Assistant staff business, that is.
Though there is no official opening for the 2017 Mississippi State, speculation is Mullen might need to be making another move on the defensive side of the office. This is because the coaching carousel has spun out west, with the University of Colorado now needing to replace their defensive coordinator who was hired-away by league rival Oregon.
A name that surfaced early for that opening is current and one-year Bulldog defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon. While nothing firm has been heard from Boulder, Sirmon’s absence from campus the last few days is a clue of sorts even if he is only attending the convention. Which, coincidentally enough, is in Nashville, near where the Sirmon family has lived while Peter worked in Starkville since last January.
Ironically enough, Sirmon was hired by Mullen after they met and talked at the 2016 convention in San Antonio.
Sirmon’s first season at State, and his first as a defensive coordinator, can’t be called a success. His odd-front-based schemes struggled as the Bulldogs allowed nearly 32 points and 460 yards per game. Some of this naturally was due to the linebackers coach moving up to the top defensive job for his first time, as well as an assistant staff entirely new to him and State as well. The scheme itself was not as big an issue since previous coordinators had incorporated odd-man fronts into their gameplans as well.
Sirmon’s background as a West Coast player and coach most of his career would make moving back to a more familiar conference, where his schemes are more popular, a tempting offer. But again, Colorado has not announced any new coordinator or other defensive staff additions as of Tuesday morning.
Sirmon is the fifth defensive coordinator in Mullen’s now-eight completed seasons at Mississippi State.
Should a replacement be needed, as it increasingly seems, moves are already being made. The name immediately surfacing from sources both on the MSU campus and at Louisville is their defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, is open to a move back to the SEC.
Grantham was defensive coordinator at Georgia 2010-13 for Mark Richt before leaving for the ACC job under Bobby Petrino in January 2014. He reportedly has a guaranteed contract of $1 million per year, with two seasons remaining.
Grantham, 50, played for and graduated from Virginia Tech and coached at his alma mater (defensive ends, inside linebackers, tackles, and entire line) from 1990-95. He moved to Michigan State for three years, the last as assistant head coach for Mark Dantonio.
From there he made the jump to the NFL with stints at Indianapolis, Houston, Cleveland, and finally Dallas, coaching defensive line and coordinating the Browns from 2005-07.
At Georgia he installed a 3-4 scheme that immediately ranked 23rd in total defense and doubled its turnover production. The 2011 defense ranked 3rd nationally in yardage, 7th in pass and 9th in rushing. The 2012 Bulldogs won the SEC East and were a play away from upsetting eventual national champions Alabama in the league title game.
Grantham had a few dust-ups with rivals at Georgia, such as a Florida kicker and then-Vanderbilt coach James Franklin.
Again, nothing official has been said by any of the mentioned schools about their staffs. But that’s what makes Convention time (which runs through Wednesday) worth watching in the volatile world of college assistant coaching.
Mississippi State ended the 2016 season in fine style, crushing Ole Miss 55-20 in the Battle for the Golden Egg to earn an unconventional bowl berth. Mullen's eighth team took full advantage, too, blocking a field goal to hold off Miami-Ohio and win the St. Petersburg Bowl. It was the seventh bowl game in as many years, a MSU record of course. And, showed that whoever is coordinating a defense, Mullen's teams are a post-season party regular.