the success we've had."
When it came to hiring the two new assistants, Mullen and Collins worked together to bring the best fit to the staff.
"Coach Mullen and I talked to a bunch of guys at the coaches' convention over the last couple of weeks," Collins said. "It was a great learning experience for me. Coach Mullen and I worked very closely together talking to the guys. The thing that I learned a lot from Coach Mullen in the last week or so, is it's not necessarily the exact hire you get, but the compliment to the entire coaching staff.
"I was very impressed with how coach handled the we are not making one hire at this position and one hire at this position. We are making two hires. With those two hires what's the best fit? Coach A might be a best fit for this, Coach B might be a better fit for this, but the combination of the two I was really impressed with. It was a great learning experience for me going through that with coach Mullen and how to hire two guys instead of one guy for this position and one guy for this position. It's kind of a complimentary hire with me and coach (Tony) Hughes. What is the best fit for the entire coaching staff?"
Turner spent three years in Starkville from 2007-09 so he was familiar with the program. He also was surprised to see all the changes with the new football facility and expansion to the football stadium.
"It's an exciting time here obviously with the things Dan has done the last couple of years and with the leadership of Scott Stricklin, the athletic director," Turner said. "(With) this building which helps promote football and the things going on inside the stadium, it's great to be back."
For Collins, he is ready to get his defense in attack mode. He looks at certain stats and uses that as a measuring stick.
"The one stat that is not talked about, but one I've been talking to some guys about is a stat called 'defensive mayhem,'" Collins said. "It's just talking about tackles for loss, sacks, pass break ups and interceptions. Hopefully we will a great improvement in aggressiveness, defensive mayhem, guys flying around making plays and creating negative plays on the offensive side."
Turner's knowledge of Collins is not high, but he had heard his name through other coaches and ran into him during recruiting. He is ready to get to work with Collins and improve the defense.
"Number one, we want to play great defense," Turner said. "Geoff is an outstanding coach. I've talked to guys he's worked for. I'm doing the research on the coaches that's here. I didn't know Geoff, (but) I knew of him. I had met him during recruiting some. We kind of ran into each other. A lot people had nothing but good stuff to say about him. Tony Hughes who was here when I was here before, I knew. There is a familiar face. If I didn't think it was a good fit, I probably wouldn't have done it. My wife reminded me of this. I said how much fun I had coaching here before with the kids. That really kind of pushed it over the edge."
For Mullen, he has his entire coaching staff back together after the departures of other coaches.
"We had a lot of candidates," Mullen said. "I think a lot of people want to be invalid in what we're doing around here right now, so there certainly wasn't a shortage of people. I'm just pleased to get the people we're getting."