(DJ Looney) Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Hirings of Quarterbacks and Tight Ends Coaches Yet to Be Announced

A week after signing day, and a month before spring practices begin, Dan Mullen has finalized his 2017 assistant staff. Unofficially, anyway.

Mississippi State sources confirm that Brett Elliott will become quarterbacks coach; and D.J. Looney tight ends coach. These hirings have yet to be announced by the University, pending approval.

They would replace respectively Brian Johnson, who has moved to Houston as offensive coordinator; and Scott Sallach, one of the remaining ‘originals’ from Mullen’s 2009 debut staff. Sallach will reportedly move into an administrative position with Bulldog football.

Elliott, who turns 35 in June, is returning to Mississippi State from Texas State where he spent the past season as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. But his relationship with Dan Mullen began much farther back, as a quarterback for Mullen and Urban Meyer at Utah. In fact he was their first starting quarterback for that coaching tandem when they arrived in 2003. Elliott had played eight games in 2002 for the former Utes staff as a freshman.

Elliott started twice in 2003 before breaking his wrist, Alex Smith took over the job and never let it go. So Elliott transferred to Linfield College in his home state of Oregon. There he accounted for 110 touchdowns in two seasons of 24 games. His 61 touchdown passes in 2004 set a NCAA season record in fact.

After college Elliott had a lengthy career in professional football, including one year (2006) on the San Diego Chargers. From there he played a year in Germany, then back in this country with San Jose, Utah, and Georgia clubs.

He put down the pads and grabbed a clipboard in 2012 for Mullen as offensive quality control coach for three seasons. Those years saw Tyler Russell set and then Dak Prescott re-set almost all Mississippi State quarterbacking records.

After the Orange Bowl trip Elliot became an on-field coach with James Madison as co-offensive coordinator in 2015.

Looney is a former Bulldog offensive center coming back to campus as well but staying in the SEC. He was hired in January 2016 by new Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, after two seasons directing tight ends and offensive tackles at Central Arkansas. The Bears tied for second in the Southland Conference in 2015.

His full-time coaching career began at the junior college level but with national level success at East Mississippi CC. Looney joined the Lions staff in 2012 as offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. The 2013 team won national championship.

Looney served as a graduate assistant on Mullen’s 2011 staff, on the offensive side instead of playing a senior season. His varsity career was limited by knee injuries, with just one game-played in 2010 and eight total from 2008-10. He did earn a start in 2008 in his home state, at Alabama.

A Birmingham native, Looney spent three years on the SEC’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Two of those years, he represented the whole SEC. He holds a degree in Arts & Sciences from 2010.

Looney turns 29 in December. While his on-field career was shortened, during his campus years he was a media favorite—if always off the record—and noted as well as one of the most ‘productive’ player hosts of visiting prospects.

This implies that Looney’s addition is a potential boost to Bulldog recruiting work by someone who understands both this program and the regional landscape. Elliott saw enough of State’s recruiting strategies himself in three seasons with the staff. But more importantly will be his familiarity with how Mullen coaches quarterbacks, both as a player and staffer himself. This ought be helpful as State has one of the rising SEC stars in Nick Fitzgerald to continue developing, and one of the nation’s premier quarterback recruits already on campus in freshman Keytaon Thompson.

When official, these two will join January-hired Todd Grantham as defensive coordinator, and first February addition safeties coach Ron English.

Grantham comes to Mississippi State after three seasons as defensive coordinator at Louisville, and replaces one-year MSU coordinator Peter Sirmon who ironically was hired by Louisville in-turn. Grantham formerly had been defensive coordinator at Georgia after a decade with four NFL clubs.

English just completed a year as defensive coordinator at San Jose State. A former head coach at Eastern Michigan, he had previously coordinated the defense and coached the secondary at Michigan for five seasons.

Mullen might not be through with hirings though. If the NCAA blesses legislation, football can add a tenth field-position coach to the staff for 2017.

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