(Photo: Brian Baker) Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

New Mississippi State defensive line coach Brian Baker is hard at work during the Bulldog spring practices.

Mississippi State hired a completely new defensive staff after the Bulldogs won the Belk Bowl to close out the 2015 season. The most recent addition to the Bulldog coaching staff, Brian Baker, is back in the college game for the first time in over twenty years. Football is football, but Baker is teaching his players to handle things in a professional manner rather than just giving the old college try.

"It's about accountability and reliability," Baker said. "I expect them to be reliable. I was very clear with them. I can't play you, if I don't trust you. So I want them to be accountable to each other and accountable to me. I want to be able to rely on you and I want you to be able to rely on me.

"I am not sure if that's a pro philosophy or not, but I was sort of that same way when I was a college coach at Georgia Tech. That is just the best way that I know how to communicate to kids.

"You let them know that what they are doing is important, but it's not just important to them. It is important to everybody else in the room too".

While the Bulldog defensive lineman are breaking in a new coach and some new tricks of the trade, Baker is also getting to know just what kind of hand he has been dealt when it comes to players.

"I like the group," Baker said. "It is a good mix of young kids and experienced kids. They all have a good skill level. Coaching those guys, I can see why Mississippi State has been competitive the past few years.

"I believe those guys are indicative of the kind of players that they produce here. I am excited about these guys and about coaching them."

With twenty years of NFL coaching experience under his belt, Baker has see and done it all when it comes to coaching defensive line and linebackers. Perhaps the biggest transition for Baker is having to woo high school athletes to join the Bulldog roster as part of the recruiting process. 

The veteran coach is already at work establishing relationships with recruits who may some day be Bulldogs.

"The adjustment for me has been the social media part of it," Baker shared. "I have never had a problem evaluating players. We had to do that in the NFL too, so the evaluation process hasn't been bad at all.

"I am all over social media now, so that's new and the clock has sped up. I was telling one of the other coaches that twenty years ago we would have just a handful of players that were committed to us before their senior year.  One of those guys ended up being Keith Brooking who wound up being a great player for us who played for me as a defensive coordinator and linebacker coach.

"There really weren't that many of those guys back then, but now I have talked with a couple of kids who want to commit before their senior year. They want to have all of that out of the way, so that they can graduate in December. They want to get that settled, so that they know where they are going to be the next fall.

"The whole clock has sped up, so that's been a bit of an adjustment. We have had recruiting meetings where we have evaluated guys as a staff. Twenty years ago those meetings didn't happen until the end of the summer. We have those meetings now, because we want to know who we want to go after, so we can get some early commitments now."

Baker is joining a staff of defensive coaches who are just beginning to learn each other. While the personalities are different, the principals as they pertain to football remain the same. The chemistry between the four new assistants appears to be positive as they develop a working relationship.

"There was no scheme to develop when I got here," Baker said. "The scheme came with the defensive coordinator. The blessing for me in my career is that I have coached just about every scheme that there is. If there are 11 guys on the field, I have coached it. Having coached defensive line and linebackers before, I have seen just about everything.

"The football part of it was easy. Now defending the plays you see in college rather than what you see in pro ball is a little bit of an adjustment. The wide open nature of college football is a little different, while pro football is a little more conventional.

"It's like I tell my guys, in the pros you defend guys. In college, you defend schemes. That's really the big difference."

Coach Baker and the Bulldogs closed out their final open practice of the spring sessions on Friday. The team will be in action next Saturday in the first scrimmage of the calendar year. That session will take place in Davis Wade Stadium and the public is welcome to attend.

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