Former Dog Lineman Takes Over Tight Ends, Ramps Up Recruiting Energy

He changed addresses. D.J. Looney never entirely left Mississippi State.

And now here he is, not only back on his alma mater campus but as a coach. Tight ends coach, no less, taking over this position for 2017. “For it to happen so soon it’s been really neat,” Looney said.

Soon is putting it well. A letterman on the Bulldog offensive line 2008-11, he stayed around a season as graduate assistant to old (and old-school) position coach John Hevesy. From there Looney went to full-time work at East Mississippi CC, then a couple of years at Central Arkansas. Just this past season he was serving as a staffer at Georgia…

…but the real Bulldogs were on his mind all the time. Now here he is, coaching tight ends while also doing what might well prove his larger job. Looney was a ‘recruiter’ of sorts as a player with visiting prospects. He’s doing it for-real as a coach as Coach Dan Mullen adds more recruiting muscle to his staff.

What’s it been like to be back? D.J. Looney: “It’s been really good. It’s good to be back here and be part of the staff officially. It’s been a road, been a road travelled.”

“I left here, been gone five years. But it’s been fun just trying to get caught up with everything. Recruiting, the office, but it’s been good.”

How has the program changed in the five years? “I don’t know if it’s changed. Obviously we’re in a new building than when I was here. But I think the expectations, you know Coach still has the same expectations he had when we were here. We’re going to work really hard, give relentless effort in all that we do. And we want to go win the SEC championship and national championship

“So from that standpoint I don’t know how much has changed. But obviously the people have changed. Some guys on staff and the facilities have changed. But I don’t think much has changed.”

How much did you and Scott Sallach talk and go over the tight ends? “We’ve talked some. We talked some about those guys. But you know, anytime you come into a new situation you really want to try to assess the guys for yourself and give those guys a clean slate. And really want to go from there with those guys.”

“So mostly that’s kind of what I did. Obviously you take as much information as you can from everybody on staff; strength coaches, academic people. But mainly I just wanted to give a clean slate to those guys and really go from there.”

Your thoughts on those guys and those back who played? “Yeah, I’m luck from that standpoint. They’re helping me out with some of the stuff. But I’ve got some good cats in that room. Justin (Johnson) has come out to me and been a leader so far since I’ve been here. I think he’s going to be a great player. He’s got to get better at the details of things.”

“Farrod (Green) has been really good. Jordan (Thomas) and all those guys have been really good. Those three are kind of standing out to me. And those younger cats… Those three have played so you can tell they’ve played SEC football. And then those other three are coming along as well. (Aaron) Hamaker does a good job for us.”

“So all those guys in that room is making good strides.”

Since you’ve been gone how much have you kept track of MSU? “Well, you always follow. You follow every place. The three spots that I’ve been you follow and you check all the scores and see how those guys have been.”

“And then obviously I kept in contact with a lot of these guys on staff because they mean a lot to me. So I watched very closely. I always know what’s going on with the Dogs.”

Is this how you finally get some respect from John Hevesy? “Oh, man, Coach Hevesy and I have always had a great relationship. So it’s been fun. I owe a lot to him for me being back here. He trusted in me and helped out. So I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

Was it always a goal to get back here? “Yeah, I think any time you get an opportunity to come coach in the SEC period. And then for it to be a place that means so much to me, that was the end-all goal. For it to happen so soon it’s been really neat.”

Coach Mullen said tight ends are going to get more play, how do you coach guy for that? “We’re going to continue to do what we do. My deal with those guys is we have to get as detailed as possible in all the fundamental techniques. And the rest of that stuff will take care of itself.”

What does that mean in terms of the scheme? “I think we’re going to be the same offense you guys have seen on tape. It will be the same. We just might get more reps or expect more out of the guys because they’ve had so much experience. But I don’t expect much to change.”

Is it an easier sales pitch on recruiting with Mississippi State? “Yeah, we don’t like to use the same ‘sale’. But I think it does, I can relate and talk about the times and things that I enjoyed here. I think it gives you more credibility. And I tell the kids, this means a whole lot more to me because it’s a place that is home to me and a place that will always be home to me.”

“So I think it gives you more credibility about that, that I played here. I know, hey, I’ve stayed in the dorms, I’ve been in the locker room, I’ve walked the campus, I’ve sat in the classrooms. So I think that does help a lot.”

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