Mississippi State issued the formal release confirming these already-reported hirings today. Sirmon is the new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, and Buckley is currently titled as secondary coach.
Also, defensive line coach David Turner is being promoted to assistant head coach.
“We are excited about the dynamic additions to our staff,” Coach Dan Mullen said in a provided statement. “They are tremendous recruiters, teachers, and leaders who will continue to raise the level of expectations of our program. They will develop our players both on and off the field, preparing them for life and do it in a way our Bulldog fans can be proud of.”
Sirmon was hired-away from Southern California after two seasons as associate head coach for defense, linebackers coach, and recruiting coordinator. “This is a great opportunity to join Coach Mullen’s staff and build a championship defense at Mississippi State,” Sirmon said in the provided release.
“It’s been exciting so far on the recruiting trail. We want to continue to build relationshiops and bring elite talent to Starkville. We have an exceptional core of experienced players coming back and I’m thrilled to get to know each of them.”
Buckley just finished his second season coaching cornerbacks at Louisville. Both are regarded as rising stars in the college profession, and each brings genuine professional credentials after careers in the National Football League.
“It’s special to be back in Mississippi and be a Mississippi State Bulldog,” Buckley said. “The opportunity to come back and work at a place where you were born and raised doesn’t come true for a lot of folks. I’m blessed that it has for me. I’m excited to get to work with Coach Mullen, our staff, and our players here.”
This announcement comes as Mississippi State hosts the second round of January weekend official visitors starting today. It also follows the latest twist in 2016 staff moves. Thursday evening it was confirmed that three-year cornerbacks coach Deshea Townsend is returning to the NFL to coach defensive backs at Tennessee.
Townsend was expected to shift to safeties coach and be re-titled as co-defensive coordinator had he remained on staff. He was not being promoted to overall coordinator.
Sirmon fills that position vacated early this month when Manny Diaz left for the same role at Miami after one season. Buckley replaces seven-season safeties coach Tony Hughes who has become head coach at Jackson State. However he does not take over Hughes’ position assignment. Though he has not been given the exact title, he is expected to coach cornerbacks.
Hughes also served as recruiting coordinator. Buckley will assume that title.
Following an on-campus interview Buckley accepted Mullen’s offer January 14, the morning after returning to Louisville. He got involved with MSU recruiting almost immediately.
Buckley’s announcement was delayed first for Mullen to fill the other then-vacant post, which would also be Buckley’s boss on defense. Having interviewed a number of candidates during his trip to the AFCA Convention in San Antonio, Mullen reportedly knew within minutes of meeting Sirmon that he was the one to offer.
It also likely startled many familiar with West Coast football that Mississippi State lured away a coach not only noted for his development of linebackers and maturing coordinator skills. Sirmon is regarded as a first-class recruiter, having helped the Trojans sign Scout.com’s #1-ranked class nationally for 2015 after a ’14 class that at one point was ranked tops, too.
Sirmon was a hot commodity on the market, with alma mater Oregon enquiring about hiring him away. He also had security in Los Angeles after surviving the mid-season coaching change at Southern Cal. A Washington state native, Sirmon is no stranger to the South. He was drafted out of Oregon where twice he led the Duck defense in tackles by Tennessee and played seven seasons with the Titans. Sirmon has two AFC Division titles and three playoff appearances to show for his time in Nashville.
He also spent two years in Knoxville, first as a GA coaching safeties and then as a full-time linebackers coach in 2010-11 with Tennesee’s Volunteers. Sirmon went back west for two years at Washington where he also became a recruiting coordinator as well as coaching linebackers, before moving to Southern Cal.
Sirmon becomes the fifth coach to take the defensive coordinator post under Mullen.
Buckley’s name is much more familiar in the South and especially in his home state of Mississippi. A high school legend at Pascagoula, he left the state in 1989 to play and become a record-setting All-American at Florida State. He went on to play 14 NFL seasons with similar success and a 2002 Super Bowl championship with New England.
Buckley went back to Tallahassee as a graduate strength coach before becoming a full-timer for two seasons with Akron. His two years at Louisville raised Buckley’s coaching profile and showed his knack for recruiting, too.
Townsend’s exit means the defensive staff still has a slot to be filled. The two newcomers join a trio of offensive assistants who have been with Mullen since summer 2009; John Hevesy offensive line, Greg Knox running backs, and Scott Sallach tight ends. Billy Gonzales will be in his third spring coaching wide receivers, and Brian Johnson his third year with quarterbacks.
Turner is the old hand on the defensive side, working with the lineman for a fourth spring but in his second stint with Mullen. He was on the original 2009 staff before moving to Kentucky for three years, then returning in 2013.
Turner’s reward for longevity and his work in recruiting has earned a promotion. He will now be titled assistant head coach. “We are grateful for what David has helped us accomplish,” said Mullen.